Center for the Study of Law and Society

Center for the Study of Law and Society's Campus Building

Established in 1961, The Center for the Study of Law and Society (CSLS) fosters research on the social, political, and intellectual influences on law and legal activity; the dynamics of legal institutions and legal processes; and the social consequences of law. While closely linked to Berkeley's School of Law, CSLS creates a multidisciplinary milieu in which UC Berkeley faculty and graduate students from many departments on the campus interact, along with visiting socio-legal scholars from other universities in the United States and from abroad. The many disciplines from which The Center's associated faculty and visitors are drawn include political science, sociology, economics, psychology, law, rhetoric, public policy, philosophy, and history.

Research Programs

  • Empirical Legal Studies: CSLS has long been an intellectual headwater for empirical studies focused on issues at the intersection of law and society. Today, empirical legal studies at UC Berkeley are characterized by a rich interdisciplinary approach that seeks to ground empirical analysis in socio-legal theory and embrace a broad range of methods, both quantitative and qualitative. As interest in empirical legal studies grew throughout the legal academy, CSLS and Berkeley Law began the Berkeley Empirical Legal Studies (BELS) Program in 2006. Its multiple aspects include: Grant Writing; Workshops and Conferences; Technical assistance; the BELS Graduate Fellows Program.
  • 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 subjects including comparative judicial behavior, the development of European Union law, penal policy and patterns of incarceration, the privatization of corrections, prison conditions litigation, historical and contemporary police, and criminal justice system processes.
  • Law and Economics: The John M. Olin Program on Law and Economics, administered through CSLS, 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.
  • Regulatory Studies: CSLS actively supports and encourages 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 and corporate compliance and organization theory. Externally funded research projects have included major studies of comparative regulatory methods, comparative environmental regulation, corporate environmental performance, and the response to strong legal penalties in U.S. environmental law.
  • Law, Organizations, Employment and Schools: Research on law and organizations has become a major focus of scholarship at CSLS. 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, and the social psychology of discrimination and legal consciousness in schools. CSLS also cosponsors a research program on Law and the Workplace with the Institute for Industrial Relations.
  • Gender, Social Policy, and the Law: CSLS has administered several externally funded projects on law, teenage pregnancy, and sex education policy. Affiliated faculty are examining the decline of families under globalization and its implications for law, as well continuing historical research on women and crime.
  • Civil Rights and Racial Justice: Many CSLS projects involve inquiries into civil rights and racial justice. Current work examines the social conditions under which workers mobilize various types of legal rights, race and class variation regarding access to work, and family policy/benefits and civil rights and the work place.
  • Legal History: CSLS has 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-American encounters with the American legal system.
  • Jurisprudential Studies: The intellectual life of CSLS is enriched by a commitment to interaction among legal philosophers and empirically-oriented socio-legal scholars. In this respect, the Center is advancing the intellectual agenda of the late Professor Emeritus Philip Selznick, its "founding father," who promoted a normatively and philosophically-inspired vision of socio-legal studies. This combined emphasis remains one of the striking features of Berkeley's CSLS.

CSLS Speaker Series

The Center for the Study of Law and Society hosts the CSLS Speaker Series, a weekly series of lunchtime presentations. Each year an average of 25 lectures and talks are presented by scholars engaged in socio-legal research from UC Berkeley, other U.S. universities and abroad.

Conferences and Workshops

CSLS sponsors special academic meetings, workshops, and conferences, often in collaboration with other campus units, and often resulting in books and other publications. In recent years, conference topics have included: environmental protection and deterrence; law and society in China;  the work of Martin Shapiro; the work of Harry N. Scheiber; Virtues and Vices of Legalism, honoring the work of Robert A. Kagan, and Building Theory Through Empirical Legal Studies. In November 2011, CSLS hosted our 50th Anniversary Conference, on The Future of Law and Society. CSLS organizes a tri-annual series of Workshops on Empirical Research Methods, a series of interviews with founders and leading scholars in the field entitled Conversations in Law and Society, and a year-long seminar for graduate student fellows, the Berkeley Empirical Legal Studies (BELS) Graduate Fellowship.

CSLS also provides opportunities for law and society scholars from neighboring universities and beyond to interact through such initiatives as the Bay Area Law and Society Scholars gathering and the West Coast Law and Society Retreat.

CSLS maintains a small research library with leading legal and law & society journals and series, and organizes and edits two web-based working paper series of law and society scholarship, as well as an active website.


Jonathan Simon
(510) 643-5169
Staff contact
Rosann Greenspan
(510) 642-7286
Mailing address

2240 Piedmont Ave (JSP Bldg), Berkeley, CA 94720 - 2150