An internationally recognized authority on welfare law and low-wage labor, Professor Williams focuses on the dependency created in low-wage labor relationships, and how the political rhetoric connecting "dependency" with receipt of welfare has diverted attention from the structural issues within low-wage labor markets. She has a long and impressive record as both an academic and a litigator in the areas of unemployment insurance, Social Security and related welfare programs. In 2018, she was selected for a Fulbright Specialist award. Under the Fulbright auspices, and in partnership with Wuhan University School of Law in China, she taught courses on social and economic rights and worked with NGOs.

In recent years, Professor Williams has expanded her work to address issues of global poverty and the justiciability of social and economic rights. She currently convenes the International Social and Economic Rights Project (iSERP), a group of international academics, judges and activists working to encourage and develop critical and transformative thinking about SER and SER-based legal strategies. She is also faculty director of the law school's Center for Public Interest Advocacy and Collaboration and co-director of its Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy.

Prior to joining the Northeastern faculty, Professor Williams was an attorney with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute for 13 years. She teaches in the area of social welfare law, civil procedure and federal courts and was involved in developing the law school’s Legal Skills in Social Context program. In 1994-1995, she was honored by the school as the Public Interest Distinguished Professor. In 1994-1996, she was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the 11-person Advisory Council on Unemployment Compensation, evaluating and recommending improvements for all aspects of the unemployment compensation program. In 2019, she received the University of Chicago Professional Achievement Alumni Award.

Fields of Expertise

  • Civil Liability
  • Civil Procedure
  • Civil Rights
  • Development and the Law
  • Federal Jurisdiction
  • International Social and Economic Rights
  • Litigation
  • Poverty Law
  • Public Interest Advocacy
  • Social Welfare Law

Selected Works


Selected Chapters

  • “Resource Questions in Social and Economic Rights Enforcement: A Preliminary View,” in Social and Economic Rights in Theory and Practice: Critical Inquiries, ed. A. García et al. (Routledge Press, 2014).
  • “Rethinking Social Protection Beyond Waged Work: A United States Perspective,” in Women’s Rights to Social Security and Social Protection, ed. B. Goldblatt et al. (Hart Press, 2014).
  • “Poor Women’s Work Experiences: Gaps in the ‘Work-Family’ Discussion,” in Labour Law, Work and Family: Critical and Comparative Perspectives, ed. J. Conaghan et al. (Oxford University Press, 2005).
  • “Beyond Labour Law’s Parochialism: A Re-Envisioning of the Discourse of Redistribution,” in Labor Law in an Era of Globalization: Transformative Practices and Possibilities, ed J. Conaghan (Oxford University Press, 2002).
  • “Unemployment Insurance and Low Wage Work,” in Hard Labor: Women and Work in the Post-Welfare Era, ed. J. Handler et al. (1999).
  • “Welfare Law and Legal Entitlements: The Social Roots of Poverty,” in Politics of Law, Third Edition, ed. D. Kairys (1998).