Career & Professional Development Center

The advantages of attending a small, nationally renowned law school like Duke University School of Law are profound in the area of career and professional development. The mission of Duke Law School is to help every graduate launch their career with the right job—not just any job. While data paint only a very small part of the picture, Duke Law School enjoys one of the strongest employment records among US law schools.

Duke Law School teaches first-year students that relationships are a building block of their careers, and the school creates opportunities for students to develop them. Through these relationships, students learn about their future profession, explore career possibilities, and grow as individuals. By fostering this interpersonal development early on, the school encourages its students to become active and engaged members of the Duke Law community.

It is a firmly held belief within Duke Law School that the alignment of personal values and professional aspirations is at the core of a meaningful career. During students’ three years at Duke, the school’s philosophy is to help students learn about themselves, what they value most in a career, and to introduce students to the universe of possible career opportunities. Every 1L is assigned a Career Counselor, who meets with the student at least three times during the first year. Duke Law School wants each graduate to leave the school with professional opportunities that match their unique values and goals, and to be informed decision-makers about their careers—a skill many lawyers may never develop. Duke structures the pursuit of the “right” job into three broad steps and collaborate with students to help them skillfully execute each one. The three steps are:

  • Learn about your own strengths and values.

    • Engage in the law school beyond the classroom.

    • Serve the community.

    • Risk trying something new.

    • Learn about the universe of job and careers.

    • Ask questions to which you don’t know the answer.

    • Build relationships with professors, classmates, and alumni.

  • Take advantage of the opportunities Duke brings you.

  • Match your strengths and values with a corresponding position within the universe of careers.

Students enter Duke Law School at differing points along the career path, and the Career and Professional Development Center is eager to support them at any stage. What is clear is that individuals who are able to determine where their passions lie and what interests them are most readily able to achieve those goals.

The Career and Professional Development Center, along with the Office of Public Interest and Pro bono, provides the following:

  • individualized career advising—every students works one-on-one with one of the Center’s experienced career advisors;

  • extensive programming, including as part of the 1L PD Credit designed to teach valuable professional development skills such as professional communication, interviewing and networking;

  • multiple practice interview opportunities, including around the country and abroad, to improve communication and interpersonal skills;

  • comprehensive resources, including career guides, access to jobs databases, and an exclusive job board;

  • a robust recruiting program; and

  • a dedicated Director of Clerkships who meets individually with every student interested in pursuing a judicial clerkship.

In addition, basic skills, such as writing and drafting legal résumés and cover letters, are covered. The Center also provides counseling conversations about goals and values. An integral part of Duke’s professional development program is the involvement of alumni and other practitioners from around the world. Recent events at the law school include the Business Law Career Symposium, Government & Public Interest Speakers Series, Sharing Our Affinities—the 1L Diversity Reception, 1GP Networking Nights for students who are the first in their family to attend college, the 1L Blueprint for Professional Success, the Public Interest Retreat, the International Lawyers’ Series, and numerous other speakers. Equally important are programs where upper-level students describe their experiences to newer students or organize educational events for their classmates.

In the summer following the first year of law school, Duke students engage in a diverse array of jobs. Many choose to work with public interest organizations such as those involved in children’s rights advocacy, Native American rights or the development of legal systems in developing countries around the globe. Students also experience government legal work, with entities like the Securities & Exchange Commission, a US attorney’s office or the EPA. Others choose to collaborate with a Duke professor over the summer, doing research and writing and cementing a personal and professional bond with a member of the school’s outstanding faculty. Some students decide to experience life in a law firm for the summer. Other students find jobs abroad and/or participate in Duke Law School’s summer program in the Netherlands. The goal of Duke Law School is to work with students starting early in their first year so they can identify a summer opportunity that they believe is in line with their personal values and objectives.

Second-year students typically begin pursuing 2L summer opportunities while simultaneously working for their first-year summer employer. Again, students engage in many different types of summer jobs, although typically a large number are interested in law firm work. Whatever one’s goals, Duke encourages students to work closely with the Career and Professional Development Center, and in many cases with the Office of Public Interest and Pro bono, as well. Every student needs to pursue opportunities through multiple channels, including networking, research, and letter writing to employers; contacting alumni; and on-campus interviewing. The Center helps students identify employers to contact and prepare them to meet the employers that typically interview at Duke annually. These include:

  • law firms and offices from the largest legal markets such as Atlanta, California, Chicago, New York, Texas and Washington, DC;

  • firms and offices—large and small—from Boston, Charleston, Charlotte, Denver, Florida, Phoenix, Raleigh, Seattle, and many other cities and states;

  • law firms hiring students for Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Shanghai, and Tokyo;

  • public interest organizations in fields ranging from environmental policy to legal aid;

  • the federal government, including the Department of Justice, the Securities & Exchange Commission, as well as the EPA, FDA, IRS, and others;

  • county attorneys; and

  • emerging technology companies and big corporations.

With hundreds of employers coming to campus each year and actively soliciting Duke applicants through regional job fairs, résumé collects, and other channels, Duke students are able to interview with a broad array of employers. The law school has also organized Regional Receptions in a number of cities around the country to provide students with additional opportunities to meet employers. Beyond these, there are literally thousands of professional opportunities available to Duke Law students, so the school strongly encourages students to investigate the world beyond on-campus interviewing and Duke-organized events. As a point of reference, students working in law firms for the summer typically earn between $1,500 to $3,900 per week, depending on the firm and city. Students who work for public interest organizations during the summer are eligible to apply for guaranteed summer public interest funding and fellowships sponsored by the law school and other organizations. The Public Interest Law Foundation, which is composed entirely of students, works throughout the year to raise money for fellow classmates who choose summer employment in public interest organizations. All students who want to receive funding for summer public interest work are eligible to do so.

Duke Law School graduates launch their legal careers throughout the United States and around the world. Typically, approximately one-third of Duke students choose to work in either New York or Washington, DC, following law school. Ten to 15 percent of each graduating class chooses to practice in North Carolina—from Charlotte to Raleigh and beyond—with a similar amount heading to Texas, primarily Houston and Dallas, and to California and cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Boston, Charleston, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, and Seattle, as well as cities in Florida, draw the interest of up to 10 percent of Duke’s students, too. Indeed, few law schools match the dispersion of their graduates that is found at Duke, and the law school today has more than 11,000 alumni living and practicing law in almost every state in the country. Duke Law School also has a significant alumni population who live and practice law abroad. Duke’s extensive alumni network is very active and supportive of students who are seeking employment during and after law school.

The Career and Professional Development Center prides itself on introducing students to the practice of law and giving new attorneys the tools they need to make educated career decisions for years to come. The Center and its colleagues have an outstanding team of extremely dedicated and talented professionals with multiple advanced degrees and professional experience in private and public legal practice, business, consulting, counseling, and other fields.