• S.J. Quinney Endowed Chair, College Of Law
  • Professor, College Of Law
  • Professor, College Of Law - Dean

Research Summary

I study issues of sex, gender, law, and inequality, with a focus on employment discrimination, reproductive justice, and families. Critical to much of my research have been questions concerning how law can disrupt discriminatory processes within organizations such as workplaces, the legal regulation of nontraditional families, and the relationship between sex-based and economic inequality. Methodologically, my research employs social science in service of advancing legal knowledge.


  • J.S.D., Law, Columbia University
  • LL.M., Law, Columbia University
  • J.D., Law, University of Maryland
  • B.A., Political Science, The George Washington University


Laura T. Kessler teaches Civil Procedure, Family Law, Reproductive Rights and Justice, Sexual Harassment Law, and Employment Discrimination Law. Her research focuses on the legal regulation of sex in various contexts. Professor Kessler's scholarship has examined LGBTQ family rights; sex discrimination in the law of marriage and divorce; polygamy and religious freedom; multi-parent families; workplace sex and pregnancy discrimination; sexual misconduct in the military; access to contraception; and sterilization abuse. She is an author of the case book Women and the Law (Foundation Press, 5th ed. forthcoming 2024). Her most recent article, Miscarriage of Justice: Early Pregnancy Loss and the Limits of U.S. Employment Law, published in the Cornell Law Review, explores the invisibility of miscarriage in federal employment discrimination law.

In pursuing her research, Professor Kessler draws on several methodologies, integrating legal analysis and social science methods such as survey research, structured interviews, content analysis of text, and systematic analysis of sources found in archives. She is a longtime member of the Law and Society Association, a group of scholars from many fields and countries interested in the place of law in social, political, economic, and cultural life. For the Association, she has served on the Herbert Jacob Book Prize Committee, Article Prize Committee, and as a facilitator of its Early Career Workshop for junior scholars. She is a founder of the Association's Collaborative Research Network on Feminist Legal Theory.

In 2018, Professor Kessler was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Israel. Her project investigated the legal theories and strategies used by cause lawyers working to protect the family rights and liberties of women and gay people in the context of a plural legal system with conflicting secular and religious family laws. She has also been a visiting faculty member at Haifa University and the Interdisciplinary Center at Reichman University in Herzliya.

Before entering academia, Professor Kessler clerked for the Honorable Ronald L. Ellis in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, litigated class-action civil rights cases for the ACLU of Maryland and Maryland Disability Law Center, and was a teaching fellow at Columbia Law School.

Areas of Expertise

Family Law

Employment Discrimination

Gender, Sexuality, and the Law

Human Rights, Religion, and Families

Reproductive Rights and Justice

Civil Procedure

Law and Society