Some colleagues are concerned with the place of law in relation to other social institutions and consider law in the context of broad social theories. Others seek to understand legal decision-making by individuals and groups. Still others systematically study the impact of specific reforms, compliance with tax laws, the criminal justice system, dispute processing, the functioning of juries, globalization of law, and the many roles played by various types of lawyers. Some seek to describe legal systems and identify and explain patterns of behavior. Others use the operations of law as a perspective for understanding ideology, culture, identity, and social life. Whatever the issue, there is an openness in the Association to exploring the contours of law through a variety of research methods and modes of analysis.
LSA was founded in 1964 by Professors Harry Ball, Robert Yegge, and Richard Schwartz. Professor Ball became the first president of LSA, and Professor Schwartz became the first editor of the Association’s journal, the Law & Society Review. LSA met with other national associations until 1978, when our own annual meetings began.
Annual meetings are a critical aspect of the Association’s activities. At the meetings, participants exchange ideas in many ways. For example, some participants present papers in panels with discussants commenting upon; in other sessions, authors meet readers of their books or specialists and non-specialists participate in roundtables and freely debate ideas. Each meeting also includes a few general sessions, where everyone gathers to hear presentations of new ideas and recent work of leaders in the field, and several social events, including the presentation of the Association’s annual awards for scholarship in the field of law and society.
Participants usually find that the meetings provide an unparalleled opportunity for informal discussions across disciplines and theoretical traditions as well as more traditional formal exchanges. The substantial level of international participation also facilitates cross-national research connections and expanded research perspectives. With an average of two thousand attendees, twenty nine percent of participants are international, covering six continents and fifty countries. Activities between annual meetings continue through our forty five Collaborative Research Networks, originally developed, with the assistance of a grant from the National Science Foundation, to facilitate international research collaboration. Beginning in 1991, and at five year intervals, the Association's annual meeting has been part of an international meeting. The international meetings are particularly exciting events and have resulted in several cross-country, interdisciplinary research projects.
The Association sponsors two workshops: a Graduate Student Workshop designed for students in mid-to-late stages of their graduate educations, and an Early Career Workshop, designed for faculty in their first three years of employment in academic careers. Both are held in the two days prior to, and in the same location as, the annual meeting. Both workshops have competitive applications and provide some financial support for those selected to participate. Every year, LSA grants a two-year fellowship to two third- and fourth-year graduate students who specialize in the field of law and social science and whose research interests include law and inequality. The LSA/ABF Law and Social Science Dissertation and Mentoring Fellowship (LSS Fellowship) is a collaborative effort of the Law and Society Association and the American Bar Foundation with funding from the Law and Social Science Program of the National Science Foundation.
The Association, through Wiley, publishes a journal, the Law & Society Review, in four issues per volume per year. Founded in 1966, the Review is regarded by socio-legal scholars in the United States and other countries as the leading journal in the field.
Beginning in 2014, LSA has been a sponsor of Life of the Law, a website that explores the relationship of law to American society and culture, reaching into the parallel worlds of scholars and journalists, engaging the listener’s imagination through sound-rich narrative storytelling, and presenting investigative reporting and thoughtful analysis over multiple platforms, including broadcast radio, podcasts, blogs, an interactive website and live law events. Many of these productions feature LSA members as advisory scholars.
The Law and Society Association has been a member of ACLS since 1997. Its executive officer regularly attends ACLS meetings. For more information on the Law and Society Association, visit www.lawandsociety.org.