Planning Your Career

In law school, the process of applying for jobs begins very early. Taking the time early on, and throughout your law school experience, to learn about the many available opportunities will make your career planning easier. Our mission, and that of the entire Law School, is to work with each of you to help you acquire the tools and skills to take ownership of your own professional development so that you will be able to find the right job for you, both during and after law school. To help you do this, we try to help you understand both your own goals as well as where in the professional world they can be fulfilled. We encourage you to view your professional development as an integral part of your Duke Law School experience.

Determine Your Path

The first step in your planning is self-assessment. Why is self-assessment important? Unless you take ownership of your own career, you run the risk of drifting into someone else's future. If you are not an active participant in the process of assessing what you want out of your Duke Law School education and subsequent career, then the path you follow may be based on the needs and criteria of others. Self-assessment will help you identify what skills, knowledge, passions, or drives you possess that you can channel into your law career. Self-assessment consists of determining three basic things:

- Who am I? (What are my interests, skills, & values?)
- What are my priorities? (What do I want out of my educational experience? What do I want out of my career? What do I want out of my life?)
- What am I willing to sacrifice to achieve these goals?

You should ask yourself other questions as well, both now and as you learn about the many opportunities that are available to you:

- Why did I come to law school?
- What potential practice areas do I want to pursue?
- What geographical locations am I interested in?
- What type of employer do I want to work for?

There are a variety of professional opportunities available to students during the two summers of law school. Law firms, public interest organizations, government agencies, judges, and professors in need of research assistants all hire law students.

Investigate Your Options - “What Can I Do With a Law Degree?”

There are literally thousands of career possibilities for Duke Law School students and graduates. The first challenge you face in preparing for your job search is to understand yourself and to identify your interests and goals. Here are a few examples of some of the types of employers available to you:

  • Department of Justice
  • U.S. Attorney’s Office
  • State Attorney General
  • Capitol Hill
  • County Attorney’s Office
  • District Attorney’s Office
  • Public Defender’s Office
  • City Attorney’s Office
  • Non-Profit Advocacy
  • Legal Services
  • National think tanks and advocacy groups
  • Regional and state advocacy groups
  • Large law firms
  • Small law firms
  • Solo-practice law firms
  • Public interest law firms
  • Federal judges
  • Juvenile court judges
  • Judicial law clerks
  • Drug court professionals
  • Professional mediators/negotiators
  • Trial consultants
  • Boutique law firms
  • Plaintiff’s law firms
  • Defense law firms
  • Trade Associations
  • Labor Unions
  • School Board attorneys
  • Foundations
  • In-house counsel at businesses
  • Officers and Directors of businesses
  • Political Campaigns
  • Aids to elected officials
  • Legislative research commissions
  • Professors at law schools
  • Professors at public policy schools
  • Undergraduate professors
  • State judges
  • Victim assistants
  • Foreign Service
  • FBI and CIA
  • Lawyer’s Committee on Civil Rights
  • And many others...

Do not forget to take advantage of resources connected to Duke Law School: talk with a career counselor; reach out to upper class students; talk with faculty; call alumni; and attend Law School programs. You can also talk to lawyers outside of the Duke Law School circle.

For more information on conducting a job search, writing a cover letter, interviewing, etc., visit our Professional Development resources.