Research Programs

Empirical Legal Studies Program – Empirical Legal Studies (ELS) has received increasing attention in the legal academy. The Journal of Empirical Legal Studies began publishing in 2004; the First Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies took place at the University of Texas in the Fall of 2006.

The Center for the Study of Law and Society has created a new Berkeley Empirical Legal Studies Program (BELS). The Program provides assistance to Boalt faculty, Center affiliates, visiting scholars, and graduate students in securing competitive research grants for empirical legal scholarship.  The Program organizes conferences and workshops, including the Miniseries in Empirical Research Methods, with 3-4 videotaped workshops in a wide range of qualitative and quantitative methods each year since 2007; the very successful conference, Building Theory through Empirical Legal Studies which took place in April 2009.  In Fall 2009 the BELS Graduate Fellowship Program began with 10 outstanding fellows selected each year.  Su Li joined CSLS in January 2010, as the statistical consultant for the School of Law.  The first BELS Faculty Fellow Sean Gailmard was appointed in 2012. 

Litigation, Courts, and Criminal Justice – The study of litigation, courts, and criminal justice processes has long been central to the work of CSLS. Affiliated scholars conduct research on: comparative judicial behavior; the development of European Union law; penal policy and patterns of incarceration; the privatization of corrections; litigation concerning prison conditions; historical and contemporary police and criminal justice system processes; the war on drugs. Affiliated faculty working in these areas include: Malcolm Feeley (a former director of the Center), Kevin Quinn, Martin Shapiro (emeritus), CSLS Director Jonathan Simon, Robert MacCoun, Franklin Zimring, David Sklanksy, Gordon Silverstein (now of Yale Law School) and Laura Nader. Newly appointed China scholar, Rachel Stern, is completing a project studying suing polluters in Chinese courts.

Law and Organizations – Research on law and organizations, already a major focus of scholarship at CSLS, has been further strengthened since former director Calvin Morrill joined the faculty in 2009. Affiliated scholars conduct research on the role of organizational institutions in judicial construction of civil rights law, the legal consciousness of employees and employers, the role of public interest law firms, the psychology of discrimination, and legal consciousness in schools. The Program in Law and Organizations (formerly Program in Law and the Workplace) includes former CSLS director Lauren Edelman , Catherine Albiston, former CSLS director Calvin Morrill, and, at the University of Hawaii, Center affiliate Linda Kreiger.

Law and Economics – The John M. Olin Program on Law and Economics, administered through the Center for the Study of Law and Society, has helped to make UC Berkeley one of the world’s foremost academic centers for the study of law, economics, and institutions. The Olin program has provided support for graduate students and helped support editing of The International Review of Law and Economics. It has sponsored national and international conferences, as well as a speakers’ series featuring law and economics scholars from the United States and abroad. Center affiliates Daniel Rubinfeld (emeritus), Robert Cooter, joined by affiliate Justin McCrary, are leaders in the field.

Regulatory Studies – In recent years the Center has actively supported and encouraged research and scholarly interaction concerning the politics and implementation of regulatory and administrative regimes. Recent areas of study include: globalization and regulation; ocean law and policy; corporate compliance and organization theory. Externally funded research projects have included major studies of comparative regulatory methods, comparative environmental regulation and corporate environmental performance, the dissemination of and response to strong legal penalties in U.S. environmental law. Major contributions in this area have been made by former Center director Robert Kagan (emeritus) as well as David Vogel and more recent affiliates David Winickoff, Dorothy Thornton and Larry Ruth.

Gender, Diversity, Culture, Social Policy and the Law – Center affiliate Kristin Luker has long been a leading scholar in this area, and over the years CSLS has administered several externally funded projects on law, teenage pregnancy, and sex education policy. Affiliated faculty are examining sexual discrimination and civil rights in the workplace (Edelman, Krieger and Albiston), culture, gender and identity (Leti Volpp), diversity, culture and inclusion (Victoria Plaut),  race and sexuality (Russell Robinson), as well as historical research on women in crime (Feeley, Constable).

Legal History – CSLS has had a rich tradition of supporting historical studies, working with UC Berkeley’s distinguished group of scholars who specialize in the history of law, courts, and legal processes. Areas of research include economic history and the history of federalism, civil liberties and the welfare state, as well as Asian-Americans’ encounters with the American legal system. Longtime Center affiliates Harry Scheiber (former acting director of the Center, emeritus) and Charles McClain (retired) continue to work in this program as do more recent affiliates Mark Brilliant (History and American Studies) and Sean Fahrang (Public Policy).

Jurisprudential Studies – In recent years, the intellectual life of CSLS has been enriched by a reinvigorated commitment to interaction among legal philosophers and empirically-oriented socio-legal scholars. In this respect, the Center is advancing the intellectual agenda of Philip Selznick, its “founding father,” who has promoted a normatively and philosophically-inspired vision of socio-legal studies. This combined emphasis remains one of the striking features of Berkeley’s CSLS. Center affiliates in this program are David Lieberman, Christopher Kutz, Sarah Song, Marianne Constable (Rhetoric) and Philippe Nonet (emeritus).