Duke Law welcomes summer starters

July 2, 2010Duke Law News

The Class of 2013 “summer starter” students have settled into two courses at Duke Law, after launching their law school careers with a weeklong series of welcoming events in May.

During the first orientation session, Dean David F. Levi told students to “mark this day as the day you are no longer a pupil. From this day on you are a lawyer.”

The summer starters group is made up of new law students who are pursuing either JD/LLM in international and comparative law degrees or dual degrees, including a JD and a degree from another Duke School or program. They spent their first week gathering in classrooms that will become familiar over the next three years.

Levi joked about the value of having a “healthy” social life, while emphasizing the importance of staying focused in order to become a successful law student in and outside the classroom. He focused on four key points: the benefits, socially and professionally, of forming lasting relationships in law school; academic immersion; patience; and the importance of discovering a professional purpose.

Levi’s words of encouragement were followed by a leadership seminar headed by Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Jason Belk. As in previous years, students did a series of exercises to assess their leadership styles. Depending on their style, whether conserver, pragmatist, or originator, students broke into groups to define their ideal law student.

Luncheons and a reception with faculty, a Durham Bulls’ game and cookout, and various seminars were just some of the events the Office of Students Affairs arranged to help the summer starters become acclimated to the school.

This week of events familiarizes students with the Law School and also helps build lasting friendships, Belk said, because the relatively small size of the group encourages camaraderie. Summer starter Abraham Smith ’13 agreed. “As a group I feel like we’re a lot closer just having the 47 of us as opposed to the 200 or so coming this fall,” said Smith, who holds a BA in music in clarinet performance and a BA in music composition from Indiana University Bloomington.

This year students had an opportunity to witness the work of their peers in the Wrongful Conviction Clinic during a presentation by clinical co-directors James Coleman and Theresa Newman. After three years working on the case, clinic students were able to convince Meckenlenburg County District Attorney Peter Gilchrist ’65 to vacate the conviction of a Charlotte man serving a 14-year prison sentence. Shawn Massey, 37, was freed after serving 12 years for multiple felony convictions for crimes he did not commit (» Read full story).

The clinic’s work and other components of orientation helped to showcase Duke Law’s Blueprint principles, which encourage students to engage intellectually, emphasize professionalism and integrity, and work collaboratively. “Of the schools I looked at, Duke was the only one that had an established and articulate system of values. The Blueprint was really impressive to me,” said Ethan Blevins ’13, a Seattle native and graduate of Brigham Young University-Idaho.

Summer starters are taking two of the courses that are required for first-year law students, Civil Procedure and Contracts. By taking these courses during the summer, students free up time during their first year to take courses related to their dual degree programs. — Eboné Pruitt

» Learn more about dual degree students