The award is given annually to a member of the academy who has engaged in outstanding scholarship in the law or in government. A professor at Harvard Law since 1986, Wilkins is vice dean of Harvard Law School’s Global Initiative on the Legal Profession and director of the Program on the Legal Profession. He is also a faculty associate of the Harvard University Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics, and is an affiliated scholar with the American Bar Foundation.
American Bar Foundation Director Robert L. Nelson said, “David Wilkins has made highly significant and original contributions to empirical research on the legal profession, including pathbreaking work on why there are so few black corporate law firm partners, on the role of urban law schools in shaping the careers of young lawyers, on the factors that influence corporate counsel in the selection of outside law firms, on the impact of globalization and technology on the legal services market, and on the determinants of ethical decision-making by corporate lawyers.” He added, “As administrator, teacher, and scholar, Wilkins has made and continues to create knowledge about law in action that will shape the future of the legal profession.”
Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow said: “This award is richly deserved. Among his many extraordinary achievements, David Wilkins created and directs the Program on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School, and his wide-ranging research explores areas including diversity in the legal profession, the organizational and economic context influencing ethics in law practice, the career paths of lawyers, and the exploration of how corporations purchase legal services, including the off-shoring of legal work. We are tremendously proud that the American Bar Foundation has chosen to recognize his stellar work and his many contributions to the profession.”
The award will be presented on Saturday, Feb. 12, during the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation 55th Annual Awards Reception and Banquet in Atlanta. Wilkins will deliver the keynote remarks at the event.
In his keynote lecture, “Globalization, Lawyers, and Emerging Economies,” Wilkins will talk about the launch of a major new research collaboration exploring the development of the market for legal services in countries such as India, China, and Brazil. Specifically, the project investigates how globalization, state-sponsored innovation policies around the opening of markets, legal education reform, and pro bono and public interest initiatives are fundamentally reshaping the practice of law in these countries – and how these changes will inevitably affect the way law is practiced, taught, and regulated in the United States and elsewhere. Professor Wilkins will discuss how the research will be conducted and present some preliminary observations and conclusions.
Wilkins has written extensively on the legal profession in leading scholarly journals and the popular press and is the co-author (along with his Harvard Law School colleague Andrew Kaufman) of one of the leading casebooks on professional ethics. His path-breaking article, “Why Are There So Few Black Lawyers in Corporate Law Firms?” (with Mitu Gulati, published in California Law Review, 1996), is widely cited in research on legal diversity. His current scholarly projects include collaboration on the signature ABF project, “After the JD,” a ten-year nationwide longitudinal study of lawyers’ careers; the “Harvard Law School Career Study; an examination of how Fortune 1,000 corporations purchase legal services; a research project on the development of “ethical infrastructures” in large law firms; and a study of the practice of “off-shoring” legal work to India. His forthcoming Oxford University Press book on the development of the black corporate bar is based on over 200 in-depth interviews.
Wilkins teaches several courses on lawyers and other related professionals. He is also one of seven Harvard Law School faculty members who teach the school’s new required course for all first-year students entitled, Problem Solving. Wilkins is a principal faculty member in the Law School’s Executive Education program, where he teaches on Leadership in Law Firms and Leadership in Corporate Counsel. He has also served on several Harvard Law School and University committees, including the university-wide Task Force on Professional Schools.
Wilkins is a frequent speaker at academic institutions and conferences, bar organizations, and law firms and other professional service organizations in the United States and around the world. He has received numerous honors and awards, including being selected as the 2009 Commencement Speaker at the University of Iowa College of Law and the 2008 Distinguished Scholar by the Order of the Coif.
Wilkins received his A.B . from Harvard College in 1977, and his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1980. Before joining the Harvard Faculty he clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.