The mission of the Duke Law School is to (1) prepare students for responsible and productive lives in the legal profession by providing the most rigorous possible education within a collaborative, supportive, and diverse environment, and (2) provide national and international leadership in improving the law and legal institutions through research and public service.
In carrying out this mission, the faculty recognizes that the most effective legal education entails more than teaching legal rules, which are countless and subject to frequent change and reinterpretation. The best lawyers are those whose intellectual discipline, creative problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and sound judgment can be adapted to new fields and unanticipated circumstances. In addition to analytical skills, lawyers require a strong ethical compass, leadership abilities, strong professional skills, and a commitment to engaging in the world and using their training to make it better. Duke Law School helps students develop all of these capacities in a context that is both collegial and intellectually demanding.
The faculty also recognizes that research and service should relate to the improvement and better public understanding of law and legal institutions. It is committed to diverse research approaches, methodologies, and points of view, and to interdisciplinary collaboration.
Leadership in Interdisciplinary Research and Teaching
Duke Law is a national leader in interdisciplinary legal education. Many faculty members have joint appointments, close research, or teaching arrangements with other schools and departments at Duke, including The Fuqua School of Business, the Sanford School of Public Policy, the Nicholas School of the Environment, the School of Medicine, the Pratt School of Engineering, Duke Divinity School, and the economics, philosophy, political science, and history departments in the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. Faculty from a number of these and other schools and departments have secondary appointments at the law school.
Duke Law School has been a pioneer in dual-degree programs. About 15 percent of its JD students also enroll in another degree program at Duke (including the school’s own LLM program in International and Comparative Law, its LLM in Law and Entrepreneurship, and the JD/MA in Bioethics and Science Policy)—among the highest of any top law school.
An important reason for the cross-disciplinary strength at Duke Law School is the commitment of central university resources for interdisciplinary research, teaching, and faculty appointments. The proximity of the law school building to other schools and departments, such as the Sanford School of Public Policy and The Fuqua School of Business, aids interdisciplinary collaboration.
An Integrated Approach to Community and Leadership
Many law schools claim to have strong communities, but Duke’s claim to this distinction is supported by substantial outside recognition. Duke Law School has become a national model in its cultivation of a strong and diverse community, one deliberately designed to build and reinforce specific leadership skills and professional values. A distinctive tool in this regard is a highly visible statement of principles for developing student lawyering skills beyond the classroom known as the “Duke Blueprint to LEAD (Lawyer Education and Development).” The Duke Law Blueprint sets goals for students that emphasize teamwork, problem-solving, positive vision, stress reduction, ethical reflection, managing constructive change, and negotiating individual success within a commitment to the success of a larger organization or institution. Blueprint values are reinforced in every aspect of student life, from first-year student orientation, to career and professional development panels, leadership retreats, and student-faculty collaborations in both curricular and extracurricular projects.
Duke’s excellence in promoting leadership and professionalism through its integrated approach to student life has been recognized by a number of national awards from the American Bar Association. These include the Gambrell Award for the best law school program in professionalism, the award for the best law school student government, and the award for the top student bar association president. More recently, the ABA cited the school’s student culture as among the strongest in the nation.
This collegial environment is due in large part to the close interactions between faculty and students. Faculty are highly accessible and collaborate with students on scholarship, conferences, pro bono work, and community service projects. Students report high satisfaction with the quality of the community and their relationships with one another and with the faculty.
Law in the Service of Society
Duke Law faculty scholars routinely integrate their theoretical knowledge and their teaching with finding solutions to real problems facing lawyers, judges, citizens, and public institutions. Many Duke faculty came to the academy with extensive practical experience in government, private practice, or public interest positions. They are often engaged in such activities as Supreme Court advocacy, testimony at congressional hearings, and media commentary. Faculty have been involved in law reform initiatives on matters as diverse as financial and securities regulation, federal sentencing, innovation in health care delivery and productivity, improving the operation of international courts, the coordination and sharing of international environmental data, and review of wrongful criminal convictions.
Duke Law faculty have served as project reporters for the American Law Institute (ALI), on ALI advisory committees, and in leadership positions on influential bodies such as the Advisory Committee on Rules of Civil Procedure for the Judicial Conference of the United States, the Federal Courts Study Committee, the Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules, and panels of the National Academy of Science. Several have served in key public service posts with government agencies such as the Department of Justice, Department of State, and the US Patent and Trademark Office and within the armed services. At Duke a premium is placed on advancing theoretical and empirical knowledge that improves legal institutions and is accessible and useful outside academia.
To that end, the school stresses experiential learning. The Duke in DC program combines a full-time externship in Washington, DC, with a rigorous course focused on topics relating to legislative policy and government regulation. Other programs also emphasize the development of lawyering skills, including domestic and international externships, top-quality moot court programs, and a legal writing program that is among the strongest in the nation. Duke Law School’s clinics offer invaluable opportunities for professional skills development to students and critical legal aid to the community. Students are able to deepen their practical knowledge, strengthen their problem-solving and lawyering skills, and begin to develop professional identities through the Duke Legal Clinics, which include the Civil Justice Clinic (a partnership with Legal Aid of North Carolina), the Appellate Litigation Clinic, the Children’s Law Clinic, the Community Enterprise Clinic, the Criminal Defense Clinic, the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, the First Amendment Clinic, the Health Justice Clinic, the Immigrant Rights Clinic, the International Human Rights Clinic, the Start-Up Ventures Clinic, and the Wrongful Convictions Clinic. Advanced clinic students frequently engage in policy research and advocacy.
Duke Law School is recognized for its commitment to technological innovation.
The Duke Center on Law & Technology prepares students for the changes and growing influence of technology in the legal profession through collaboration with Duke’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, engagement with entrepreneurs locally and nationally, and provision of educational opportunities at the intersection of technology and the law, which is a focus of research and teaching for several faculty members across a range of legal specialty areas. The Center for Innovation Policy at Duke Law brings a scholarly focus to cross-cutting policies relevant to innovation generally and to sector-specific areas such as the life sciences, information and communications technology, and energy-related technology. Duke Law School is also a leader in its commitment to electronic publishing programs and open access to legal scholarship.
Duke is home to one of the strongest international and comparative law programs in the country. Its full-time faculty includes experts in public international law, international trade law, global capital, and financial markets, international intellectual property law, global environmental law, international criminal law, and international human rights law. The program is highly regarded both for its broad scope and high level of activity.
Through this highly interdisciplinary program, the international and comparative law faculty routinely engage in scholarly collaboration, faculty workshops, and conferences with schools and departments across campus. Students studying international and comparative law also routinely take classes outside the law school. Much of Duke’s distinction in this field can be credited to the interdisciplinary character of the university overall.
Duke’s strength in international and comparative law is further reflected in the extensive variety of degree programs it offers. Its JD/LLM program gives US law students an opportunity to earn a specialized degree in international law. Duke also has a competitive program for foreign lawyers seeking an LLM degree in US law, as well as an SJD program for internationally trained lawyers who wish to earn a US doctorate in law. Duke fully integrates its international students in the curricular and extracurricular life of the school. Its summer institute in transnational law in The Hague, Netherlands, is among the best summer programs offered by any law school. Another four-week intensive program at Duke Law is designed to introduce international students and visitors coming to Duke to the American law school experience. Additional activities and resources for students include the student-edited Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law, active student organizations focused on issues of international law and human rights such as the International Law Society, and the International Human Rights Clinic. The law school, through its Center for International and Comparative Law, also regularly brings in speakers to address topics relating to international and comparative law and sponsors conferences focused on this area of study.