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ABF/JPB Foundation Access to Justice Scholars Program

Applications for the ABF/JPB Foundation Access to Justice Scholars Program are now closed. 

The American Bar Foundation (ABF), in partnership with The JPB Foundation, is committed to building the field of access to justice research and creating a network of access to justice scholars. The ABF/JPB Foundation Access to Justice Scholars Program brings together cohorts of faculty scholars in order to support their research, mentor their progress, and build intellectual relationships needed to grow the access to justice field. By facilitating the translation of research into practice, the program generates more effective approaches to improve justice for all.

The ABF/JPB Foundation Access to Justice Scholars Program expands empirical access to justice scholarship by encouraging scholars to engage with this burgeoning research field. Two cohorts of six Faculty Scholars will serve overlapping 15-month terms. The Director of The ABF/JPB Foundation Access to Justice Scholars Program is ABF Faculty Fellow Rebecca Sandefur. Professor Sandefur founded the ABF’s Access to Justice Research Initiative and received a 2018 MacArthur “Genius” grant for her work on access to justice.

Position Announcement

Faculty Scholar in The ABF/JPB Foundation Access to Justice Scholars Program

The American Bar Foundation (ABF) and The JPB Foundation invite scholars interested in studying access to justice to join the ABF’s intellectual community for The ABF/JPB Foundation Access to Justice Scholars Program. The goal of this program is to expand empirical access to justice scholarship by encouraging scholars to engage with this bourgeoning research field. This scholarship program will bring together two cohorts of six Faculty Scholars serving overlapping 15-month terms to support their research, mentor their progress, and build the intellectual relationships needed to grow the access to justice field.

The faculty scholarship is a non-residential 15-month scholarship. The second cohort of scholars will begin with a one-week cohort kickoff meeting hosted at the ABF in Chicago in summer 2021. Over the course of the scholarship (June 2021-August 2022), Faculty Scholars will convene for additional weekend meetings hosted by the ABF. Over the course of the scholarship term, in-person meetings will be supplemented by virtual convenings. Each Scholar will additionally be supported throughout the term of their scholarship by two personal mentors, one an experienced senior scholar and the other from the world of policy and practice. Both mentors will provide feedback on the Scholars’  work.

Financial Support

Faculty Scholars will receive funds for a one-course reduction in the Scholar’s usual teaching load and one month of summer support. Faculty Scholars will also have access to a research account to reimburse expenses associated with research or travel to conferences at which papers are presented. It is expected that the Faculty Scholar’s primary support (including benefits such as health insurance) will continue to be provided by their home institution.


By the end of their scholarship term, participants will submit at least one article from their access to justice research project to a peer-reviewed journal outlet and at least one proposal for research funding to a funding source external to their home institution.

Application Criteria and Selection Process

Applications from empirical scholars in a broad range of disciplines and interdisciplinary programs are welcome. Individuals from underrepresented minority groups are especially encouraged to apply. There are no citizenship requirements. Non-U.S. nationals are welcome to apply; however, the ABF is unable to sponsor an H-1B visa. Comparative research is welcome, but the proposed project must include a U.S. component that would permit the project to produce insights relevant to the U.S. context.

Applicants must include:

(1) a curriculum vitae;

(2) a research proposal of no more than 5 pages that describes the substance and methods of the proposed research and discusses how the project will contribute (a) new scholarly understanding of access to civil justice and (b) insights for application to access to civil justice practice and its role in combating poverty;

(3) a letter of support from another scholar, who will provide an evaluation and endorsement of the proposed project and the benefits that the prospective Scholar and the broader community would receive from the scholarship;

(4) a letter of support from the prospective Scholar’s Dean or department head, indicating that their institution supports the application and would welcome the scholarship;

(5) clear evidence that the project proposed is far enough along that completion of the article for peer review and the grant proposal is feasible during the term of the scholarship. If the proposed project requires a partner (e.g., a court or legal aid program must permit access to records or observations), applicants should include letters of agreement showing that the partner has already agreed to give the scholar access to the specific data and/or cooperation necessary to pursue the project; and,

(6) a Contributions to Diversity Statement, 2-3 pages in length, highlighting demonstrated and planned efforts to promote diversity and equity through their research or other work, including detailed examples and descriptions that demonstrate both understanding and actions in the following three areas: (a) Awareness of and ability to articulate understanding regarding diversity broadly conceived, and historical, social, and economic factors that influence the underrepresentation of particular groups in academia. Life experience may be an important aspect of this understanding, (b) A track record, calibrated to career stage, of engagement and activity related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Specific details about these activities should be provided, including goals, strategies, outcomes, and your role in the cited activities. Strong evidence typically consists of multiple examples of action from undergraduate through current career stage, (c) Specific, concrete goals, plans, and priorities for engagement on diversity, equity, and inclusion as your career goes forward.  

Applications will be accepted until January 15, 2021. The ABF/JPB Foundation Access to Justice Scholars Program Advisory Committee will review applications. Scholars will be selected on the basis of their proposed research projects. Projects must show clear promise along both of two dimensions: the production of social scientific discoveries relevant to understanding access to justice and the production of knowledge that can inform real world access to justice policy and practice, particularly as they relate to anti-poverty efforts. Scholarship appointments will be announced in early March 2021.

If you have questions about the application process or the position, please direct inquiries to with the subject line “ABF/JPB Foundation Access to Justice Scholars Program.”

About the Partners

The American Bar Foundation is a Chicago-based, independent, non-profit research institute that focuses on the empirical and interdisciplinary study of law, legal institutions, and legal processes.

The JPB Foundation is a private foundation whose mission is to advance opportunity in the United States through transformational initiatives that empower those living in poverty, enrich and sustain our environment, and enable pioneering medical research.






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