Laura Beth Nielsen is Professor of Sociology and Director of Legal Studies at Northwestern University and Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation. A scholar of civil and constitutional rights, mobilization, and inequality, she studies how ordinary people understand and use the law (legal consciousness) and the relationship between law and inequalities of race, gender, and class.

Her newest book (with Nelson and Berrey), Rights on Trial: How Employment Discrimination Law Reinforces Inequality, (University of Chicago Press, 2017)  argues that America’s commitment to equal opportunity in the workplace has never been stronger and yet this promise falls far short in the workplace and in courts.

In addition to numerous articles appearing in journals like Law & Society Review, the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Law and Social Inquiry, the UCLA Law Review, and three edited collections about rights, she is the author of License to Harass: Law, Hierarchy, and Offensive Public Speech, (Princeton, 2004) studies hate speech, targets’ reactions and responses to it, and attitudes about using law to deal with such speech.

Nielsen’s scholarship has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the American Bar Foundation as well as having been covered by the New York Times, National Public Radio, the Nation, the Wall Street Journal, and Time. She co-authored the American Sociological Association’s amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court in Dukes v Walmart, and she has testified in Congressional briefings on hate crimes and hate speech.