Frequently Asked Questions

Preparing for Law School

Applying to Duke Law School

LSAT

Preparing for Law School

Where should I start?

One good starting point is the ABA's Statement on Pre-Law Education. The Law School Admission Council has plenty of advice. Your college or university likely has a pre-law advisor who should be a good source of information. (Don't worry if you've already graduated - they usually work with alumni as well, and if you don't know who the advisor for your school is, you can find out through your LSAC.org account.)

What should I major in?

There is no one major that is appropriate or favored as preparation for law school. It's not surprising that many people who are interested in attending law school are also attracted to majors such as political science, history, and economics, and we do see (and admit) many people who have studied these fields. However, the intellectual atmosphere at the Law School is enhanced by the presence of students from a wide range of majors from humanities to the sciences. We look favorably on applicants who have taken a wide-ranging, challenging curriculum and developed skills in writing, close textual analysis, and critical thinking. Rather than select a major because it is "good preparation for law school," you should make your choice because the discipline seems interesting and engaging to you. You will be most engaged in these classes, and do your best work there - which will probably turn out to be the best preparation for law school.

What other activities should I pursue?

As with the choice of major, there is no specific activity, involvement, or employment that we specifically favor. We hope to enroll a class made up of people with a wide range of experiences. As a small, close-knit law school community, we look for students who will be fully engaged in the life of the law school, take on leadership roles in student organizations and journals, and live out the principles of the Duke Law Blueprint. For some, this may mean active involvement in an array of activities; for others, a more intense concentration on a few of particular importance to them. They may be law-related, but certainly need not be. It's not surprising that many prospective law students would participate in mock trial and pre-law organizations, work or intern for a law firm or judge, and so on. Indeed, for many this is a very helpful step in determining whether a career in law is a good choice for them. However, many successful applicants have built impressive records in other fields and have no in-depth exposure to legal practice prior to law school.

Should I take time off after college?

This is largely a personal decision. Thirty to forty percent of a typical incoming class at Duke Law is made up of people who have just graduated from college, so it should be clear that we do not require or expect post-college work experience. That said, it's worth considering the possibility of taking time to do something else before starting law school, particularly if you have a reasonably attractive option. Many people return to school with a better perspective on their goals and a higher degree of maturity and focus. In addition, knowledge of a specific industry (and the working world in general) is a welcome element in our student body. As with other activities, though, post-college work need not be law-related to be of interest to the admissions committee. However, if you are a college senior who is excited about the idea of law school and legal practice, there is absolutely no reason to feel that you "should" take time off before applying to law school.

Where should I go to college?/Should I transfer to another college?/Will my college affect my chances of admission?

We are looking for good students and interesting people regardless of the institutions they have attended. A typical Duke Law class has around 200 students from more than 100 colleges and universities of all sorts. We are most concerned with your individual performance. You should choose a college (or decide whether to transfer) based on what seems like the best fit for your needs rather than on the role it might play in your law school application.

We do pay attention to general characteristics of the colleges that our applicants have attended. LSAC provides helpful information about the average GPA and LSAT score of law school applicants from each college that helps us assess the overall strength of the student body, and account for grade inflation (or lack thereof).

Applying to Duke Law School

When should I submit my application?

We begin accepting applications in September for the following year's entering class.  The deadline for submitting applications is February 15.  Review the Early Decision deadline dates. Because we use a modified rolling admissions process, we recommend that you apply relatively early in the cycle. Although early applicants may have some advantage due to the timing of their application, very late applicants face a significant disadvantage due to the number of offers of admission that have already been made as our deadline approaches.

May I submit an application after the February 15 deadline?

You may, bearing in mind that most offers of admission have been made at that point, and that you may not receive a decision by the end of April.

How should I submit my application?

Applications must be submitted via the Law School Admission Council's e-app service. If you are unable to do so, please contact the admissions office (admissions@law.duke.edu) to discuss alternate arrangements.

Do you offer an Early Decision option?

We do! » More information

Do you waive the application fee?

We provide a need-based fee waiver for applicants who have a waiver for the LSAT, and consider need-based request from other applicants. We also extend merit-based fee waivers based on the results of periodic searches of the LSAC's Candidate Referral Service. To be included in the pool that we are searching, please be sure that your CRS account is active, your intended enrollment year is set correctly, and that you have either a self-reported or LSAC-calculated GPA. » More information

Do you require a Dean's Certification form?

If you answer "yes" to the school-related conduct question, you are required to have a dean, registrar, department supervisor, judicial officer, or academic officer with access to official records from your institution submit a letter that provides complete information about the incident. They may write a letter or use an institutional form; Duke does not provide a specific form for this purpose. Other applicants are not required to submit a Dean's Certification. For more information, see Section 9 (Conduct) in the application instructions.

Do you conduct interviews as part of the application?

In specific instances 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. Candidates who do not receive an interview invitation 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.

Do you offer a part-time or evening program?

No, our JD program is a full-time day program.

Do you offer a paralegal program?

Duke's Certificate in Paralegal Studies is offered through Duke Continuing Studies, not through the Law School. » More information

What should I write my Personal Statement about?

The personal statement is an open-ended opportunity for you to tell us more about your experiences and interests, so you should choose a topic that will help us understand where you are coming from and what role you might play in the Duke Law community. Some people choose to highlight one or two significant items from their resume, while others address other experiences. (Note that the optional essays provide additional opportunities for you to focus on different aspects of your record.)

Beyond the subject matter of your personal statement, we find that the most effective essays are set apart by the quality of their writing and thought. Their self-reflection and insight take them beyond simple narrative and help us see how the authors process and learn from their experiences. Admittedly, this is easier said than done, but it's what stands out among the best personal statements.

There is no minimum or maximum length for the personal statement, although most are between one-and-a-half and three pages. Be succinct, but be sure to include what you think we need to know. As long as it's interesting, we don't mind reading!

May I submit more than one of the optional essays?

Yes, you may. The optional essays are truly optional, and we admit plenty of applicants who do not write them. However, we are trying to get the fullest sense of each applicant and what he or she might contribute to our community, and the optional essays are a good way to get a sense of that. Since these have more specific topics than the personal statement, you should consider whether you have something of substance to say for one or both of them. If so, we would like to hear it; if not, submitting an optional essay may not help your application. One of the things we are looking for is good judgment!

How should I provide additional information to the admissions office?

When you submit your application through the LSAC e-app service, you may upload supplemental materials along with your personal statement and resume. If there is anything you want us to consider that will not be obvious from the rest of your application (an explanation of time off from school, your grade trends, etc.) you may submit an addendum with this information. After you have submitted your application, you may provide updates and additional material by e-mail (admissions@law.duke.edu) and we will add them to your file.

What should I include on my resume? How long should it be?

Your resume provides us with a straightforward way to learn what your interests and activities have been beyond the classroom. If you have worked during or after college, of course you will include this information. But we are also interested in college and community activities that may give us a better sense of how you would be involved in the Duke Law community. Please include information about these, in as much detail as you feel is necessary. You do not need to limit yourself to a single page, but please use good judgment.

When will I receive a decision on my application?

If you apply by our February 15 deadline, you should receive a decision by the end of April. Beyond that, it's hard to give a specific estimate. We use a rolling admissions process, reviewing applications as they are received and sending decisions when we have made them (rather than waiting until one notification date as many colleges do). We encourage early applications, and some of these applicants may receive early decisions. However, it takes us some time to get a full sense of the applicant pool each year, and some early applications may be reviewed once and held for further consideration later in the cycle.

LSAT

Is the LSAT required for all applicants to the JD program?

Yes.

When should I take the LSAT?

The LSAT is given four times a year: February, June, September/October, and December. The most important thing is that you take it when you are fully prepared. That said, the earlier you can take it, the better.

For many people, the best time is the June test in the year before they plan to apply to law school. (June 2009 if you are applying in Fall 2009 for 2010 enrollment.) If you are ready at this point, you will have your score in plenty of time to factor that into your decisions about the law schools to which you will apply. If you are not satisfied with your score, or are unable to take the test due to illness, you have two more opportunities.

Some people prefer to take the summer to study for the LSAT, and prefer the September/October test date. This also works well, since you will know your score in plenty of time to submit your applications in the fall, and you have one opportunity to retake the test if necessary.

The December test is acceptable, but should be your last choice. Your application would not be complete until the score is available in late December - this isn't exactly a late application, but it's not early. In addition, if you are sick or miss the test for other reasons, you would have to take the LSAT in February, which does put you at a significant disadvantage. All that said, though, if you are not prepared to take the test before December, it's probably best to wait. You are better off doing your best in December than taking the test before you are ready just to get your application in earlier.

As you can tell, the February test is a poor fit for our admission cycle. (Unless, of course, you are taking it in the year before you apply to law school!) The scores are not available until after our application deadline. Although we can consider such late applications, they are at a significant disadvantage.

How do you consider multiple LSAT scores? Do you average the scores? Do you only consider the highest score?

We consider all the information in the application to get an overall sense of an applicant's academic ability. This includes undergraduate and graduate coursework as well as all LSAT scores. 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 you provide compelling information about why that score is a better indication of your potential. If you feel that one or more of your test scores does not accurately reflect your ability or potential, please explain this disparity in a separate attachment.

May I submit my application before I take the LSAT/if I am planning to take the LSAT again?

Yes. Indicate the date(s) on which you take the LSAT in the application (Section 6). Your application will not be complete until we have at least one LSAT score (as well as all the other required materials). If you have already taken the LSAT and would like to include a future test score in the evaluation process, please notify our office in writing (email is acceptable) once you submit your application. We will place a hold on your file and a final decision will not be made until we receive the new test score. If you do not place a hold on your file, and the new score becomes available before a decision is made, it will be added to your file and considered.