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Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The ABF and the Legal Academy

Happy 4th of July!  Thanks again to Howard, Sarah, and the rest of the Prawfs community for allowing me to be a guest blogger during the month of June.  I’ve been a longtime admirer of PrawfsBlawg, and I had the honor a couple of years ago to participate in a PrawfsBlawg book club on my book, Making the Modern American Fiscal State (thanks to Matt Bodie for helping organize that online discussion).  It was a real privilege this time around to share with you some background about the ABF and a few of our research highlights.

In my last post before I depart, I thought I’d discuss how the ABF connects to the legal academy.

Well, first and foremost, the ABF is an empirical and interdisciplinary research institute that studies law, legal institutions, and legal processes.  In this way, all of our projects should be of some interest to legal academics.  Since our research focuses on long-term, rigorous, empirical projects, we frequently publish our findings in peer-reviewed social science journals and university press books, rather than law reviews.  But as many other observers have noticed the world of legal academic publishing is changing dramatically.  Thus, we hope that many Prawf readers are, and will continue to be, consumers of our published research.

Another way in which the ABF is linked to the legal academy is through our honorary organization: The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation.  Like other law-related honorary associations, the Fellows is comprised of leading legal professionals who have made a significant contribution to the profession or legal scholarship.  Technically, we often describe the Fellows as an organization of legal professionals (attorneys, judges, law faculty, and legal scholars) “whose public and private careers have demonstrated outstanding dedication to the welfare of their communities and to the highest principles of the legal profession.”  Of course, for the honor and privilege of becoming a Fellow, we provide members an opportunity to help support the ABF’s research and programming with their tax-deductible, charitable contributions.  And, perhaps more importantly, Fellows assist the ABF with their intellectual engagement with our research and programming.

The Fellows, in this way, act as an important bridge between the research community and the practicing bar and bench.  For example, at this year’s ABA annual meeting in San Francisco, we’ll be hosting several Fellows events, including a CLE research seminar on “Civil Rights Advocacy: Past, Present and Future.”   This panel discussion will bring together a number of prominent legal scholars and civil rights lawyers, and will be moderated by our former ABF colleague Dylan Penningroth (Berkeley Law & History).

So, how does one become an ABF Fellow?  Nominations for the Fellows are culled by chairs from each of the fifty states and from an international contingent.  The state chairs solicit names from other Fellows, and look to participation in all the usual places where legal leaders reside, such as the American Law Institute, ABA section leadership, and the deans and leading scholars/teachers of law schools.  The nominations go through a fairly rigorous review process and all nominees are ultimately approved by the ABF Board of Directors.  Although the Fellows membership has been expanding in recent years (and thankfully become more diverse in the process), being nominated to be am ABF Fellow remains a huge honor for legal professionals of all types.  Thus, if you receive a nomination letter from the ABF, we hope you’ll give it some serious consideration.

Legal scholars often wonder if the ABF can support their research in some way.  Despite our name, however, we are not a foundation that provides financial support for faculty outside of our own.  Many of our faculty members collaborate with legal scholars and social scientists throughout the world, as my previous posts have mentioned.  And as I’ve written, much of our work is funded in part by external sources, such as the National Science Foundation and the Public Welfare Foundation.  Ultimately, the legal academy is a consumer of our research.  We hope in the future, though, to integrate our Fellows who are legal scholars into our research community, perhaps by having them help us disseminate ABF research and programming – yet another reason to think about becoming an ABF Fellow.

Finally, in addition to our research, we also have a number of programs that should be of interest to law professors who are working with grad students or undergrads.  Our Montgomery Summer Diversity Research Fellowship is designed to bring talented college students to the ABF for a summer to work with our faculty as research assistants and to learn more about scholarship at the intersection of law and the social sciences.  Thanks to a variety of funders, this program has been in existence for nearly three decades and has produced a number of leading lawyers, academics, and now a California Supreme Court Justice.  We’re rightfully quite proud of this program.  We hope that Prawf readers who work with excellent college students will think about encouraging them to apply to this program.

For grad students, we also have a doctoral and postdoctoral fellowship program that has been around almost as long as our undergraduate program.  These residency-based fellowships allow grad students finishing up their dissertations or those who have recently completed their dissertations to join our research faculty for a short period of time (generally two years) before they embark on their academic careers.  This program has also been a leading incubator for many socio-legal and other interdisciplinary legal scholars (including yours truly).  Grad student readers of this blog and their mentors should definitely keep this fellowship in mind.

For those scholars who reside in the Chicago-land area, the ABF also hosts a weekly Wednesday research seminar.  Like most law school workshops, this seminar brings visitors to the ABF for a day to share their works-in-progress and receive feedback from a truly interdisciplinary group of leading social scientists and legal scholars.  Readers can learn more about our workshop series on our webpage, or the can feel free to follow our institutional tweeter handle (@ABFResearch) or my own tweets about our many ABF events (@AjayKMehrotra).

I hope readers found these series of posts about the ABF interesting and helpful.  Thanks again to Sarah and Howard for inviting me to be a guest blogger.  I hope to see some of you soon at an ABF event.  Thanks.

Posted by Ajay K. Mehrotra on July 5, 2016 at 12:09 AM in Books, Peer-Reviewed Journals | Permalink

Comments

Ajay -- thanks for this really informative series. Institutions like the ABF and ALI have a ton to offer legal academics, but it can often be difficult to connect with all of the resources that are available. This series is a great step toward greater connectivity.

And if anyone is interested in the book club on Ajay's terrific book, here's the link to the wrap-up post, which has links to all the individual entries:
http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2014/06/wrap-up-for-making-the-modern-american-fiscal-state.html

Posted by: Matt Bodie | Jul 6, 2016 12:38:45 PM

Thanks for doing these posts. I always wondered about the ABF and they're a very helpful introduction to the institution.

Posted by: David N | Jul 7, 2016 9:55:01 AM

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