Public Interest
The Duke Way

Whether you aspire to become a public interest lawyer, incorporate pro bono work into your practice, or serve your community in other ways, you will find the resources at Duke to reach your goals. The value of service is core to the profession and central to the Duke Law experience.

  • Pro Bono

    Each year, Duke Law students provide thousands of hours of free tax assistance, legal aid to cancer patients, counsel to veterans, and other pro bono services to the community.

    • Lawyers on the Line member, Ashton Garner ’17

      Lawyer on the Line Project
      Students answer Legal Aid inquiries as "lawyers on the line," a partnership between the Office of Pro Bono and Public Interest and Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC)

    • Innocence Project

      Innocence Project
      The Innocence Project is a volunteer student organization that works to exonerate victims of wrongful convictions.

  • 7,386

    pro bono hours provided
    by the class of 2015

    Other pro bono opportunities:

    • Cancer Pro Bono Legal Project
    • Coalition Against Gendered Violence
    • Immigration Education Project
    • Refugee Asylum Support Project
    • Street Law
    • Southern Justice Spring Break Trip
    • Teen Court
    • Veteran's Disability Assistance Project
    • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance


Duke Law Pro Bono badge

About two-thirds of each Duke Law class signs on and fulfills the Pro Bono Pledge, committing to 50 hours of public service during their three years of law school. The 50-hour goal is inspired by the ABA's Model Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 that states, in part: "Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay. A lawyer should aspire to render at least (50) hours of pro bono public legal service per year."



Externships enable a student to receive academic credit for gaining legal experience beyond that available in the classroom setting, by working under the supervision of a licensed attorney in a governmental or non-profit setting. Duke Law students can choose from local externships, integrated seminar externships, full time faculty-mentored externships domestically or abroad, or full-time externship placements in Washington D.C. through the Duke in D.C. program.


Duke in D.C.
Duke in D.C. gives students who are interested in public policy, public service, and careers in the public sector an opportunity to engage in hands-on law practice through a full-time externship experience in Washington, D.C. The program has two components: a semester-long externship placement with a D.C.-area government or non-profit organization, and a weekly seminar course (with a substantial research paper requirement) taught by Duke Law faculty.


Summer Funding

Thanks to funding from the Law School, Duke’s Public Interest Law Foundation, and generous alumni donors, students are eligible to receive stipends to support summer internships in public interest agencies and government offices. Since these employers typically cannot pay summer interns, these grants can create summer employment opportunities that otherwise might not be available.

Summer Funding

Duke Endowed Fellowships
For 1L and 2L students with summer positions with a non-profit, NGO, or government organization in the U.S. or abroad.

Horvitz Public Law Fellowships
Awarded to 1L and 2L students who secure summer positions related to public law.

Dean's Summer Service Grants
Guaranteed funding for 2L students who secure qualifying public service positions for the summer.

Public Interest Law Foundation Fellowships
For 1L and 2L students who accept unpaid summer public interest internships.

Stanback Internship Program, Environmental Law & Policy
$5,000 stipend for 11 weeks of work with one of more than 50 environmental law and policy organizations.



  • If your goal is a career in public service, you will find a wealth of resources and deep support at Duke Law. You'll receive personalized assistance from the Career Center's Office of Public Interest Advising, which will provide you with expert guidance and access to a range of resources and networks as you seek to build your career.

    Launch Grants
    A new financial assistance program to support Duke Law graduates as they launch their careers will be available soon. Graduates who work in smaller private law firms will be eligible to apply for a grant to help with loan repayment. Eligible graduates must be performing pro bono legal work or other services that benefit the community.

  • Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP)
    Duke's LRAP program covers 100% of federal loan payments for graduates making $60,000 or less. Graduates making between $60,000 and $75,000 can receive assistance on a sliding scale.

    Bridge to Practice
    The Bridge to Practice Fellowship Program offers paid, post-graduate fellowships with public interest, government, and other legal employers for graduating students. The program was designed to assist graduates seeking employment in sectors that do not typically hire until after bar passage.


Post-Graduate Fellowship Guidance
Duke Law assists students seeking post-graduate public interest fellowships, and a number of graduates have secured prestigious fellowships in recent years.

Lauren Fine '11

Lauren Fine '11
Following her work as a Zubrow Fellow at Philadelphia’s Juvenile Law Center (JLC), Fine received the two-year Black Male Achievement (BMA) Fellowship supported by Echoing Green and the Open Society Foundations. The fellowship provided seed money for the Youth Sentencing and Reentry Project (YSRP), a nonprofit co-founded by Fine dedicated to reducing prison terms and recidivism rates for youth in the adult criminal justice system.

"Many of our society’s underlying social and socioeconomic problems that manifest in crime, in punitive sentences, in victimization, and in destroyed communities, start with children. While gratified by [work for child advocacy groups], I often felt frustrated by my inability to tackle the underlying causes of the children’s academic and social problems. I came to law school with a belief that the law provides an outlet for this frustration and an opportunity to help create structures or policy that are more just."

Tyson Shaw '12

Tyson Shaw '12
Shaw received a two-year fellowship to serve as an Honors Attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons.

"Obtaining early responsibility and doing important work is difficult for any young lawyer, but a career in public service is an opportunity to gain both. Duke Law provided wise mentors, like-minded colleagues, and plenty of opportunities to get my hands dirty with substantive legal work. Having the opportunity to argue in front of federal judges while working for the United States Attorney’s Office and to team-write appellate briefs with the Appellate Litigation Clinic helped me to stand out in a competitive field of Honors Program candidates."

Judea Davis JD/MA '15

Judea Davis JD/MA '15
Davis received a two-year Equal Justice Initiative Legal Fellowship to examine the legal history of racial subordination, exclusion, and segregation as part of an initiative on race and poverty.

During a 2L summer internship at Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), Davis worked on projects concerning America’s racial history and with current and former inmates on matters relating to incarceration. The EJI director praised Davis’ work during her internship, which was supported by a Robinson O. Everett Fellowship.


Community in Action

Duke Law hosts nearly 600 events each year, and many are devoted to topics relating to public interest. Alumni and other leading lawyers in government service and advocacy routinely speak to students about their experiences and offer advice on planning careers in the public sector.

Community in Action