Felice Batlan, professor of law and associate dean for faculty at Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech, has won the Law and Society Association’s 2016 J. Willard Hurst Award for her book Women and Justice for the Poor: A History of Legal Aid, 1863–1945 (Cambridge University Press 2015). Awarded annually, the prestigious Hurst Prize honors the best work in socio-legal history published in the past year.
Batlan’s award-winning book upends commonly held assumptions about the history of the legal profession and the development of free legal aid. She reconstructs the history of legal aid from its origins in 19th century women’s aid organizations, which offered lay legal advice to poor women, through the 20th century, when male lawyers began forming their own legal aid societies. The book explores how the different models of legal aid produced conflicting understandings of expertise, the rule of law, and the meaning of justice for the poor.
In selecting Batlan’s book for the award, the judges wrote, “Batlan challenges her readers to think more critically about what it means to practice law and how historians write about the history of lawyering. Women and Justice for the Poor is a remarkable feat of historical excavation and reinterpretation.”
Batlan continually challenges the boundaries between law, history, and gender studies. She has written extensively about legal history, women’s legal history, and the role of gender in the legal profession. Her work, which has been translated into numerous languages, has appeared in law reviews, anthologies and history journals. She serves as associate editor and book review editor for the Law and History Review and was associate editor for the Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court of the United States (Macmillan Reference USA 2008).