Bernadette Atuahene earned her JD from Yale Law School and her MPA from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. After graduating, she served as a judicial clerk at the Constitutional Court of South Africa, and then practiced as an associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in New York.

Atuahene is now a law professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology's Chicago-Kent College of Law and a research professor at the American Bar Foundation, where she uses empirical methods to study land dispossession. She has worked as a consultant for the World Bank and the South African Land Claims Commission, and she also has directed and produced an award-winning short documentary film about one South African family’s struggle to regain their land. Atuahene has been honored with the Fulbright Fellowship, the Council on Foreign Relation's International Affairs Fellowship, and Princeton's Law and Public Affairs Fellowship. Her first book, We Want What's Ours: Learning from South Africa's Land Restitution Program (Oxford University Press, 2014), is based on 150 interviews she conducted with South Africans dispossessed of their land by the colonial and apartheid governments and who received some form of compensation post-apartheid. In 2015, she won a National Science Foundation grant for her new book project about land and housing in Detroit.