Degree Programs and Application Instructions

Juris Doctor

students in classDuke Law School offers a JD program that is rigorous, relevant, innovative and interdisciplinary.

First year students begin their study of law through the traditional core courses of civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, property, and torts. At least one first-year course is a small section of less than 30 students and rarely does any first-year class exceed 90 students.

From the first-year foundation, Duke has built an extensive upper-class curriculum that blends traditional coursework with an extensive array of practical skills courses and clinics and opportunities to study in small groups with faculty.

While the core curriculum is strong across the board, Duke has given special attention to those areas in which there is likely to be a growing demand for lawyers over the coming decades - business and finance law, international and comparative law, constitutional and public law, and fields relating to science and technology such as intellectual property, environmental, telecommunications, biotech, and health.

Non-Discrimination Policy

Duke University is committed to encouraging and sustaining a learning and work community that is free from prohibited discrimination and harassment. Review the full policy to learn more.

Application Process and Timeline

The Application for Admission is available in late August, and may be submitted through LSAC on September 1. The priority application deadline for Regular Decision candidates is February 15. (Applications may be submitted after the deadline if space is available.) Applications for the binding Early Decision option must be submitted by November 14, 2014 (Round I) or January 9, 2015 (Round II).
» More about Early Decision

The application review process typically begins in October, and decisions are issued throughout the following months. Applicants will be notified as soon as decisions are made on their admission and scholarship applications. However, the time from an application's completion to a decision being reached may vary widely.

The process to apply for scholarship assistance is integrated with the admission application review process. Applicants who have been preliminarily selected for admission are invited to submit a Scholarship Application. Duke Law School awards scholarships both on the basis of merit and on the basis of merit plus financial need. Candidates who wish to be considered for scholarship assistance based on both merit and financial need are also required to submit the NeedAccess application.

Upon completion of the review, selected candidates receive notification of any scholarship they have been awarded and an official offer of admission. (Selected candidates who do not intend to apply for scholarship assistance should notify the Office of Admissions so that a final decision on their admission application can be made.)

Application Review

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. To be eligible for admission, an applicant must receive a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution prior to enrollment at the Law School.

Duke 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 applications to achieve diversity in interests, perspectives, and backgrounds.

When the admissions committee determines that additional information would be helpful in making a final decision, applicants may be invited to visit campus for an interview. These interviews are optional, and offered by invitation at the discretion of the admissions committee. All candidates are welcome to visit the law school for a tour, and may make an appointment for a non-evaluative informational meeting with an admissions officer.

Degree Requirements

A. Credit Requirements

Students who matriculated at Duke Law School on or before fall 2012 (or students who transferred to Duke Law School on or before fall 2013) must complete 84 law credits to earn the JD, 104 law credits (with 20 of those credits earned through international, foreign or comparative law courses) to earn the JD/LLM in International and Comparative Law, and 72 law credits to earn a dual degree with another school (e.g., JD/MA or JD/MBA).  

Students who start the first-year at Duke Law on or after summer 2013 (or transfer into Duke Law on or after summer 2014) must complete 87 law credits to earn the JD, 107 law credits for the JD/LLM in International and Comparative Law or the JD/LLM in Law and Entrepreneurship, and 75 law credits to earn a dual degree with another school.

Regularly-Scheduled Law School Classes

All students, including dual degree students, must complete at least 64.5 credits in regularly-scheduled Law School classes. Regularly-scheduled Law School classes include:

 

  1. Law School courses and seminars, including courses cross-listed at the Law School but originating in another school or department at the University;
  2. Law School clinics;
  3. in-class credits completed at another law school, including transfer credits and credits completed by students visiting away at another law school;
  4. credits from approved study in a foreign exchange program.

Regularly-scheduled Law School classes do not include:

  1. independent study work;
  2. non-law classes (even those taken by dual-degree students);
  3. research tutorials;
  4. externships; and
  5. ad hoc seminars.

If a JD student completes the minimum law credits to graduate - either 84 or 87, depending upon the student's matriculation date - the student may earn 19.5 or 22.5 of those credits, depending on his matriculation date, through non-regularly scheduled law class hours (e.g., independent study, ad hoc seminars). A dual degree student who earns 72 or 75 law credits toward his dual degree, depending upon the student's matriculation date, is limited to 7.5 or 10.5 credits, depending on her matriculation date, of non-regularly scheduled law classes.

While all students must monitor compliance with this requirement, JD candidates who intend to spend a semester in a faculty-mentored externship (like Duke in DC) and students earning a dual degree through another school at the University must pay particular attention to this requirement. For example, a JD/MA student in the Class of 2014 who completes 72 law credits for her degree could write a 3-credit independent study, take a 2-credit ad hoc seminar and participate in a 2-credit domestic externship but could not take any additional non-regularly scheduled law classes for purposes of her law requirements.

 

B. Upper-Level Academic Requirements

All law students must satisfy the following three requirements after their first-year of study: (i) an upper-level writing requirement, (ii) a 2-credit legal ethics requirement; and, (iii) a professional skills requirement. These three requirements, as well as the credit requirement described above, are mandated by the American Bar Association. Double-counting of courses for these requirements is not permitted.

1. Upper-level Writing Requirement

The ABA requires all graduating students to complete at least one substantial written product after 1L. Law School Rule 3-31 specifies how a student can fulfill this requirement at Duke. In short, students must write an original analytic paper (typically 30 pages in length) that involves significant independent research under the supervision of a faculty member. A student may use a paper written for a class or seminar, as an independent study project, law journal note, or any other paper that possesses the necessary rigor to fulfill this requirement.

In order to satisfy the upper-level writing requirement, a student must ask the faculty member for whom he or she intends to write the paper if the faculty member is willing to supervise the paper for purposes of the upper-level writing requirement. If the faculty member agrees, the student should complete the upper-level writing registration form and submit the form (signed by the supervising faculty member) to the Office of the Registrar before the drop/add period ends. Students must be engaged in or have already completed their writing project by the fifth semester of law school. Consequently, the upper-level writing registration form for a chosen project must be submitted no later than the end of the drop-add period of the student's fifth semester.

An important part of the upper-level writing requirement is the draft/feedback/revision process. During the course of working with the faculty supervisor, the student must produce a draft of the paper for review and revise the paper based on the faculty member’s comments. Once the paper is complete, the student should submit the upper-level writing certification form (signed by the supervising faculty member) to the Office of the Registrar to document that he or she has satisfied the requirement.

Courses with writing components that ordinarily do not satisfy the writing requirement include (but are not limited to):

2. Legal Ethics Requirement

Students are required to take a course that the Law School identifies as providing instruction in the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Duke Law offers classes every semester that satisfy the ethics requirement. Those classes include The Law of Lawyering: Ethics of Social Justice Representation (LAW 237), Ethics and The Law of Lawyering (LAW 238), Ethics and the Law of Lawyering in Civil Litigation (LAW 239), Criminal Justice Ethics (LAW 317), and Ethics in Action (LAW 539). Students will receive notice from the Registrar’s office when a new class is offered that satisfies the ethics requirement. Please note that classes like Bioethics, Corporate Ethics, Federal Prosecutor: A View from the Trenches and Readings in Ethics may add to a student’s understanding of legal ethics, but will not satisfy the legal ethics degree requirement, unless otherwise indicated. Also note that students may only take one Readings in Ethics seminar (LAW 611 A/B) for credit toward their degrees.

Prerequisite for Clinics and Externships.
A student must take a legal ethics class that is designated as providing instruction in the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (e.g., Criminal Justice Ethics, Ethics in Action or Ethics and The Law of Lawyering) before enrolling in a clinic or domestic externship. In limited circumstances, the appropriate faculty clinician or Dean for Public Interest and Pro Bono may grant a waiver of the ethics requirement for a clinic or domestic externship, respectively.

3. Professional Skills

The ABA requires all students to receive substantial instruction in “professional skills generally regarded as necessary for effective and responsible participation in the legal profession.” In the past, students have satisfied this requirement by completing a clinic, externship or capstone project with a substantial skills component or by taking at least one of the following courses:

*Although some of the courses listed above offer opportunities to fulfill the ethics, professional skills, and/or upper-level writing requirements, students must satisfy each of the degree requirements separately (e.g., through three separate courses).

2015 Application

The following instructions are for the JD application to the 2015 entering class. The JD application is also used to apply for all dual degree programs, except the JD/MBA. Candidates for the JD/MBA dual degree program should complete the separate joint application (available through LSAC) instead of the JD application.

Review the detailed instructions as you complete the application. (Available below and in the LSAC application.)

Application Checklist

The following items are required. You will be notified by email once your application has been received. The email notification will include instructions on how to check your file status online. Required items should be submitted as soon as possible. Applications missing required material will be reviewed later in the cycle and final decisions will be rendered based on the information that exists in the file at that time.

  • JD application submitted through LSAC.
  • $70 non-refundable application processing fee submitted electronically through LSAC.
  • Resume (use attachment) » More
  • Personal statement and optional essays (use attachments) » More
  • Two recommendation letters submitted through LSAC » More
  • LSAC CAS Report
  • Interview and/or TOEFL (international applicants only, if applicable) » More

Application Fee

The application processing fee is $70. The non-refundable payment must be submitted electronically with the application. 

Automatic fee waivers: If you received a waiver of the fees associated with taking the LSAT, your application fee will be waived automatically when you go to checkout and submit the application.

Need-based fee waivers: Download the Fee Waiver Form, submit the completed form in its original format by email (admissions@law.duke.edu). Fee waivers are granted one-time-only. If you were granted a fee waiver for a previous application, you would not be eligible. We will be unable to consider requests received after February 15. Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible. A decision on your need-based fee waiver request must be received prior to submitting the application electronically, so plan ahead. If you submit the application prior to receiving a decision, the request will be denied. Notification will be provided by email.

We also extend merit-based fee waivers based on the results of periodic searches of the LSAC's Candidate Referral Service. To be considered in the pool that we are searching, be sure your CRS account is active, your intended enrollment year is set correctly, you have either a self-reported or LSAC-calculated GPA, and LSAT score.

Resume, Personal Statement, Optional Essays

Resume: You will be required to submit a current resume as an attachment. Please include your significant work experience, educational history, college and community activities, and honors and awards you have received. Include dates for all items listed on your resume. Please provide complete information; there is no required length and your resume may exceed one page.

Personal Statement: You will be required to submit a personal statement as an attachment. 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 resume, and (2) your personal and career ambitions. There is no required length or page limit.

Optional Essays: You are welcome to supplement your personal statement with either or both of the following optional essays. (If your personal statement addresses either of these subjects, it is not necessary to provide a separate additional essay.) Optional Essay I: 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 II: You may submit an essay that describes how you will enhance the educational environment of the Law School and contribute to the diversity of the student body. Because we believe that diversity enriches the educational experience of all our students, Duke Law School seeks to admit students from a variety of academic, cultural, social, ethnic, economic, and other backgrounds. In this essay, you may tell us more about your particular life experiences with an emphasis on how the perspectives that you have acquired would contribute to the intellectual community of the Law School.

The personal statement, optional essays, and all other writing samples must be your own work. This means that the ideas and expressions originated with you, and you wrote all drafts and the final product. It does not preclude asking family members, friends, pre-law advisors, and others for proofreading assistance or general feedback.

Recommendation Letters and Evaluations

You must submit two required recommendation letters through LSAC. The LSAC Letter of Recommendation service is included in your CAS registration and will accept generic and school specific letters. References from friends, family friends, and relatives are discouraged. Professors who have personal knowledge of your academic performance and potential should write your letters of recommendation. If you have been out of school for some time, you may substitute letters from employers or others who are well acquainted with your personal traits and intellectual potential. A signature is required on all recommendation letters, preferably on letterhead. NOTE: LSAC will not release any information contained in the CAS Report without the two required recommendation letters.

Direct Letters to Duke: Additional letters may be submitted through LSAC or mailed directly to the Office of Admissions. LSAC will accept a maximum of four letters assigned to Duke Law School. There is no maximum number of letters that may be submitted directly to Duke Law School.

LSAC Evaluations: Our experience shows that the level of detail provided in a letter of recommendation is most helpful in assessing the strength of a candidate. Therefore, we request only letters of recommendation, and do not accept the LSAC evaluation forms.

Law School Admission Test

All applicants must take the LSAT no later than December 2014. LSAT scores earned prior to June 2009 will not be considered. Duke considers all LSAT scores that are submitted, in the context of the entire application (transcripts, personal statement, letters of recommendation, evidence of leadership and engagement, and other information). In the case of multiple test scores, data show that the average score is generally the most useful in predicting law school performance. However, Duke may place greater weight on a high score if the applicant provides compelling information about why that score is a better indication of his or her potential. If you feel that one or more of your test scores does not accurately reflect your ability or potential, please use the Miscellaneous Addendum attachment to explain this disparity.

Academic Transcripts

All applicants must register with the LSAC's Credential Assembly Service (CAS). CAS information is available online at www.LSAC.org. Transcripts for all undergraduate and graduate work must be submitted directly to the CAS.

Foreign Transcripts

Duke Law School requires that foreign transcripts be submitted through the CAS if you received your degree from an institution outside the U.S. or Canada, or if you completed the equivalent of more than one year of undergraduate study outside the U.S. (including its territories) or Canada. This service is included in the Credential Assembly Service registration fee. A Foreign Credential Evaluation will be completed by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), which will be incorporated into your Law School Report. Log in to your online account and follow the instructions for registering for the service. Be sure to print out a Transcript Request Form for each institution and send it promptly to them. More time is usually required to receive foreign transcripts. Questions about the JD CAS can be directed to LSAC at 215-968-1001, or lsacinfo@lsac.org.

International Applicants

Interview and TOEFL Requirements

If your first language is not English and English is not the language of instruction at your undergraduate institution, you are required to participate in an admissions interview and/or submit a score from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).  International applications with graduate degrees in the U.S. are also requried to satisfy this requirement.  We strongly recommend that candidates interview in lieu of, or in addition to, submitting the TOEFL.

  • To particiopate in an interview, please schedule your session by contacting InitialView at www.initialview.com. Since many international students come from educational systems that are different from that of the U.S., we find it valuable to be able to view an unscripted interview where applicants may discuss their unique backgrounds and goals. InitialView will conduct the interview and record the conversation so that it can be reviewed by our office. All interviews with InitialView must be completed no later than March 1, 2015.
  • To submit a TOEFL score, please contact the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and request that your score be sent to LSAC. The TOEFL institution code for LSAC is 8395. Your score will be included in the International Credential Evaluation document that will be part of your LSAC CAS report.

International Students and Visa Applications

Admitted applicants who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents will reeceive information about applying for a Duke-sponsored F-1 visa after submitting the required enrollment material. Candidates will be required to submit copies of their passports, previous visa documents, and proof of financial support. Duke University policy states that graduate and professional students who are not in lawful immigration status will not be enrolled.

Previous Law School Matriculation

If you attended another law school, you must include an addendum to explain the circumstances of why you did not complete the program as well as a letter from your law school indicating your dates of attendance, reason for withdrawal, and academic standing.

Supplemental Material

If you wish to send additional material after submitting the application, you may forward it to the Office of Admissions by email or postal mail. Include your full name and LSAC account number for identification purposes.  If you have lengthy material, it may be more beneficial to submit a 1-2 page summar by email or submit the material by postal mail.

Reapplications

To reapply, you must submit a new application and updated supporting material. Note on the application where indicated the year for which you last sought admission. You will also be required to reassign the recommendation letters through LSAC.

Bar Admission

We recommend that you investigate the rules governing bar admission in the jurisdictions where you intend to practice. Information about bar admission requirements may be obtained by contacting the appropriate state board of bar examiners.

Application Instructions

Please read the following instructions carefully before completing your application.

1: Biographical

Complete this section in full.

2: Demographics

Complete this section in full.

3: Contact Information

Complete this section in full. Submit updates to your contact information directly to the Office of Admissions by email.

4: Decision Cycle

Select the decision cycle in which you would like to have your application reviewed.

Regular Decision: The deadline to apply through the regular decision cycle is February 15.

Early Decision: The Early Decision program is most appropriate for candidates who have concluded that Duke is their first-choice for law school and who do not anticipate the need to compare offers of financial aid in making a decision about where to matriculate. Candidates who apply through the Early Decision program may apply to other law schools, but may not have more than one binding Early Decision application pending simultaneously. If an Early Decision application has already been submitted to another law school, candidates may apply through Duke's Early Decision program only if and when they are released from their binding commitment at the other school. If admitted to Duke Law School, Early Decision candidates will be required to immediately withdraw their applications at other law schools, refrain from submitting new applications, and submit a $500 tuition deposit no later than ten days after the admission notification.

Round I Early Decision candidates must submit the application no later than November 14, 2014 and be complete no later than December 5, 2014. Duke Law School will notify Round I Early Decision candidates about their status no later than December 31, 2014. Round II Early Decision candidates must submit the application no later than January 9, 2015 and be complete no later than January 16, 2015. Duke Law School will notify Round II Early Decision candidates about their status no later than January 31, 2015.

Some Early Decision candidates may be held for review in the regular cycle; candidates who are held for consideration in the regular cycle will no longer be bound by the terms of the Early Decision agreement. Duke Law School reserves the right to provide other law schools with the names of candidates admitted through the binding Early Decision program.

Early Decision candidates will also be required to check the Early Decision Certification checkbox on the application.

5: Degree Program

Review the degree options listed below.  You may apply to only one program. Admission to one program is not transferable to another. Visit our website for additional information on degree programs offered. Candidates for the JD/MBA dual degree program should complete the separate joint application (available through LSAC) instead of the JD application . Learn more about dual degrees.

Students may pursue a variety of MA and MS dual degree programs during their first or second year at Duke Law School.  Admission decisions are made by the Graduate School.
 

Degree Additional Requirements
JD No additional requirements.
JD/LLM in International and Comparative Law No additional requirements; however, we encourage applicants to address their interest in international and comparative law either in their personal statement or use the JD/LLM or JD/LLMLE attachment.
JD/LLM in Law and Entrepreneurship (JD/LLMLE) No additional requirements; however, we encourage applicants to address their interest in law and entrepreneurship either in their personal statement or use the JD/LLM or JD/LLMLE attachment.
JD/MBA Do not use the JD application; submit the separate JD/MBA joint application.
JD/MD Separate application to Duke School of Medicine
JD/MEM Separate application to Duke Nicholas School of the Environment
JD/MPP Separate application to Duke Sanford School of Public Policy
JD/MTS Separate application to Duke Divinity School

6: Prior Application

Complete this section in full. If you applied previously, please indicate the year(s) for which you applied for admission.

7: LSAT and TOEFL

LSAT: Provide the dates you took or will take the LSAT. All applicants must take the LSAT no later than December 2013. LSAT scores earned prior to June 2008 will not be considered. Duke considers all LSAT scores that are submitted, in the context of the entire application (transcripts, personal statement, letters of recommendation, evidence of leadership and engagement, and other information). In the case of multiple test scores, data show that the average score is generally the most useful in predicting law school performance; however, we may place greater weight on a high score if the applicant provides compelling information about why that score is a better indication of his or her potential. If you feel that one or more of your test scores does not accurately reflect your ability or potential, explain this disparity in a separate attachment. Contact LSAC to request information about the LSAT at 215.968.1001 or LSAC.org. Duke does not waive the LSAT requirement.

If you decide to retake the LSAT after you have submitted the application, please notify the Office of Admissions by email. We will place a hold on your file so that it will not be evaluated until the new score is available.

TOEFL: If your first language is not English and English is not the language of instruction at your undergraduate institution, you are required to participate in an admissions interview conducted by InitialView and/or submit a score from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).  International applications with graduate degrees in the U.S. are also requried to satisfy this requirement.  We strongly recommend that candidates interview in lieu of, or in addition to, submitting the TOEFL.  (See General Information for details.)

If applicable, indicate the dates you took or will take the TOEFL. Contact the Educational Testing Service (ETS) and request that your TOEFL score be sent to LSAC. The TOEFL institution code for LSAC is 8395. Your score will be included in the International Credential Evaluation document that will be part of your LSAC CAS report.

8: Education

You are required to provide information on your high school and all post secondary schools attended. Under Education History, list your high school, undergraduate degree granting institution, and the most recent graduate or professional school. Use the Additional Schools Attended addendum to list all other undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools attended.

9: Employment

Complete this section in full.

10: Military Service

Complete this section in full.

11: Family

Complete this section in full.

12: Character and Fitness

Duke Law requires that you reveal knowledge of all disciplinary charges, and any arrests, criminal charges, or criminal convictions (except arrests, criminal charges or criminal convictions that have been expunged from your record). When in doubt, you should err on the side of full disclosure as subsequent discovery of a failure to fully and accurately answer these questions may have serious consequences. You have an ongoing obligation to report any conduct that would require you to answer "yes" to any of the questions in this section during the pendency of your application. If you are admitted, the obligation to report conduct applicable to the questions in this section continues until your first day of class at Duke Law School.

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you will be required to provide an explanation. Include details, the current status of any disciplinary action or judicial sanctions, and the final resolution of the issues involved. In addition, if you answer yes to Question 3 (disciplinary action) in this section, you will be required to have your dean, registrar, department supervisor, judicial officer, or academic officer with access to official records from your institution must submit a letter directly to the Office of Admissions providing complete information about the incident.

13: Certification

Applications will not be processed without an electronic signature agreeing to the Conditions and certifying that the information is true and complete. You are obligated to notify the Office of Admissions immediately of any change in the information provided.

If you are applying for the binding Early Decision cycle, you must also check the Early Decision Certification checkbox.

2014-2015 Early Decision Deadlines
  Round I Round II
Application Submission Deadline November 14, 2014 January 9, 2015
Application Completion Deadline December 5, 2014 January 16, 2015
Notification Date December 31, 2014 January 31, 2015

Duke Law School offers a binding Early Decision option for applicants to the JD program, as well as the JD/LLM in International and Comparative Law and the JD/LLMLE in Law and Entrepreneurship.

The program is most appropriate for candidates who have concluded that Duke is their first-choice for law school and do not anticipate the need to compare offers of financial aid in making a decision about where to matriculate. Applicants who are admitted through our early decision program are reviewed for scholarship assistance on the same timeline as all other admitted students. Candidates who apply through the Early Decision program may apply to other law schools, but may not have more than one binding Early Decision application pending simultaneously. If an Early Decision application has already been submitted to another law school, candidates may apply through Duke's Early Decision program only if and when they are released from their binding commitment at the other school. If admitted to Duke Law School, Early Decision candidates will be required to immediately withdraw their applications at other law schools, refrain from submitting new applications, and submit a $500 tuition deposit no later than ten days after the admission notification.

Round I and Round II deadlines are noted in the chart above. Some Early Decision candidates may be held for review in the regular cycle; candidates who are held for consideration in the regular cycle will no longer be bound by the terms of the Early Decision agreement. Duke Law School reserves the right to provide other law schools with the names of candidates admitted through the binding Early Decision program.

Early Decision candidates must also check the Early Decision Certification checkbox on the JD application.

 

Important Dates

students outside law school

September 1
Applications for the following year's entering class may be submitted via LSAC

November 14, 2014 (Round I)
January 9, 2015 (Round II)

Early Decision application deadlines

February 15
Regular Decision application priority deadline

August
- Orientation for fall-entering students
- Classes begin

 

Dineo Mpela-Thompson"If we can’t translate all of the complex legal principles we learn in the classroom into plain language for the people we are trying to help, it’s hard to have any relationship with them and that, in large part, is what the practice of law is about."

Dineo Mpela-Thompson '09, on her externship experience in South Africa

Read more