From the Dean

March 8, 2013Duke Law News

Dean David F. Levi

GREETINGS FROM DUKE LAW SCHOOL. There is much to report as we begin 2013.

We live in challenging times, certainly for the legal profession, law students, and the legal academy. But times of change provide opportunities for growth, renewal, and leadership. For Duke Law, these challenges provide the opportunity and the incentive to become an even better place for teaching, research, and learning.

If you have been following law school admissions, you know that overall applications to U.S. law schools are down sharply. As of the beginning of January 2013, the national applicant pool to ABA accredited law schools was down 22 percent over last year. The majority of schools have experienced application declines well over 10 percent. Only a handful of schools can expect to end up even or better than last year, and Duke is one of them. Let us hope that this augurs well for our recruitment. We know that the competition will be more intense than ever.

The employment picture for graduates is still difficult but stable and improving by most measures. The top group of law schools — and it is a small group — have much better employment outcomes than others. Duke Law is fortunate to be in that top group. Using traditional law jobs as our measure — for example, judicial clerkships, private practice, and legal positions in government and nonprofits that are classified as “bar required, long-term, full time” by the ABA — 82 percent of Duke Law 2011 graduates had such employment by February of 2012. For the Class of 2012, the figure will rise a few percentage points to the mid-80s by February 2013. Other students have found short-term or part-time positions. Still others have chosen long-term positions in business or consulting that do not require the bar. Taking everything together, roughly 95 percent of the Classes of 2011 and 2012 were employed by February of the following year, even when we include those who are not looking for work because they are studying for the bar exam or for other reasons.

The high cost of law school and of higher education more generally continues to be an important topic of concern. Our education is expensive. Our classes are small, our faculty includes many of the leading scholars in the world, and we cover the broad spectrum of skills and topics needed in a dynamic legal environment. We offer the powerful core curriculum that makes law school a transformative experience. We offer courses on the multitude of topics in which our students seek the kind of expertise that may launch or define their careers. We offer an array of professional skills courses and one of the strongest legal writing programs in the country. We offer externship opportunities, eight clinics, a JD/LLM in International and Comparative Law and a new JD/LLMLE in Law and Entrepreneurship. We have a rich international program that brings more than 90 lawyers from around the world to sit alongside our JD students in a shared study and exploration of the law. We have a lot going on because our students and faculty have a huge range of interests. None of this is or should be done on the cheap.

Our tuition does not cover the cost of a Duke Law education and the supporting services that students receive. Even the full tuition covers only about two-thirds of the cost of an education at Duke Law. The difference is made up by our community of alumni and friends who have given to the school over the years and who have stepped up now to help our students and young graduates. Because of this support, scholarship funding has doubled from $5 million to over $10 million in the last five years, and, as a result, the net average tuition at Duke Law, taking account of scholarship grants, has stayed fairly stable during that period at about $33,000 per year. This is also why Duke Law is able to provide scholarships and grants to a larger percentage of its students than any other top law school in the country. Elizabeth and Stanley Star ’61 recently pledged $5 million for financial aid initiatives, including a $2 million matching fund for new scholarships. This pledge, plus some additional matching funds from the Provost for this purpose, already has generated 11 new scholarships for the Law School just in the past eight months. Our governing faculty has demonstrated its full support of our students by creating a faculty scholarship from personal donations. My wife Nancy and I have established another scholarship. All of us have seen and been inspired by the power of philanthropy to keep our doors open for all the many deserving students who wish to come to our school.

We know that we must continually earn the confidence of students, employers, and donors, and that this requires us to excel in everything that we do and to be at once nimble and innovative without losing our focus on those things that we do best, such as teaching students to write well, calling upon them to think through the most difficult legal problems, and inviting them into the exciting intellectual world of the most thoughtful and insightful legal scholars. You will see throughout this magazine examples of the depth, intensity, and excitement of life at Duke Law. Our students are engaged with real-world ideas and problem solving, here and throughout the world. Our faculty are producing important scholarship and contributing to research and law reform projects. Our centers and programs bring the profession, the academy, and the bench together to increase our knowledge of the law and legal systems and to study how they can be improved.

This is a time of change and challenge that we can embrace with optimism. With the help of our many friends, our graduates, our Board of Visitors under the inspirational guidance of Board Chair David W. Ichel ’78, and with the leadership of our stellar staff and faculty, we look to a bright future. I hope you feel the same way in your own endeavors, and I look forward to seeing you here at Duke Law in 2013. Thank you for your support.

Sincerely,

David F. Levi
Dean and Professor of Law

Back to Duke Law Magazine