Duke University School of Law

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Duke University School of Law
Parent schoolDuke University
Established1868; 155 years ago (1868)
School typePrivate law school
Parent endowment$8.5 billion
DeanKerry Abrams
LocationDurham, North Carolina, U.S.
USNWR ranking11th (2023)
Bar pass rate98% (2019)[1]
Duke Law logo.svg

Duke University School of Law (Duke Law School or Duke Law) is the law school of Duke University, a private research university in Durham, North Carolina. One of Duke's 10 schools and colleges, the School of Law is a constituent academic unit that began in 1868 as the Trinity College School of Law. In 1924, following the renaming of Trinity College to Duke University, the school was renamed Duke University School of Law.

Duke Law is consistently ranked as one of the top law schools in the United States, and admits about 14.5 percent of applicants.[2] The law school is one of the "T14" law schools that have consistently ranked within the top 14 law schools since U.S. News & World Report began publishing rankings.[3]

According to Law.com, 91.36 percent of its 2018 graduating class were employed within 10 months,[4] with a median starting salary in the private sector of $205,000.[5] Duke's 2019 class bar passage rate was "almost 98 percent" — the second-highest bar passage rate in the country, after Harvard Law School.[1] As of 2019, Law School Transparency estimated debt-financed cost of attendance for three years is $329,609.[6]


Duke Law is routinely ranked within the top 14 law schools in the country, and is a member of the "T-14" law schools. It has never been ranked lower than 12th by U.S. News, or less than 7th by Above the Law.[7] Duke Law is one of three T14 law schools to have graduated a President of the United States (Richard Nixon). Duke Law was ranked by Forbes as having graduated lawyers with the 2nd highest median mid-career salary amount.[8][9] It is tied as the #8 best law school by the 2015 U.S. News overall law school Rankings.[10] In 2017, The Times Higher Education World University Rankings listed Duke Law as the number one ranked law school in the world.[11]


The law school is one of few that have experienced an increase in law school applications despite an overall national decline of applications in recent years. For the class entering in the fall of 2014, 221 students enrolled out of 5,358 applicants. The 25th and 75th LSAT percentiles for the 2014 entering class were 166 and 170, respectively, with a median of 169 (top three percent of test takers worldwide). The 25th and 75th undergraduate GPA percentiles were 3.66 and 3.85, respectively, with a median of 3.77.[12] The school has approximately 640 JD students and 75 students in the LLM and SJD programs.


Built in 1929, the Languages Building (as it is currently known) was the home of Duke Law from 1930 to 1962

The date of founding is generally considered to be 1868 or 1924.

However, in 1855 Trinity College, the precursor to Duke University, began offering lectures on (but not degrees in) Constitutional and International Law (during this time, Trinity was located in Randolph County, North Carolina).

In 1865, Trinity's Law Department was officially founded, while 1868 marked the official chartering of the School of Law. After a ten-year hiatus from 1894 to 1904, James B. Duke and Benjamin Newton Duke provided the endowment to reopen the school, with Samuel Fox Mordecai as its senior professor (by this time, Trinity College had relocated to Durham, North Carolina). When Trinity College became part of the newly created Duke University upon the establishment of the Duke Endowment in 1924, the School of Law continued as the Duke University School of Law. In 1930, the law school moved from the Carr Building on Duke's East Campus to a new location on the main quad of West Campus. During the three years preceding this move, the size of the law library tripled. Among other well-known alumni, President Richard Nixon graduated from the school in 1937. In 1963, the school moved to its present location on Science Drive in West Campus.

Law students at Duke University established the first U.S. Chapter of the International Criminal Court Student Network (ICCSN) in 2009.[13]


Duke University School of Law (February 2023)
  • 1st Best Law School in the world, Times Higher Education (2018, 2nd in 2019)[14]
  • 1st Best Law School by Above the Law (2022 and 2020)[15]
  • 1st Best Professors according to the Princeton Review (2015 and 2016; 2nd in 2018-2020)[16]
  • 1st Best Quality of Life according to the Princeton Review (2014, 2nd in 2015 and 2017)[16]
  • 2nd Highest Median Mid-Career Salary[9]
  • 2nd Best Classroom Experience according to Princeton Review (2015 and 2017, 3rd in 2018 and 2019, 4th in 2020)[16]
  • 3rd Best Career Prospects according to Princeton Review (2020)[16]
  • 3rd Best Law School (overall) according to the Best Law Schools ranking published by the National Jurist in 2013.
  • 5th Best Law School by Vault (2017)[17]
  • 5th Best Law School by Business Insider[18]
  • 5th Toughest to get into according to the Princeton Review[16]
  • 5th Best Law School for BigLaw Hiring according to National Law Journal's "Go-To Law Schools" ranking[19]
  • 6th Best Law School according to CNN Money[20]
  • 6th Best Law School for Federal Clerkships according to National Jurist[21]
  • 6th Best Law School for Moot Court according to National Jurist[22]
  • 8th Best Law School as Ranked by Law Firm Recruiters[23]
  • 10th Best in the world in the subject of law according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities in 2017[24]
  • 10th Best for Standard of Living according to National Jurist[25]
  • Tied for 10th Best Law School by U.S. News Rankings[10][26]
  • 12th Most Median Grant Money and Percentage of Students Receiving Grants according to National Jurist[21]
  • 17th Best Law Review according to National Jurist[27]
  • 19th Best Law School Library according to National Jurist[28]


The rear entrance to the Law School's present location, on Science Drive

The Trinity College School of Law was located in the Carr Building prior to the renaming of Trinity to Duke University in 1924. The Duke University Law School was originally housed in what is now the Languages Building, built in 1929 on Duke's West Campus quad.

The law school is presently located at the corner of Science Drive and Towerview Road and was constructed in the mid-1960s.

The first addition to the law school was completed in 1994, and a dark polished granite façade was added to the rear exterior of the building, enclosing the interior courtyard.

In 2004, Duke Law School broke ground on a building construction project officially completed in fall 2008. The renovation and addition offers larger and more technologically advanced classrooms, expanded community areas and eating facilities, known as the Star Commons, improved library facilities, and more study options for students.

Center for the Study of the Public Domain[edit]

Center for the Study of the Public Domain is a university center, aiming to redress the balance of academic study of intellectual property. In their analysis, academic focus has been too great on the incentives created by these rights, rather than the contribution to creativity from information which is not subject to them and also opposing the fair use,[29] as they're focusing on Copyright Act of 1909 rather than Copyright Act of 1976[30]

Law journals[edit]

The Trinity College School of Law was located in the Carr Building prior to the renaming of Trinity to Duke University in 1924

Duke Law School publishes eight academic journals or law reviews, which are, in order of their founding:

  • Law and Contemporary Problems
  • Duke Law Journal
  • Alaska Law Review
  • Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law
  • Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum
  • Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy
  • Duke Law & Technology Review
  • Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy

Law and Contemporary Problems is a quarterly, interdisciplinary, faculty-edited publication of the law school. Unlike traditional law reviews, L&CP uses a symposium format, generally publishing one symposium per issue on a topic of contemporary concern. L&CP hosts an annual conference at the law school featuring the authors of one of the year’s four symposia.[31] Established in 1933, it is the oldest journal published at the law school.

The Duke Law Journal was the first student-edited publication at Duke Law and publishes articles from leading scholars on topics of general legal interest.

Duke publishes the Alaska Law Review in a special agreement with the Alaska Bar Association, as the state of Alaska has no law school.

The Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy (DJGLP) is the preeminent journal for its subject matter in the world.[citation needed]

The Duke Law & Technology Review has been published since 2001 and is devoted to examining the evolving intersection of law and technology.

The Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy was founded by members of the Class of 2006. Professors Erwin Chemerinsky and Christopher H. Schroeder served as the ConLaw journal's inaugural faculty advisors. Mikkelsen was the first editor-in-chief; the current editor-in-chief is Daniel Browning.[32] The journal intends to fill a gap in law journal scholarship with a publication that could "cover constitutional developments and litigation, and their intersection with public policy". To ensure that the journal would remain timely, it established a partnership with the Duke Program in Public Law to produce "Supreme Court Commentaries" summarizing and explaining the impact recent cases could have on current issues. The journal publishes continually online and annually in print. It has sponsored speaker series and conferences exploring various issues in constitutional law and public policy.

The law school provides free online access to all of its academic journals, including the complete text of each journal issue dating back to January 1996 in a fully searchable HTML format and in Adobe Acrobat format (PDF). New issues are posted on the web simultaneously with print publication.

In 2005, the law school was featured in the June 6 unveiling of the Open Access Law Program, an initiative of Creative Commons, for its work in pioneering open access to legal scholarship.

Joint-degree programs[edit]

The School offers joint-degree programs with the Duke University Graduate School, the Duke Divinity School, Fuqua School of Business, the Medical School, the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, the Pratt School of Engineering, and the Sanford School of Public Policy; and a JD/LLM dual degree program in International and Comparative Law. Approximately 25 percent of students are enrolled in joint-degree programs.


According to Duke's 2017 ABA-required disclosures, 93.8 percent of the class of 2017 obtained full-time, long-term, JD-required employment nine months after graduation and not funded by the school – the highest number for any law school in the country.[33] According to the NLJ, Duke ranks third among all law schools in the percentage of 2017 graduates working in federal clerkships or jobs at firms of 100 or more lawyers, a category NLJ terms "elite jobs". Duke also ranks fourth in federal clerkships.[33]

Law School Transparency gave Duke Law the highest "Employment Score" in the country at 93.8 percent and lowest "Under-Employment Score" of 0.4 percent in 2017.[34]


The total cost of attendance (indicating the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses) at Duke for the 2015–2016 academic year is $80,937.[35] The Law School Transparency estimated debt-financed cost of attendance for three years is $329,609.[36]

Notable faculty[edit]

Current faculty

Notable faculty including a sitting Supreme Court Justice, a former United States Senator, 14 former Supreme Court clerks, a former federal judge and a former Judge Advocate General.

Former faculty

Notable alumni[edit]


President Nixon





  • Dan McCarthy, '83 – JAG Chief Prosecutor, United States Navy


Charlie Rose, PBS TV Host

Arts and Entertainment



Deans of Duke Law School[edit]

  • 1850 – 1882, Braxton Craven[39]
  • 1891 – 1894, A.C. Avery
  • 1904 – 1927, Samuel Fox Mordecai
  • 1927 – 1930, W. Bryan Bolich (acting)
  • 1930 – 1934, Justin Miller
  • 1934 – 1947, H. Claude Horack
  • 1947 – 1949, Harold Sheperd
  • 1949 – 1950, Charles L.B. Lowndes
  • 1950 – 1956, Joseph A. McClain Jr.
  • 1956 – 1957, Dale F. Stansbury (acting)
  • 1957 – 1966, Elvin Latty
  • 1966 – 1968, F. Hodge O'Neal
  • 1968 – 1970, A. Kenneth Pye
  • 1971 – 1973, Joseph Tyree Sneed III
  • 1973 – 1976, A. Kenneth Pye
  • 1976 – 1977, Walter Dellinger (acting)
  • 1978 – 1988, Paul Carrington
  • 1988 – 1999, Pamela Gann
  • 1999 Clark C. Havighurst (interim)
  • 2000 – 2007, Katharine T. Barlett
  • 2007 – 2018, David F. Levi
  • 2018 – present, Kerry Abrams


  1. ^ a b "Bar Passage Rates For First-Time Test Takers Soars!". abovethelaw.com. February 19, 2020.
  2. ^ "Duke Law School | Law School Numbers". duke.lawschoolnumbers.com. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  3. ^ "Prelaw Handbook Historical US News Rankings". PRELAWHANDBOOK. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  4. ^ May 08, Karen Sloan |; PM, 2019 at 01:26. "Law Grads Hiring Report: Job Stats for the Class of 2018". Law.com. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
  5. ^ "Employment Data". law.duke.edu.
  6. ^ "Duke University". www.lstreports.com. Retrieved May 26, 2019.
  7. ^ "Why Yale Law School Isn't The Number-One Law School (In The ATL 2018 Law School Rankings)". abovethelaw.com. June 7, 2018.
  8. ^ "Duke Law School - TLS wiki". www.top-law-schools.com.
  9. ^ a b Lat, David (March 10, 2011). "The Best Law Schools — For Getting Rich". abovethelaw.com. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
  10. ^ a b http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/law-rankings?int=a1d108 Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine[bare URL]
  11. ^ "Best Law Schools in the World". Times Higher Education. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  12. ^ "JD Class Profile".
  13. ^ "International Criminal Court Student Network takes hold at Duke". Duke Law News. Duke University. January 1, 2009. Retrieved June 1, 2017.
  14. ^ "World University Rankings 2018 by subject: law". Times Higher Education (THE). September 27, 2017.
  15. ^ "The ATL 2020 Top Law School Rankings". abovethelaw.com.
  16. ^ a b c d e "TaxProf Blog: Princeton Review's Best 169 Law Schools (2018 Edition)". taxprof.typepad.com.
  17. ^ "Vault". Archived from the original on September 5, 2015. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  18. ^ "Business Insider's Law School Ranking: 2014". Business Insider.
  19. ^ "The Best Law Schools for Getting a Biglaw Job (2016)". abovethelaw.com. March 7, 2016.
  20. ^ "Stanford University - Top 10 law schools - FORTUNE". Archived from the original on October 20, 2013. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  21. ^ a b http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/cypress/prelaw_2012winter/#/30 Archived March 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine preLaw by National Jurist Winter 2012
  22. ^ "National Jurist - September 2011 - (26)". Archived from the original on September 30, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2012.
  23. ^ https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/articles/2011/03/07/law-firm-recruiters-rank-best-law-schools[bare URL]
  24. ^ "ARWU 2017 - Law Subject ranking". Archived from the original on July 13, 2019. Retrieved May 30, 2018.
  25. ^ "National Jurist September 2011".
  26. ^ "US News Best Law School Duke University".
  27. ^ "National Jurist - February 2008". Archived from the original on January 15, 2013. Retrieved March 3, 2012.
  28. ^ "preLaw by National Jurist Spring 2010". Archived from the original on March 14, 2012. Retrieved March 3, 2012.
  29. ^ "About page, Center website". Law.duke.edu. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  30. ^ "Public Domain Day 2018 Pre-1976, Center website". Law.duke.edu. Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  31. ^ "About Us – Law and Contemporary Problems". Duke University School of Law. September 28, 2013.
  32. ^ "Masthead | Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy". September 27, 2013. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
  33. ^ a b "Duke Law no. 1 in full-time legal employment for class of 2017". Duke University School of Law.
  34. ^ "National Report | LST Reports". LST Reports by Law School Transparency. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
  35. ^ "JD Tuition & Fees". law.duke.edu.
  36. ^ "Duke University Profile".
  37. ^ James Andrew Courter, Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Accessed September 6, 2007.
  38. ^ "McKean, David". U.S. Department of State.
  39. ^ Durham, Duke Law 210 Science Drive Box 90362; Office613-7006, NC 27708. "Law School Deans | Duke University School of Law". web.law.duke.edu.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°00′05″N 78°56′41″W / 36.0013°N 78.9447°W / 36.0013; -78.9447