A medium-sized program, the Duke University School of Law focuses on preparing lawyers to practice in legal fields that are likely to be in high demand in the future. Those who have walked the halls of Duke Law include President Richard Nixon and sports broadcaster Jay Bilas.
On Duke Law’s website, Dean Kerry Abrams describes “The Duke Way” as “a combination of intellectual engagement at the highest level, extraordinary collaboration and collegiality, and a commitment to serving the common good.” To produce lawyers with competitive knowledge and skills, Duke Law offers many classes focused on business and finance law, international and comparative law, constitutional and public law, and fields relating to science and technology. The school’s Capstone Projects give students the unique opportunity to develop a specialized project in a chosen area of study and receive individualized guidance from faculty.
Located in Durham, North Carolina, Duke Law School enjoys the benefits of warmer weather, lower cost of living, and easy access to outdoor activities. Located on a once-quieter side of Duke University’s 13,000-student campus, the law school’s facilities were recently renovated. Duke Law now boasts a modernized library and classrooms as well as an outdoor courtyard, attracting more bustling activity. Most students live off campus in privately owned apartments, and because public transportation is limited, a car is considered very useful. School spirit is exemplified by the “Cameron Crazies,” the students who support the Duke Blue Devils men’s and women’s basketball teams at home games. Durham has a well-established convoy of food trucks, bar life is on the uptick, and the area enjoys a robust indie music scene.
Duke University Law School Curriculum
Duke Law’s entering class typically comprises 230 to 290 students (282 in the Class of 2024; 239 in the Class of 2023). First-year students enroll in a foundational curriculum of six semester-long classes (“Civil Procedure,” “Constitutional Law,” “Contracts,” “Criminal Law,” and “Torts,” along with a choice of “Property,” “Administrative Law,” “Business Associations,” or “International Law”) and one year-long class (“Legal Analysis, Research and Writing”). In addition to their courses, upper-class students are required to complete at least six experiential credits, which can be satisfied by taking a variety of clinics, practice simulations, and externships. The majority of Duke’s upper-level courses consist of 25 students or less.
Duke Law School offers multiple dual-degree programs, giving students the opportunity to obtain a JD/Master of Environmental Management, JD/Master of Public Policy, JD/Master of Theological Studies, or one of several other dual degrees. Candidates apply separately to each school and will receive independent decisions regarding admissions.
Students with exceptional academic performance can participate in Duke Law’s one-semester study abroad program to learn the legal practice and traditions of a particular foreign country.
Duke Law does not release the rankings of its students.
Duke Law Clinical and Experiential Learning
Duke Law’s legal clinics operate collectively as a public interest law firm that has 11 distinct practice areas and is housed in its own wing of the law school. Among the more unique clinics are the Civil Justice Clinic, Immigrant Rights Clinic, Start-Up Ventures Clinic, and Wrongful Convictions Clinic. In accordance with North Carolina State Bar rules, students may enroll in a clinic after their third semester of law school (except for a few select clinics in which students cannot enroll until their fourth semester). For most clinics, students are also required to take an ethics class. Generally, a student may only enroll in one clinic per semester, and they must obtain written permission to enroll in two in the same semester. Students interested in working in a clinic for more than one semester may enroll in an advanced clinical course with written permission from the clinic’s professor.
Duke Law School’s Externship Program offers students the chance to enroll in Individual Externships (where students take classes while also working at a partnering organization), Integrated Externships (where multiple students complete externships on the same topic or for the same organization), and Faculty-Mentored Externships (where students work full time in a field assignment while completing a research paper, tutorial, or other faculty-guided project).
Duke Law School Application Information
Applicants to the Duke University Law School must submit the following to be considered:
- Application submitted electronically through LSAC
- $80 non-refundable processing fee
- Personal statement
- Optional essays
- Two recommendation letters
- Academic transcripts
- LSAC CAS report
- LSAT and/or GRE score(s)
The Duke Law School admissions committee begins accepting applications on September 1, 2021.
Early Decision Deadline: November 5, 2021 (Round I) and January 7, 2022 (Round II)
Regular Decision Deadline: February 15, 2022
Law School Personal Statement: The statement is your opportunity to introduce yourself to the admissions committee and should include (1) what you think have been your significant personal experiences beyond what may be reflected in your academic transcripts and on your résumé, and (2) your personal and career ambitions. If your personal statement does not directly address your interest in attending law school and practicing law, we strongly encourage you to write Optional Essay 1. There is no required length or page limit.
Optional Essays: You are invited to supplement your personal statement with either or both of the following optional essays. These topics are helpful in forming a full picture of our applicants, so we encourage you to provide any relevant information either in your personal statement or in the optional essays (it is not necessary to duplicate information in both places). There is no required length or page limit.
Optional Essay 1: You may submit an essay providing additional information about why you have chosen to apply to law school in general and Duke in particular. We are interested in the factors that have prompted your interest in a legal career and the ways in which you think Duke can further that interest.
Optional Essay 2: Our admission process is guided by the view that a student body that reflects the broad diversity of society contributes to the implementation of the Law School’s mission, improves the learning process, and enriches the educational experience for all students. In reviewing applications, we consider, as one factor among many, how an applicant may contribute to the diversity of the Law School based on the candidate’s experiences, achievements, background, and perspectives. This approach ensures the best and most relevant possible legal training and serves the legal profession by training lawyers to effectively serve an increasingly diverse society. You are invited to submit an essay that describes your particular life experiences with an emphasis on how the perspectives that you have acquired would contribute to Duke Law School’s intellectual community and enhance the diversity of the student body. Examples of topics include (but are not limited to): an experience of prejudice, bias, economic disadvantage, personal adversity, or other social hardship (perhaps stemming from one’s religious affiliation, disability, race, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity); experience as a first-generation college student; significant employment history (such as in business, military or law enforcement, or public service); experience as an immigrant or refugee; graduate study; or impressive leadership achievement (including college or community service).
Application Review Process
According to the Duke University Law School web site:
The application review process includes a thorough evaluation of a candidate’s academic record, including the rigor and breadth of the curriculum, overall grade trends, any graduate level work, and test scores. Duke Law School seeks to identify applicants who demonstrate leadership and engagement. Most successful candidates show sustained and meaningful commitment to one or more fields of interest to them. Although many applicants have had some exposure to the legal profession, this is not in itself a requirement. The Law School benefits from a student body that represents a broad range of experiences and interests. It is often helpful to indicate reasons for interest in law school in general and Duke in particular, especially when they relate to an applicant’s specific experiences. Special care is taken when evaluating applicants to achieve diversity in interests, perspectives, and backgrounds.
Most offers of admission are typically made prior to March 1, and all decisions are completed by the end of April.
Duke University School of Law Statistics
Class Profile (Duke Law School Class of 2024)
Number of Applicants: 7,255
Acceptance Rate: 14.45%
Class Size: 282
Average Age: 23.4
Students of Color: 37%
Median LSAT: 170
Median Undergraduate GPA: 3.82
U.S. States Represented: 37
Career Placement (Duke Law School Class of 2020)
- Law Firms: 74.641%
- Judicial Clerkships: 13.397%
- Public Interest: 5.741%
- Government/Military: 2.870%
- Business and Industry: 2.392%
- Education: 0.956%
Duke University Law School Rankings
2023 U.S. News & World Report: #11
2022 The Princeton Review: #3 best classroom experience and best professors; #4 best career prospects; #7 hardest to get into; #8 best quality of life