JD Degree Requirements

A. Credit Requirements

Students who matriculated at Duke Law School on or before fall 2012 (or students who transferred to Duke Law School on or before fall 2013) must complete 84 law credits to earn the JD, 104 law credits (with 20 of those credits earned through international, foreign or comparative law courses) to earn the JD/LLM in International and Comparative Law, and 72 law credits to earn a dual degree with another school (e.g., JD/MA or JD/MBA).  

Students who start the first-year at Duke Law on or after summer 2013 (or transfer into Duke Law on or after summer 2014) must complete 87 law credits to earn the JD, 107 law credits for the JD/LLM in International and Comparative Law or the JD/LLM in Law and Entrepreneurship, and 75 law credits to earn a dual degree with another school.

Regularly-Scheduled Law School Classes

All students, including dual degree students, must complete at least 64.5 credits in regularly-scheduled Law School classes. Regularly-scheduled Law School classes include:

  1. Law School courses and seminars, including courses cross-listed at the Law School but originating in another school or department at the University;
  2. Law School clinics;
  3. in-class credits completed at another law school, including transfer credits and credits completed by students visiting away at another law school;
  4. credits from approved study in a foreign exchange program.

Regularly-scheduled Law School classes do not include:

  1. independent study work;
  2. non-law classes (even those taken by dual-degree students);
  3. research tutorials;
  4. externships; and
  5. ad hoc seminars.

If a JD student completes the minimum law credits to graduate - either 84 or 87, depending upon the student's matriculation date - the student may earn 19.5 or 22.5 of those credits, depending on his matriculation date, through non-regularly scheduled law class hours (e.g., independent study, ad hoc seminars). A dual degree student who earns 72 or 75 law credits toward his dual degree, depending upon the student's matriculation date, is limited to 7.5 or 10.5 credits, depending on her matriculation date, of non-regularly scheduled law classes.

While all students must monitor compliance with this requirement, JD candidates who intend to spend a semester in a faculty-mentored externship (like Duke in DC) and students earning a dual degree through another school at the University must pay particular attention to this requirement. For example, a JD/MA student in the Class of 2014 who completes 72 law credits for her degree could write a 3-credit independent study, take a 2-credit ad hoc seminar and participate in a 2-credit domestic externship but could not take any additional non-regularly scheduled law classes for purposes of her law requirements.

B. Upper-Level Academic Requirements

All law students must satisfy the following three requirements after their first-year of study: (i) an upper-level writing requirement, (ii) a 2-credit legal ethics requirement; and, (iii) a professional skills requirement. These three requirements, as well as the credit requirement described above, are mandated by the American Bar Association. Double-counting of courses for these requirements is not permitted.

1. Upper-level Writing Requirement

The ABA requires all graduating students to complete at least one substantial written product after 1L. Law School Rule 3-31 specifies how a student can fulfill this requirement at Duke. In short, students must write an original analytic paper (typically 30 pages in length) that involves significant independent research under the supervision of a faculty member. A student may use a paper written for a class or seminar, as an independent study project, law journal note, or any other paper that possesses the necessary rigor to fulfill this requirement.

In order to satisfy the upper-level writing requirement, a student must ask the faculty member for whom he or she intends to write the paper if the faculty member is willing to supervise the paper for purposes of the upper-level writing requirement. If the faculty member agrees, the student should complete the upper-level writing registration form and submit the form (signed by the supervising faculty member) to the Office of the Registrar before the drop/add period ends. Students must be engaged in or have already completed their writing project by the fifth semester of law school. Consequently, the upper-level writing registration form for a chosen project must be submitted no later than the end of the drop-add period of the student's fifth semester.

An important part of the upper-level writing requirement is the draft/feedback/revision process. During the course of working with the faculty supervisor, the student must produce a draft of the paper for review and revise the paper based on the faculty member’s comments. Once the paper is complete, the student should submit the upper-level writing certification form (signed by the supervising faculty member) to the Office of the Registrar to document that he or she has satisfied the requirement.

Courses with writing components that ordinarily do not satisfy the writing requirement include (but are not limited to):

2. Legal Ethics Requirement

Students are required to take a course that the Law School identifies as providing instruction in the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Duke Law offers classes every semester that satisfy the ethics requirement. Those classes include The Law of Lawyering: Ethics of Social Justice Representation (LAW 237), Ethics and The Law of Lawyering (LAW 238), Ethics and the Law of Lawyering in Civil Litigation (LAW 239), Criminal Justice Ethics (LAW 317), and Ethics in Action (LAW 539). Students will receive notice from the Registrar’s office when a new class is offered that satisfies the ethics requirement. Please note that classes like Bioethics, Corporate Ethics, Federal Prosecutor: A View from the Trenches and Readings in Ethics may add to a student’s understanding of legal ethics, but will not satisfy the legal ethics degree requirement, unless otherwise indicated. Also note that students may only take one Readings in Ethics seminar (LAW 611 A/B) for credit toward their degrees.

Prerequisite/Corequisite for Clinics and Externships

A student must take a legal ethics class that is designated as providing instruction in the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (e.g., Criminal Justice Ethics, Ethics in Action or Ethics and The Law of Lawyering) before enrolling in a domestic externship, and either before or during enrollment in certain clinics. In limited circumstances, the Dean for Public Interest and Pro Bono may grant a waiver of the ethics requirement for a domestic externship.

3. Professional Skills

The ABA requires all students to receive substantial instruction in "professional skills generally regarded as necessary for effective and responsible participation in the legal profession." At Duke Law, students must complete at least two credits of professional skills coursework in order to satisfy this requirement. In the past, students have fulfilled the professional skills requirement by completing an externship or capstone project with a substantial skills component or by taking at least one of the following courses:

*Although some of the courses listed above offer opportunities to fulfill the ethics, professional skills, and/or upper-level writing requirements, students must satisfy each of the degree requirements separately (e.g., through three separate courses).