Robert Nelson Professor of Sociology (on leave) and Research Professor at American Bar Foundation

Area(s) of Interest:  Occupations, Professions

Relevant Links

American Bar Foundation

Institute for Policy Research

Law School


Nelson is the founding director of the Center for Legal Studies at Northwestern, was the Director of the Bar Foundation's Program on Professionalism, Law and Economic Change from 1988 to 1992, and served as Department Chair from 1997-2000 and as Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Sociology in 1991-92 and 1993 through 1996.

In 1992-93, he was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, and co-directed a Special Project at the Center from 2003-2008. He serves on the Council of the American Sociological Association's Section on the Sociology of Law and has served on the Board of Trustees of the Law and Society Association and as Secretary and treasurer of the Organizations, Occupations, and Work Section of the ASA. He is a member of the Sociological Research Association.


Global Perspectives on the Rule of Law
(with James J. Heckman and Lee Cabatingan), Routledge-Cavendish, 2010

Urban Lawyers: The New Social Structure of the Bar
(with John P. Heinz, Rebecca L. Sandefur, and Edward O. Laumann),
University Chicago Press, 2005

Handbook of Employment Discrimination Research: Rights and Realities
(with Laura Beth Nielsen), Springer, 2005

Courses Taught

SOCIOL 318: Sociology of Law Syllabus


Experiencing Discrimination: Race and Retention in America's Largest Law Firms
(with Monique R. Payne-Pikus and John Hagan), Law & Society, 2010

Individual Justice or Collective Legal Mobilization: Employment Discrimination Litigation in the Post-Civil Rights United States
(with Laura Beth Nielsen and Ryan Lancaster), Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, 2010

After the JD II: Second Results from a National Study of Legal Careers
(with Ronit Dinovitzer, G. Plickert, R. Sandefur, and  Joyce Sterling),
American Bar Foundation and The NALP Foundation for Law Career Research and Education, 2009

Are We There Yet?: Empirical Research and the Predicted Demise of Large Law Firms: An Introductory Essay, American Bar Foundation,
Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, 2009