Berkeley Empirical Legal Studies (BELS)

The University of California, Berkeley, has long been associated with empirical research on law, at least since the founding of the Center for the Study of Law and Society by Philip Selznick in 1961. Today, Berkeley Empirical Legal Studies (BELS) are characterized by a rich interdisciplinary approach that seeks to ground empirical analysis in sociolegal theory and to embrace a broad range of methods, both quantitative and qualitative. Many BELS scholars adopt a multimethod and interdisciplinary approach.

Now that empirical legal studies (ELS) has gained prominence in the legal academy, Berkeley Law and the Center for the Study of Law and Society offer this website to the Berkeley Law community and the broader ELS community. We hope the BELS website will serve both to provide useful information and advice to faculty and students who are embarking on empirical legal research and to inform our community and the ELS community at large, on an ongoing basis, of the array of empirical projects currently being undertaken at Berkeley Law.

The Berkeley ELS community comprises 12 multidisciplinary research centers as well as many other faculty and student researchers. Some of the research centers have been around for nearly half a century; six of these centers are newly created since 2004. Some are designed to provide critical information to state and federal policymakers; others are geared more toward basic social science research. The interplay among these 12 research centers makes Berkeley Law an especially rich community for ELS. 

The BELS website is intended to serve faculty, students, and researchers at all the Berkeley Law centers and to provide a forum for showcasing their research.


Links to and brief descriptions of the range of research centers at Berkeley Law follow:


  • Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice
    The Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice researches, develops, and advances innovative criminal and juvenile justice law and policy approaches through collaboration with and among scholars, policymakers, and practitioners.
  • Berkeley Center on Health, Economic & Family Security
    Berkeley CHEFS was founded to develop integrated research and policy solutions to address the increasing insecurity faced by American families, particularly in the areas of health care, family-friendly workplace policies, and economic security.
  • Berkeley Center for Law and Business
    BCLB is the hub of Berkeley Law’s cutting-edge research and teaching on the impact of law on business and the United States’ and global economies.
  • Berkeley Center for Law & Technology
    BCLT promotes the understanding and guides the development of intellectual property and related fields of law and policy as they intersect with business, science, and technology.
  • Center for Law, Energy & the Environment
    CLEE is a research center whose mission is to foster interdisciplinary environmental law and policy research and to translate that research into pragmatic solutions.
  • Center for the Study of Law and Society
    The Center for the Study of Law and Society fosters empirical research and theoretical analysis concerning legal institutions, legal processes, legal change, and the social consequences of law.
  • Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity
    The Warren Institute is a multidisciplinary, collaborative venture to produce research, research-based policy prescriptions, and curricular innovation on race and ethnic justice issues in California and the nation.
  • The Honorable G. William and Ariadna Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law
    The Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law (GCL) works to develop effective responses to critical global challenges that transcend state borders, such as the promotion of the rule of law and global security; the advancement of sustainable development, health and human rights; the alleviation of the social and economic consequences of poverty; and the support of religious and cross-cultural discourse.
  • Institute for Legal Research
    The Institute for Legal Research serves as a center for interdisciplinary research, teaching, and public service. In recent years, the institute has focused on the fields of criminal justice, family law, constitutional law and history, Japanese and comparative law, environmental law and policy, and ocean law and policy.
  • Kadish Center for Morality, Law & Public Affairs
    The Kadish Center seeks to promote research and reflection on moral philosophical issues in law and public life, with special concern for the substantive aspects of criminal law.
  • Robert D. Burch Center for Tax Policy & Public Finance
    The Robert D. Burch Center for Tax Policy and Public Finance is dedicated to promoting the study of tax and fiscal policies. The center, a collaboration between Berkeley Law and the UC Berkeley Department of Economics, was founded to help support the thoughtful, objective analysis of tax policy issues.
  • Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice
    Established in 1999, the Henderson Center produces and fosters creative scholarship that examines the law through a lens of social justice, and works in partnership with communities to provide education to the general public.