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

Research Summary

My scholarship addresses issues of gender, law, and inequality, with a focus on employment discrimination law and family law. Critical to much of my research have been questions concerning how law can disrupt discriminatory processes of exclusion 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, Employment Discrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Reproductive Rights and Justice. Her research focuses on the legal regulation of families and 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 2023). Her most recent article, Miscarriage of Justice: Early Pregnancy Loss and the Limits of U.S. Employment Law, forthcoming in the Cornell Law Review, explores this issue through a reproductive justice lens.

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 legal theories and procedural strategies developed by human rights lawyers to overcome the disabilities and limitations that religious family laws impose upon individuals' fundamental rights and liberties. 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