The Dean's Message

Dear Friends:

In this campaign season, Duke University has announced its own campaign —  Duke Forward: Partnering for the Future — with a goal of raising $85 million for the Law School.  This is an ambitious and exciting undertaking for the entire University.

Campaigns are an opportunity for reflection and introspection.  We gather our energy and focus ourselves on moving confidently forward in those areas in which our needs and opportunities are greatest.  We build consensus around certain themes and goals, and then we call upon our community to help us realize these aspirations. 

For the Law School, this campaign comes at an important point in our young history.  We have made remarkable progress since our birth in the 1930s as a graduate law program, and are now rightly recognized as one of the top law schools in the world.  However, because Duke Law is so good, our mission has become all the more challenging. 

First, we seek to support, develop, and attract faculty who are among the leaders in their fields and whose scholarship advances and transforms our thinking about the law.  Second, in our students, we seek to bring along the next generations of superb lawyers who will be leaders — in our profession, in government and in business — and possess the attributes of character and intellect that make us proud to have been a part of their growth as young lawyers. 

Maintaining and extending excellence is never an easy task. This is why Duke Forward is so important to Duke Law.  I will share three facts with you that will help give context. 

  • First, our endowment per student is among the lowest of the top law schools.  The University of Virginia’s endowment, for example, is one and half times bigger, while those of Harvard, Stanford, and Yale are four or five times as much.  This means that unless we significantly increase our Law School’s endowment  we will remain tuition dependent and thus more limited in what we can do for students and faculty, particularly in a time when we are trying to hold down the cost of attending law school. 
  • Second, we have doubled our scholarship assistance for J.D.’s during the past five years from $5.3 million to more than $10 million. That’s the good news, and it is very good news.  But, even for scholarship assistance, the lion’s share comes ultimately from tuition revenue rather than gifts and endowment.
  • Finally, our alumni giving participation rate is far lower than our peers.  We are at 24% and falling.  We can do a lot better, we must do a lot better, and this campaign is a great opportunity for us to do so. 

Our goal is to raise $85 million in the next five years.  With these additional funds we will be able to expand our young faculty and bring more top scholars to Duke; support our students with much needed financial assistance; enrich the curriculum with interdisciplinary and professional skills courses; and create exciting new centers and programs that serve our community, reach out to the legal profession, and advance our understanding of the law, such as our new Center for Judicial Studies. We are well on the way there —about 40% of goal as of early September — thanks to the generosity of some of our lead donors.  However, we still have a long way to go. 

Because many hands make light work, and because we actually need many hands to achieve our goal, I am calling upon all of our alumni to join in this campaign.  Duke Law alumni love their Law School.  Almost without exception, you have told me how much you appreciate the dedication of our faculty and staff to the development and success of each and every law student.  You have told me how well prepared you felt when you entered law practice.  You have spoken to me of beloved teachers and deans like Jack Latty and Hodge O’Neal, Robbie Everett and Mel Shimm, Kate Bartlett and Pam Gann, as well as many, many others including our current faculty, who are such dedicated and wonderful teachers and mentors.

You have told me that Duke Law played, and continues to play, an important role in your life and in your work. Now is your time to give back, to join with us in making Duke Law School as good and as forward looking as it can be.  Thank you for all that you have done and will do for Duke Law School.