Law School Timeline

19th Century


Braxton CravenBraxton Craven, President of Normal (later Trinity) College, in Randolph County, North Carolina, the predecessor of Duke University, inaugurates lectures on Political and Natural Law as part of a liberal arts curriculum; in1855 these are supplemented by lectures on Constitutional and International Law.


The Law Department is established as one of eleven academic departments in Trinity College.


Law School is establishedA separate School of Law is organized to offer professional training.


The School of Law closes and legal instruction is discontinued following President Craven's death.


Legal instruction is resumed as an academic course in the History Department.


law school reopen announcementTrinity College moves from Randolph County to Durham, and the School of Law is reopened with Justice A. C. Avery of the North Carolina Supreme Court as its Dean. No undergraduate work is required for admission to the two-year program leading to the LL.B degree.


The Law School closes and legal instruction is discontinued for financial reasons.

20th Century


James Buchanan Duke and Benjamin Newton Duke provide the endowment to reopen the School of Law, and Samuel Fox Mordecai, a Raleigh attorney and part-time law teacher at Wake Forest College, is appointed Senior Professor of Law.


Professor MordecaiProfessor Mordecai, who has been named Dean, initiates a reorganization of the School of Law, which is housed on the second floor of the East Duke Building.

Two years of pre-law study are required for admission to the three-year program leading to the LLB degree (however, since North Carolina required only two years of study for the bar examination, the third year was seldom elected and the LLB was rarely granted until the modern three-year curriculum was initiated in 1928). The case method is adopted as the basis of instruction.

Trinity is admitted to membership in the Association of American Law Schools.


Trinity withdraws from membership in the Association of American Law Schools.


Duke University is created, and Trinity College becomes its undergraduate school for men.


Carr Building The School of Law moves into renovated quarters in the Carr Building on the newly rebuilt East Campus. Dean Mordecai dies, and W. Bryan Bolich is named Acting Dean.

Miriam Cox, a Duke Woman's College graduate and court reporter, is the first woman student admitted to Duke Law School.

Between 1927-1930, after a period of neglect, the size of the law library is dramatically increased from 4,000 volumes to over 12,000 volumes, the minimum thought essential at the time for a working library. Library holdings eventually grow to over 625,000 volumes and access to hundreds of databases.


Law School in 1930

(Photo from Duke University Archives)

The School of Law moves into its new building on the Main Quadrangle of the West Campus.

Dean Justin MillerJustin Miller, Dean of the Law School of the University of Southern California, is appointed Dean, and the faculty is substantially enlarged. The period of pre-law study required for admission to the LLB program is increased to three years, and graduate programs leading to the LLM and SJD degrees are established. Duke is readmitted to membership in the Association of American Law Schools.


Duke Law Journal CoverThe Duke Bar Association, closely modeled on the American Bar Association, is established by the law students to: "1) foster legal science, 2) maintain the honor and dignity of the legal profession among law students, 3) cultivate professional ethics and social intercourse among its members, and 4) promote the welfare of the Law School of Duke University."

Since then students have created almost fifty organizations, reflecting a wide variety of interests and activities.


Legal Education Clinic Clinical legal education is introduced into the curriculum with the establishment of the Duke Legal Aid Clinic, one of the first law school-connected programs of its kind in the country.


Law and Contemporary Problems Cover Law and Contemporary Problems, a faculty-edited quarterly publication appears; each issue is devoted to the cross-disciplinary treatment of a law-related topic.

The Duke Chapter of the Order of the Coif is established.

The Duke Bar Association Journal, a publication modeled after the American Bar Association Journal, appears and continues publication until 1942.


Dean H. Claude Horack Dean Miller leaves to accept a governmental appointment in President Roosevelt's administration; he is succeeded as Dean by Professor H. Claude Horack.


Log Cabins Dean Horack oversees the construction of five log cabins on the northern edge of the West Campus. Built to help alleviate the shortage of housing for law students, they are used as dormitory and recreational facilities. The cabins are less Spartan than their name implies, and have electricity, central heating and indoor plumbing.


Many faculty members leave for wartime service, and student enrollment drops precipitously. The law schools of Duke and Wake Forest combine to conduct a unified operation in Durham for the duration of the war.


The Bar Rag The Bar Rag, a student tabloid sheet, appears and is published until 1959. It reappears in 1964, renamed the Devil's Advocate, and continues publication until 1981; it is revived again in 2002.


Dean Horack retires and is succeeded as Dean by Professor Harold Shepard.

Returning veterans begin to enroll in numbers that swell the student population to unprecedented size for the next five years.

The Journal of Legal Education, the official organ of the Association of American Law Schools, is published under faculty editorship until 1966.


The Duke Law Alumni Association is established.


The Prolucutor Dean Shepard reigns to accept an appointment to the Stanford Law School. Professor Charles L.B. Lowndes is named Acting Dean.

The Prolocutor, a yearbook, appears and continues publication until 1962.


Joseph A. McClain, Jr., a St. Louis attorney and former Dean of the Mercer University School of Law, is named Dean.


The Law School building is now too small, and lacks space to house the Law Library (now over 100,000 volumes). Dean McClain receives a commitment of $250,000 from the University Trustees towards a new, modern law building.

The Duke Bar Journal (renamed the Duke Law Journal in 1957) appears; the faculty advisor is Prof. Robinson O. Everett. It is published twice a year, and like its predecessor, the Duke Bar Association Journal (which ceased publication in 1942), is completely student written and edited until 1953, when faculty scholarship is included.


Dean McClain resigns to return to private practice, and Professor Dale F. Stansbury is named Acting Dean.


Dean Elvin R. LattyProfessor Elvin R. (Jack) Latty, who became Acting Dean in 1957, is appointed Dean.


Duke Law JournalThe World Rule of Law Center (later called the Rule of Law Research Center) is established by Arthur Larson, who serves as its director until his retirement in 1980.

The Duke Law Journal adopts its current format, printing leading articles as well as student comments and notes and moves to a quarterly publication schedule (which becomes a bi-monthly schedule in 1967).

The Duke Legal Aid Clinic closes and clinical legal education is discontinued.


The first African-American students are admitted.


Law School RenovationThe School of Law moves into its new building on Towerview Road and Science Drive. The Honorable Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States, is the principal speaker at the dedication ceremony on Law Day, 1963.


Professor F. Hodge O'Neal Dean Latty resigns to return to teaching, and Professor F. Hodge O'Neal is named Dean.

To protest the North Carolina Bar Association's denial of membership to an African-American graduate of the Law School, the faculty approves a resolution by a 2-1 margin to sever ties with the Bar Association until applicants are accepted without discrimination based on race. The Law School re-establishes its connection with the Bar Association in 1969.


The MD/JD program, the Law School's first joint degree program, is inaugurated under co-sponsorship with the Medical School. This program is followed in later years by joint degree programs under co-sponsorship with the Business School, the Institute of Public Policy, the School of the Environment, the Engineering School, and the Graduate School (in disciplines, including anthropology, economics, English, history, philosophy, political science, Romance studies, and humanities).


Dean A. Kenneth Pye Dean O'Neal resigns to return to teaching and research, and Professor A. Kenneth Pye of Georgetown Law School is named Dean.

The LLB degree is replaced by the JD as the basic professional degree. Small-section instruction is introduced in conjunction with an intensive research and writing program in all first-year courses.

The Legal Aid Clinic is re-activated; clinical legal education is reintroduced into the curriculum in 1972.


Dean Pye resigns to become Chancellor of the University. Professors Elvin R. (Jack) Latty, F. Hodge O'Neal, and Melvin G. Shimm are constituted as an Executive Committee to administer the Law School until Professor Joseph T. Sneed, of Stanford Law School, who has been named Dean, arrives in 1971.


Dean Sneed resigns to accept appointment as Deputy Attorney General of the United States, and Chancellor Pye resumes the deanship.

The Duke Endowment establishes the first faculty chair at the Law School, the William R. and Thomas L. Perkins Professorship. The chair is followed by the establishment over several decades of a number of other endowed professorships and faculty research support funds:

  • Alston & Bird Professorship,
  • Eugene S. Bost Research Professorship,
  • David F. Cavers Professorship,
  • Harry R. Chadwick Sr. Professorship,
  • Brainerd Currie Professorship,
  • James B. Duke Professorship,
  • Pamela B. Gann Professorship,
  • Richard and Marcy Horvitz Professorship,
  • Arthur Larson Professorship,
  • Elvin R. Latty Professorship,
  • Charles L.B. Lowndes Professorship,
  • Douglas B. Maggs Professorship,
  • Charles S. Murphy Professorship,
  • Martha Garner Price Research Fellowship Fund,
  • A. Kenneth Pye Professorship,
  • William Neal Reynolds Professorship,
  • Russell M. Robinson II Professorship,
  • Archibald C. and Frances Fulk Rufty Research Professorship,
  • Melvin G. Shimm Professorship,
  • Stanley A. Star Professorship of Law & Business, and
  • Bunyan S. Womble Professorship.


Professor Walter E. Dellinger III Walter E. Dellinger III Dean Pye resigns again to become Chancellor of the University, and Professor Walter E. Dellinger III is named Acting Dean.


Electronic SearchThe first electronic search service becomes available in the Duke Law Library, to be followed in 1986 by the installation of an online catalog.

Barrister LogoThe Barrister Donor Society is established to honor key benefactors whose generous gifts enable the School to continue its commitment to excellence in education and research.


Dean Paul D. Carrington Professor Paul D. Carrington of the University of Michigan Law School, is named Dean.


Students under faculty supervision assume major editorial responsibility for Law and Contemporary Problems.

Duke Law Magazine coverThe Duke Law Magazine, a semi-annual Law School alumni periodical, begins publication, replacing the Duke Docket, which had been published since 1979.


The Alaska Law Review, a student-edited, practitioner- oriented publication underwritten by the Alaska Bar Association, appears.


The JD/LLM (International and Comparative Law) combined degree program, the first of its kind in the country, is inaugurated.

The LLM program for foreign-trained lawyers is expanded and rapidly grows; in the 2008-2009 academic year there are almost 100 international students at Duke Law and almost 1,000 international alumni. International programs will grow to include the SJD program, the international visiting scholars program, a variety of exchange programs and externship opportunities, as well as the summer institutes in Geneva and Hong Kong.

The Law Alumni Association begins sponsorship of a series of panel discussions featuring alumni in various legal careers. Career counseling for students and alumni is later taken over by the Office of Career Services, now the Career and Professional Development Center.


The Duke Summer Institute in Transnational Law is inaugurated in Copenhagen, Denmark, where it is conducted until moving to Brussels, Belgium in 1991, and then to Geneva, Switzerland in 1997. Now called the Duke-Geneva Institute in Transnational Law, this program is co-sponsored by the University of Geneva Faculty of Law.


Dean Pamela B. GannDean Carrington resigns to return to teaching, and Professor Pamela B. Gann is named Dean.

The Duke International and Comparative Law Annual, a student-edited publication, appears. In 1990 it is renamed the Duke Journal of International and Comparative Law.


Phase I of the building program, remodeling Level 1 of the Law Library, adding student seating and installing compact shelving, is completed. The student computer network is implemented with 15 terminals.


The Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum, a student-edited semi-annual publication, appears.

A voluntary Pro Bono program is established with 44 students providing assistance to programs in the Durham community; by the 2007-2008 academic year there are 254 students enrolled in 329 pro bono placements.


Phase II of the building programPhase II of the building program is initiated with the ground breaking for the building addition and completion of the renovation of the Law Library.


The Center on Law, Ethics, and National Security is founded; by 2006 the Law School supports centers and programs devoted to the study of a variety of issues:


Phase II of the building program is completed; Sir David G.T. Williams, Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, is the principal speaker at the dedication ceremony.


The Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy, a student-edited annual publication, appears.

A new legal research and writing program, which integrates the research and writing components of the course, is introduced, and three new writing teachers are hired. The legal writing program grows to include lecture series and specialized workshops.


The Duke Asia-America Institute in Transnational LawThe Duke Asia-America Institute in Transnational Law, co-sponsored by the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong, is inaugurated in Hong Kong.

"Dedicated to Durham," a project encouraging students, faculty, and staff to volunteer to work with local non-profit organizations, begins as part of the dedication events for the Law School addition; designed to strengthen ties with the Durham community, it becomes an ongoing service program.

Law School website The Law School website is launched at

Clinical education at the Law School is revived with the Death Penalty Clinic; other clinics are soon established:


Duke Law classroomThree large classrooms are renovated, and state-of-the-art projection systems making PowerPoint and web-based presentations possible are added. By 2000 standard instructional technology includes teaching consoles that allow instructors to project audio and video tapes, show cable TV programs, and access computer applications from diskette, CD-ROM, the Internet, or the Law School network; many classrooms also have access to video conferencing equipment.


All Duke Law student-edited journals made freely and openly available on the Law School website.


Dean Clark C. HavighurstDean Gann resigns to become President of Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California. Professor Clark C. Havighurst is named interim Dean.

21st Century


Dean Katharine T. BartlettProfessor Katharine T. Bartlett is named Dean.

Duke Law & Technology Review (DLTR), a student-edited online publication appears; it is published twice a month during the school year (and less frequently in the summer).


Seventeen new faculty members are hired in the strategic areas of Science and Technology Related Fields (e.g., intellectual property and biotechnology), International and Comparative Law, Business and Finance, and Constitutional Law.


The "Millennium Renovation" classroom upgradeThe "Millennium Renovation," a project to make over the courtroom and fourth floor classroom area, is completed, resulting in the renovation of the courtroom and an existing classroom, and the addition of two new seminar rooms.

The Law School begins operating a wireless computer network in the library and the Blue Lounge; by the spring of 2002 wireless networking is available throughout the law building.


The "Great Lives in the Law" lecture series The "Great Lives in the Law" lecture series, sponsored by the Duke Program in Public Law, is inaugurated by William H. Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the United States. Subsequent speakers include: civil rights lawyer Julius Chambers (2002), Justice Anthony Kennedy (2002), Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (2003), Dennis W. Archer, president of the American Bar Association (2003), Richard Goldstone, former Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa (2004), historian John Hope Franklin (2004), Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (2005), former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno (2005), Linda Greenhouse, Supreme Court correspondent for The New York Times (2006), Dean Katherine T. Bartlett (2006), and Jack Goldsmith of the Harvard Law School (2007).

The Duke Blueprint for Lawyer Education and Development, a codification of the guiding principles upon which students are encouraged to focus during law school and throughout their careers is promulgated; the Blueprint principles include establishing academic priorities, engaging in relationships with professors and classmates and keeping an open mind in unfamiliar situations.


The Duke Law Faculty Scholarship Repository, a full-text electronic archive of scholarly works written by the Duke Law faculty, is launched.


Phase I of the renovation project Phase I of an ambitious building construction and renovation project, the reconstruction of two large classrooms and the replacement of the facade of the front of the building with "Duke brick," is completed.


Phase II of the renovation project Phase II of the building project, the addition of a 30,000 square foot wing, is completed, providing new offices for faculty, program centers, clinics, and journals. Ground-breaking for Phase III, which will include the addition of an events center and library renovations, is scheduled for Spring 2007.

Capstone Projects, intended to enable third-year students to develop foundational skills for the transition between law school and the beginning of their professional careers, are inaugurated.


Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy, a student-edited publication, is launched; in addition to its online publication, a print edition will appear each spring.


Dean David F. LeviDean Bartlett announces that she will step down at the end of the school year to return to teaching and research. The Honorable David F. Levi, Chief U.S. District Judge of the Eastern District of California, is selected to succeed her on July 1, 2007.

Phase III of the building project, which will include the addition of the Star Commons events center and library renovations, begins in May.


Law SchoolThe building project is completed in August 2008. The three-story Star Commons provides comfortable seating for studying and casual dining as well as space for large lectures and dinners. The newly-renovated
J. Michael Goodson Law Library includes a re-conceptualized reading room designed to provide easy access to library, computing, web, and media services. The official dedication ceremony,featuring remarks by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and Judge Allyson Duncan '75 of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, took place on November 8th.

The Duke Law Forum for Law and Social Justice,, which is part journal and part annual symposium, is launched with the goal of bringing concrete social issues to the forefront of the Duke Law community.

A fund-raising initiative that raised over $10 million for scholarships and financial aid is completed.