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 2018 program will take place over the weeknights of two, two-week sessions: July 9-19, 2018, and July 23-August 2, 2018; 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.

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

Session One: Monday, July 9 - Thursday, July 19

How to "Think Like a Lawyer": Introduction to Legal Reasoning  (5:45-7:15 p.m.)
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 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 interpretation of statutes, and the skeptical charge of legal realism that legal reasoning does not actually decide cases. An over-arching question is whether legal reasoning is predominantly backward-looking, or whether it is characteristically forward-looking as well. Those students potentially interested in applying to law school will especially benefit from this course, as it introduces several of the basic themes and analytical tools of the law school curriculum.

From Gun Rights 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 through the study of the separation of powers, federalism, and select constitutional rights. Constitutional law is a core course typically taught during the first year of law school and is the subject of, or a pre-requisite to, numerous advanced courses in the second and third years. Students in this course will learn 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 constitutional structure and individual rights: whether gun-control legislation violates the Second and Fourteenth Amendments; whether and when the President may act in defiance of Congress; whether the federal government has the power to create a national bank and require most Americans to possess health insurance; why Brown v. Board of Education is correctly decided; whether single-sex public education violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and whether state bans on same-sex marriage violate the Due Process Clause or the Equal Protection Clause.


Lawyers Branching Out: The Courthouse, the Capitol, and the White House (5:45-7:15 p.m.)
David F. Levi
Mike Lee, United States Senator 
Danielle C. Gray, Former Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama  

  • This course introduces students to the three most prominent ways in which lawyers have sought leadership roles in public service – in the judiciary, in the Congress, and in the executive branch.  The course will be taught by a former Chief United States District Judge and Dean of Duke Law School (David F. Levi), a current United States Senator (Mike Lee of Utah), and a former Senior Advisor to the President of the United States (Danielle C. Gray).  Students will learn about how lawyers prepare themselves for these positions; the confirmation, election, and selection processes; and the skills and duties required to do the job.  What is a day in the life?  How is a lawyer effective in these different positions?  And what does leadership mean for a judge, a senator, and a presidential advisor?

    Arguing to Win: Legal Persuasion and Analysis (7:30-9:00 p.m.)
    Professor Rebecca Rich

    This course introduces students to the persuasive writing and advocacy skills that lawyers regularly use in the practice of law. Over the course of two weeks, working almost exclusively in class, students will write and argue a short, persuasive legal brief. The course will expose students to core components of a legal writing or legal skills class, which is a required part of the first-year curriculum at most law schools. Thus, students potentially interested in applying to law school will especially benefit from the course. It is as an excellent companion to Professor Siegel’s “How to ‘Think Like a Lawyer’” class. 





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