Two-Week Courses

The Duke D.C. Summer Institute on Law and Policy curriculum will focus on topics important to current and aspiring practitioners in fields that require mastery of constitutional, statutory, and regulatory law and policymaking.  Courses will meet in the evenings, at the close of the workday, in Washington, DC.

Classes will be limited in size in order to facilitate interaction between faculty members and students. Registration and tuition will include weekly special events for program participants and written and other course materials.  Upon successful completion of the program, participants will be awarded a certificate endorsed by the Dean of Duke Law School, David Levi, and Faculty Director of the Institute, Neil Siegel.

The 2016 program will take place over the weeknights of two, two-week sessions: July 11-21, 2016, and July 25-August 4, 2016; classes will meet on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings, with Wednesday evenings reserved for special programs. The DC Institute is hosted by premier law firm Jones Day, in its Washington office, which is located in the historic Acacia Building at 51 Louisiana Avenue NW.  Courses will introduce participants to legal reasoning, US constitutional law, with a focus on timely subjects such as the constitutionality of affirmative action programs, current topics in race, elections, and politics, and law and entrepreneurship.

Tuition for a single course is $600; for each additional course, tuition is $400.

Courses offered

Session One: Monday, July 11 – Thursday, July 21, 2016

Race Matters: Law, Race, and Politics in the 2016 Elections and Beyond (5:45-7:15 p.m.)

Professor Guy Charles

This course will examine how race continues to influence law and politics, even in the debatable “post-racial” United States following President Barack Obama’s election in 2008. Students will explore how legal and political institutions and rules have disparate impacts on different segments of American society—and how those impacts in turn inform and affect identity, law, and politics. Case studies will include the Voting Rights Act; the criminal justice system and recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, and elsewhere around the country; and housing discrimination. This course will have special appeal for those interested in learning more about the interrelatedness of law and society, and the advocacy role played by lawyers who use the law as a tool for social change.

How to “Think Like a Lawyer”: Introduction to Legal Reasoning (7:30-9:00 p.m.)

FULL! Please e-mail if you'd like to be placed on the wait list for this course.
Professor Neil Siegel

This course introduces students to what it means to “think like a lawyer.” Students will learn to identify the predominant features of legal reasoning and legal argument, and will examine whether those features are distinctive to law or instead are persistent characteristics of ordinary human thinking. Topics include rules-based reasoning, reasoning from precedent, reasoning from authority, analogical reasoning, the common law method, the skeptical charge of legal realism that legal reasoning does not actually decide cases, and statutory interpretation. Those potentially interested in applying to law school will especially benefit from this course, as it offers a glimpse at several of the bedrock principles and analytical tools of the law school curriculum.

Session Two: Monday, July 25 – Thursday, August 4, 2016

Open for Business: Introduction to Law and Entrepreneurship (5:45-7:15 p.m.)

Professor Erika J.S. Buell

Using Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and other innovative businesses as case studies, students will examine the legal dimensions of the lifecycle of the high-growth startup company. This course will explore the regulatory framework for venture capital and other forms of financing, and some of the planning required to launch a business enterprise. Students will be introduced to the different categories of law that apply to entrepreneurial ventures, US capital markets, and businesses in general in the new economy. Those interested in learning about the practice of transactional law and the role of lawyers in advising businesses will especially benefit from this course. No previous knowledge of, or experience in, business will be assumed or required.

From Obamacare to Gay Rights: Introduction to Constitutional Law (7:30-9:00 p.m.)

Professor Neil Siegel

This course introduces students to the field of U.S. constitutional law, a core course in law school and fundamental to understanding American democracy. Students will learn the basic principles of constitutional analysis, the different kinds of constitutional arguments, and the sources of constitutional change. Case studies include controversial and timely questions of federal power and individual rights: whether the federal health care law is within the scope of Congress’s enumerated powers; whether affirmative action in higher education violates the Equal Protection Clause; and whether state bans on same-sex marriage violate the Due Process Clause or the Equal Protection Clause.


Heather Seeley "This program exceeded my expectations in terms of learning about substantive legal material, as well as giving me an idea of what law school is all about, the many paths I could take with a law degree, and truly what it means to "think like a lawyer.""

Heather Seeley,
Duke University Class of 2016