Assistant Professor of Teaching in Criminology, Law and Society
Ph.D. University of California Berkeley; J.D. Northwestern School of Law, Lewis & Clark College
2317 Social Ecology II
Criminology, Law and Society
sociology of law/law and society, gender, family, reproduction and surrogacy, law and emotion, civil rights, dispute resolution, cybercrime
Hillary Berk has over a decade of experience delivering engaged, interactive law and society courses at the University of California, in addition to conducting socio-legal research on assisted reproduction and surrogacy. Her areas of expertise include social inequality, civil rights, dispute resolution, law and emotions, feminist legal theory, and law and the changing family. New areas of interest include cybercrime, privacy, and the study of digital technologies. She received her Ph.D. from the Jurisprudence and Social Policy program at the University of California Berkeley and her J.D. from Northwestern School of Law, Lewis and Clark College, where she also earned a Natural Resources Law certification. Prior to joining the faculty at UC Irvine, she served for two years as the inaugural Legal Studies Postdoctoral Fellow for Berkeley Law, conducting program assessment, publishing work, and teaching the Sociology of Law and Legal Rights, Science, and Society (2013-15). Awarded the School of Social Ecology Professor of the Year in 2019, she brings valuable insight to the classroom from a practical perspective, having also worked as a lawyer, public policy analyst, and mediator.
Her research examines the ways in which social norms about gender, family, and work both constitute and are constituted by a variety of legal practices and institutions, particularly when law interfaces with science and reproduction. Winner of the 2014 Law and Society Association Dissertation Prize, her work is the first to map and analyze the previously unknown world of surrogacy contracting. Following over a year of field research in twenty states, The Legalization of Emotion: Risk, Gender, and the Management of Feeling in Contracts for Surrogate Laborcombines 115 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with content analyses of surrogacy contracts to address the interface of law, gender, and emotions. It unpacks the legal interests, risks, and social relationships that are situated at the nexus between a surrogate’s womb and the hopes of intended parents negotiated within an unsettled reproductive field. Given conflicting laws on surrogate motherhood both in the United States and around the globe, as well as a rise in same-sex family formation, she finds that multijurisdictional practices proliferate to evade law, with varied outcomes. Awards supporting her research include grants from the National Science Foundation, the Center for the Study of Law and Society, the Berkeley Empirical Legal Studies Fellowship, and the University of California’s prestigious President’s Dissertation-Year Fellowship.
She joined the faculty in Criminology, Law, & Society as a teaching professor with a strong, evidenced commitment to pedagogy, diversity in education, and cumulative experience at both the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of California, Berkeley. She is passionate about socio-legal studies and motivating students who are called to it. From 2002-2006, she taught as a full-time lecturer in the Law and Society program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, developing seven courses for the department, including Gender and the Law, Lawyers and the Legal Profession, Jurisprudence, and Law, Science, and Technology. Additionally, she facilitated the Senior Honors Thesis program, served as the faculty supervisor for the editorial board of the Law & Society Journal, worked as a mentor for the UC Summer Teaching Institute for Graduate Students, and for multiple summers represented the Law and Society program for Freshman Orientation with her lecture, “Who May Marry,” which tracks the history of the marital contract, racist anti-miscegenation laws, and the marriage equality movement. Her excellence and passion for teaching was formally acknowledged by the University of California, Berkeley with an Outstanding Instructoraward for her efforts in Feminist Jurisprudence and Government and the Family (2009). She also created a research and writing course for Legal Studies at Berkeley, which serves undergraduates across campus as a general education requirement.
In addition to her forthcoming publication in Law & Social Inquiry, “Savvy Surrogates and Rock Star Parents: Compensation Provisions, Contracting Practices, and the Value of Womb Work” (2019), she is published in the Law & Society Review, “The Legalization of Emotion: Managing Risk by Managing Feelings in Contracts for Surrogate Labor” (2015), and has coauthored practical legal forms and materials for public use, distributed statewide by the Oregon Judicial Department through its county courts and online, including Domestic Relations Forms for Pro Se Litigants (2001) and the Parenting Plan Guide for Parents(2001).