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Laura Beth Nielsen

Professor of Sociology | Research Professor, American Bar Foundation | Director of Legal Studies

J.D., Boalt Hall School of Law; Ph.D, University of California, Berkeley
  • 847-491-3718
  • Legal Studies - 620 Lincoln St, #204; Sociology - 1808 Chicago Ave, 2nd floor
  • Office Hours: By appointment - sign up here:

Laura Beth Nielsen (J.D., Boalt Hall School of Law; Ph.D. in Jurisprudence and Social Policy, University of California, Berkeley) is a Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation as well as Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Legal Studies at Northwestern University. 

Professor Nielsen’s research focuses on law’s capacity for social change.  Her primary field is the sociology of law, with particular interests in legal consciousness (how ordinary people understand the law) and the relationship between law and inequalities of race, gender, and class. Her first monograph, License to Harass: Law, Hierarchy, and Offensive Public Speech (Princeton University Press, 2004) studies racist and sexist street speech, targets’ reactions and responses to it, and attitudes about using law to deal with such speech.

In addition, she is the author of numerous articles published in the UCLA Law Review, Law and Society Review, Law and Social Inquiry, Law and Policy, the Stanford Journal of Law and Policy, and the Wisconsin Law Review.  She is also the recipient of grants and awards from the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, and the MacArthur Foundation.

Professor Nielsen is an expert in the areas of sexual harassment in the workplace and beyond, employment civil rights of all sorts including pregnancy, pay, race, sex, national origin, and is a scholar of the legal profession.

Courses Taught

  • Legal_St/Sociol 206 Law and Society
  • Legal_St 398-1,2 Advanced Research Seminar



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