Robert M. Lawless

Max L. Rowe Professor of Law
Co-Director, Illinois Program on Law, Behavior and Social Science


Robert Lawless ( is the Max L. Rowe Professor of Law and co-director of the Program on Law, Behavior and Social Science. He served as the College’s associate dean for research from 2013-16.

Professor Lawless specializes in bankruptcy, consumer finance, and business law. He is a co-author for Secured Transactions: A Systems Approach, a leading textbook on the topic. He also joins Professors Jennifer K. Robbennolt and Thomas S. Ulen as the co-author of Empirical Methods in Law, a textbook on empirical methodologies.

Professor Lawless administers and contributes to the blog Credit Slips, a discussion on credit, finance, and bankruptcy. He also is a co-principal investigator in the Consumer Bankruptcy Project, a long-term research project studying persons who file bankruptcy.

Professor Lawless served as the reporter for the American Bankruptcy Institute’s Commission on Consumer Bankruptcy from 2017-2019 and received the ABI’s Annual Service Award for 2019. He is a member of the American Law Institute, the National Bankruptcy Conference, and the American College of Bankruptcy. He has testified before Congress, and his work has been featured in media outlets such as C-SPAN, CNN, CNBC, NPR, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, ABC News, and the Financial Times.

Born and raised in Illinois, Professor Lawless earned both his undergraduate degree in accounting and his law degree from the University of Illinois. During law school, he served as editor-in-chief of the University of Illinois Law Review. Prior to joining the Illinois law faculty, Professor Lawless served on the law faculties of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, and he has been a visiting faculty member at Ohio State University and Washington University in St. Louis. Professor Lawless began his career as a law clerk for the Honorable Harlington Wood, Jr., of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and then practiced law in Washington, D.C., with the firm of Zuckert, Scoutt & Rasenberger.


Consumer Finance
Empirical Methods in Law
JSD Seminar
Secured Transactions


Selected Publications

Empirical Methods in Law, Second Edition (Aspen 2016) (with Jennifer K. Robbennolt & Thomas S. Ulen)

Secured Transactions: A Systems Approach. Eighth Edition (Aspen, 2016) (with Lynn M. LoPucki & Elizabeth Warren)

“No Money Down” Bankruptcy, S. Cal. L. Rev. forthcoming (with Pamela Foohey, Katherine Porter & Deborah Thorne) 

Race, Attorney Influence, and Bankruptcy Chapter Choice, 9 J. Empirical Legal Stud. 323 (2012) (with Jean Braucher and Dov Cohen)

Did Bankruptcy Reform Fail? An Empirical Study of Consumer Debtors, 82 Am. Bankr. L.J. 349  (2008) (with Angela Littwin, Katherine Porter, John Pottow, Deborah Thorne, and Elizabeth Warren)

The Paradox of Consumer Credit, 2007 U. Ill. L. Rev. 347

The Myth of the Disappearing Business Bankruptcy, 93 Cal. L. Rev. 743 (2005) (with Elizabeth Warren)


See All Publications