Catherine R. Albiston



My academic training reflects a steadfast refusal to be categorized that I suspect is common among interdisciplinary scholars. I hold degrees in psychology and sociology from Stanford as well as a J.D. from Boalt and a Ph.D. from Berkeley. I also practiced law at the Legal Aid Society of San Francisco, where I developed some expertise in employment law related to gender discrimination and work/family policy.

My research focuses on the relationship between law and social change. Within this broad frame my projects span several different areas, but all have in common two themes: (1) an interest in how institutions shape the meaning of law in particular social settings, and (2) a focus on understanding how law relates to broader social processes that sustain systems of power and inequality. My research encompasses a number of topics including how institutions affect rights mobilization, the role public interest law organizations play in bringing about social change, and how technical legal rules have unintended consequences for the development of law.

Much of my recent work draws on new institutionalist and social constructive theories to show how social institutions constrain rights mobilization and influence how courts interpret rights. Right now, I’m completing a book on how institutions shape family/medical leave rights in both the courts and the workplace. I’m also developing a new study of rights mobilization in the workplace that will investigate claiming behavior, workers’ legal consciousness, stratification in knowledge of rights, and how organizational structures influence mobilization. Another project, a national study of more than 200 public interest organizations in the United States, examines variation in organizations’ strategy, structure, and mission across ideological boundaries and practice areas. This study has several objectives, including investigating how public interest organizations respond to their environments and how institutions such as funding structures and doctrinal limits shape their practice and agendas. The “rule nerd” in me is behind yet another empirical study that investigates whether federal appellate judges strategically use rules regarding non-citation of unpublished authority to shape the development of employment discrimination law.

I teach a variety of courses related to these research interests, including Law & Social Change, Social Movements & Law, Empirical Perspectives on Gender, Law & Society, Research Methods, and the Foundation Seminar in Law & Society.

In my spare time, I’m an avid fiction reader with eclectic tastes (i.e. Edith Wharton to Richard Powers), and I enjoy hiking and camping with my environmentalist husband, large dog, and toddler son.

Professor Albiston’s faculty profile, bio, and other information can be found here.