American Bar Foundation

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The American Bar Foundation (ABF) is an independent, nonprofit national research institute established in 1952 and located in Chicago. It conducts objective empirical research on law and legal institutions. This program of sociolegal research is conducted by an interdisciplinary staff of Research Fellows trained in such diverse fields as law, sociology, psychology, political science, economics, history, and anthropology.

The ABF was initially located in Hyde Park on the University of Chicago campus. It subsequently moved to the American Bar Association building in downtown Chicago, and remained there after the ABA departed, now sharing the building with part of the Northwestern University downtown professional schools. The most recent five directors (beginning in the 1970s) of the ABF were Spencer L. Kimball (also a Professor of Law at the University of Chicago and a former dean of the University of Wisconsin Law School). Kimball was succeeded by John P. Heinz (Professor at Northwestern University School of Law), William "Bill" Felstiner, Bryant Garth (now Dean of Southwestern Law School), and the current Director, Robert Nelson (also a Professor in the Department of Sociology, Northwestern University and MacCrate Research Chair in the Legal Professions at the ABF).

The American Bar Foundation Research Faculty produces Law and Social Inquiry (LSI), a peer-reviewed academic journal that publishes empirical research about law, legal institutions, and legal processes. LSI currently is published by Wiley-Blackwell.

The American Bar Foundation is a resource for lawyers, scholars, and policy makers who seek analyses of the theory and functioning of law, legal institutions, and the legal profession. The Foundation's work is supported by the American Bar Endowment, by The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation, and by grants for particular research projects from private foundations and government agencies.

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