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Law School History Timeline

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This timeline highlights Duke Law history organized around the topical area of Deans, events, building, library, centers/clinics, and publications from its earliest beginnings in Randolph County, North Carolina to the present. More information about Duke Law history is available in W.Bryan Bolich’s Duke Law School, 1868-1968: A Sketch; Robert F. Durden’s The Rebuilding of Duke University’s School of Law 1925-1947 Part 1 & Part 2; and W. R. Roalfe’s The Duke University Law Library: An Account of Its Development.


  • Braxton Craven

    Photo courtesy of Duke University Archives

    Braxton 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. In 1855 these are supplemented by lectures on Constitutional and International Law.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • Law Department Established at Trinity College

    Washington Duke Building, Trinity College. Courtesy of Duke University Archives

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

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • School of Law Professional Training

    Page 17 of Pamphlet Decribing Law School at Trinity College, circa 1868.

    A separate School of Law is organized to offer professional training in 1868. The School of Law closes and legal instruction is discontinued following President Craven's death. Legal instruction resumes as an academic course in the History Department in 1887.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Events
  • A. C. Avery

    Image provided by the North Carolina Museum of History

    Trinity College moves from Randolph County to Durham in 1891, and the School of Law reopens with Justice A. C. Avery of the North Carolina Supreme Court as its Dean. He remains dean until 1894 when the school closes again and legal instruction is discontinued for financial reasons.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • Samuel Fox Mordecai

    Samuel Fox Mordecai Portrait

    Samuel Fox Mordecai, a Raleigh attorney and part-time law teacher at Wake Forest College, is appointed Senior Professor of Law in 1904. James Buchanan Duke and Benjamin Newton Duke provide an endowment to reopen the School of Law. Professor Mordecai is named Dean the following year and initiates a reorganization of the School of Law.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • Trinity Joined AALS

    Trinity Joined the AALS

    Trinity is admitted to membership in the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) in 1905. It remains a member until 1919 when Dean Mordecai withdraws Trinity's membership in protest of the AALS policy on law library collection size.  The law school rejoins the AALS in 1930.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Events
  • School of Law Relocates

    Duke University Photography File #0361-95C #3

    The School of Law relocates to the second floor of the East Duke Building.

    Date:
    Filed under: Building
  • Duke University Created

    Duke University Created

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

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • W. Bryan Bolich

    W. Bryan Bolich Portrait

    W. Bryan Bolich is named Acting Dean after Dean Mordecai's death.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • First Female Law Student Admitted

    Miriam Cox circa 1930

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

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • School of Law Moved to Carr Building

    Carr Building circa 1930. Duke University Photography File #0361-95C #2

    The School of Law moves into renovated quarters in the Carr Building on East Campus. 

    Date:
    Filed under: Building
  • Law Library Collection Expands

    Law Library Collection Expands

    Between 1927-1930, after a period of neglect, the size of the law library increases from 4,000 volumes to over 12,000 volumes, the minimum thought essential at the time for a working library.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Building
  • Three-Year Curriculum Initiated

    Calendar by John Nuttall

    In 1928, the modern three-year curriculum is initiated. Prior to this time, North Carolina required only two years of study for the bar examination, so the third year was seldom elected and the LLB rarely granted.

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • School of Law Moved to West Campus Quad

    Photo from Duke University Archives

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

    Date:
    Filed under: Building
  • Justin Miller

    Justin Miller

    In 1930 Justin Miller, Dean of the Law School of the University of Southern California, is appointed Dean.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • Duke Bar Association Established

    Duke Bar Association Established

    The Duke Bar Association, 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."

    Date:
    Filed under: Centers and Clinics
  • Legal Aid Clinic Created

    Legal Aid Clinic Created

    The Duke Legal Aid Clinic, one of the first law school-connected programs of its kind in the country, is established by John S. Bradway. The clinic operates through 1959, when Bradway assumes emeritus status. Clinical legal education resumes in 1972. 

    Date:
    Filed under: Centers and Clinics
  • Order of the Coif Established

    Order of the Coif Established

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

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • Law and Contemporary Problems

    Cover of Law and Contemporary Problems' First Issue

    Law and Contemporary Problems, a faculty-edited journal begins; each issue is devoted to the cross-disciplinary treatment of a law-related topic. In 1982 students under faculty supervision assume major editorial responsibilities.

    Date:
    Filed under: Publications
  • Duke Bar Association Journal

    Duke Bar Association Journal's First Issue

    Duke Bar Association Journal begins publication. The journal ceases in 1942.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Publications
  • H. Claude Horack

    H. Claude Horack

    Professor H. Claude Horack becomes Dean when Justin Miller accepts an appointment in the Roosevelt administration.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • Richard Nixon Graduates from Duke Law

    Studio portrait of Richard M. Nixon '37

    Richard Milhouse Nixon, the future 37th President of the United States, graduates from Duke Law School in 1937.

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • Log Cabins Constructed

    Log Cabins Snapshots 1938

    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.

    Date:
    Filed under: Building
  • World War II

    Photo courtesy of Duke University Archives

    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.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Events
  • Bar Rag

    Bar Rag's First Issue

    The Bar Rag, a student tabloid sheet, is published until 1959. It reappears in 1964, renamed the Devil's Advocate, and continues publication until 1981. It is revived again in 2002 and published until 2009.

    Date:
    Filed under: Publications
  • Harold Shepard

    Harold Shepard

    After Dean Horack's retirement Professor Harold Shepard is appointed Dean.   Shepard remains Dean until 1949. 

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • Post-War Boom

    Bell Tower at Duke Chapel

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

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • Alumni Association Created

    Alumni Association Created

    The Duke Law Alumni Association is established. Every alumnus/a of the Law School is a member of the Law Alumni Association. 

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • Charles L. B. Lowndes

    Charles L. B. Lowndes

    When Dean Shepard resigns to accept an appointment to the Stanford Law School, Professor Charles L.B. Lowndes is named Acting Dean.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • Prolocutor

    Prolocutor's First Issue

    The Prolocutor, a yearbook, is published from 1949 until 1962.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Publications
  • Joseph A. McClain, Jr.

    Joseph A. McClain, Jr.

    Joseph A. McClain, Jr., a St. Louis attorney and former Dean of the Mercer University School of Law, is named Dean in 1950. 

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • Duke Bar Journal

    Duke Bar Journal's First Issue

    The first issue of the Duke Bar Journal is published. Published twice a year, it is completely student written and edited until 1953 when faculty scholarship is included.

    Date:
    Filed under: Publications
  • Dale F. Stansbury

    Dale F. Stansbury

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

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • Duke Law Journal

    Duke Law Journal's First Issue

    In 1957, the Duke Bar Journal is renamed Duke Law Journal.  In 1959 the journal changes to a quarterly publication. 

    Date:
    Filed under: Publications
  • Elvin R. (Jack) Latty

    Elvin R. (Jack) Latty Portrait

    Professor Elvin R. (Jack) Latty, who became Acting Dean in 1957, is appointed Dean in 1958.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • World Rule of Law Center

    World Rule of Law Center circa 1960

    The 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.

    Date:
    Filed under: Centers and Clinics
  • First African-American Law Students Admitted

    Class of 1964

    Walter Thaniel Johnson, Jr. and David Robinson are the first African-American students admitted to Duke Law School.

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • New School of Law Building

    Law Day, 1963

    The School of Law moved into a 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.

    Date:
    Filed under: Building
  • Duke Law Withdraws from the NCBA

    Newspaper Clippings from the Duke Law Scrapbook

    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 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.

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • F. Hodge O'Neal

    F. Hodge O'Neal

    When Dean Latty resigns to return to teaching, Professor F. Hodge O'Neal is named Dean. He is dean until 1968.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • A. Kenneth Pye

    A. Kenneth Pye

    When Dean O'Neal resigns to return to teaching and research, Professor A. Kenneth Pye is named Dean from 1968.  He became University Chancellor in 1970,  resumed the deanship when Dean Sneed resigns in 1973 to become Deputy Attorney General of the United States. Pye remains dean until 1976, returning again to the position of University Chancellor.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • Joseph Tyree Sneed

    Joseph P. Sneed circa 1972

    When Dean Pye resigns to become Chancellor of the University in 1970, Professors Latty, O'Neal, and Shimm are constituted as an Executive Committee to administer the Law School until Professor Joseph T. Sneed of Stanford Law School, who had been named Dean, arrives in 1971. 

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • First Female Faculty Member

    First Female Faculty Member

    Patricia H. Marschall becomes Duke Law's first female faculty member.

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • First Law School Faculty Chair Established

    Example of Physical Chair Given to Faculty Chair Recipients

    The Duke Endowment establishes the first faculty chair at the Law School, the William R. and Thomas L. Perkins Professorship held by William W. Van Alstyne.

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • Walter E. Dellinger III

    Walter E. Dellinger III

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

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • Barrister Donor Society Established

    Barrister Donor Society Established

    The 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.

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • Paul D. Carrington

    Paul D. Carrington

    Professor Paul D. Carrington of the University of Michigan Law School is named Dean in 1978.  He remains Dean until 1988.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • Duke Law Magazine

    Duke Law Magazine's first issue

    The Duke Law Magazine, a semi-annual Law School alumni periodical, begins publication.

    Date:
    Filed under: Publications
  • Alaska Law Review

    Cover of Alaska Law Review's First Issue

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

    Date:
    Filed under: Publications
  • JD/LLM Program

    Duke in Denmark Brochure, 1986

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

    The LLM program for foreign-trained lawyers was initiated. International programs grew 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 Europe and Asia.

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • Pamela B. Gann

    Pamela B. Gann

    In 1988 Dean Carrington resigns to return to teaching, and Professor Pamela B. Gann is named Dean.  She is the first woman, as well as the first Duke Law graduate, to serve as Dean.  Gann remains Dean until 1999. 

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law

    DJCIL's logo

    Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law, a specialized journal devoted exclusively to the issues of comparative and international law, begins publication in 1990.

    Date:
    Filed under: Publications
  • Pro Bono Program

    Pro Bono Program Logo

    A voluntary Pro Bono program is established with 44 students providing assistance to programs in the Durham community.

    Date:
    Filed under: Centers and Clinics
  • Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum

    Cover of DELPF's First Issue

    The Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum, begins in 1991 as an interdisciplinary magazine published annually.  Since then, the Forum has grown into a traditional environmental law journal. DELPF has affiliation with the Nicholas School for the Environment, the Terry Sanford Institute for Public Policy, and the Law School. 

    Date:
    Filed under: Publications
  • Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy

    Cover of DJGLP's First Issue

    The Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy, a student-edited annual publication begins. Its mission is to foster debate, to publish work largely overlooked by other law reviews, and to encourage scholarship outside the bounds of conventional law school curricula.

    Date:
    Filed under: Publications
  • Website Goes Online

    Original Design of Duke Law's Website

    The Law School website is launched at www.law.duke.edu

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • Birkerts Addition Completed

    Birkerts Addition Completed

    In April 1995, the Gunnar Birkerts and Associates designed addition is completed.The project expanded the library, added classrooms, renovated student spaces, added improved faculty office space and administrative space, and created a courtyard between the faculty and library wings, which was dedicated to alumnae of the law school in 2001.

    Date:
    Filed under: Building
  • Dedicated to Durham

    Students and Faculty Participate in Dedicated to Durham Event

    "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 law school service program.

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • Journals Available Online

    Journals Available Online

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

    Date:
    Filed under: Publications
  • Clark C. Havighurst

    Clark C. Havighurst circa 1990s

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

    Date:
    Filed under: Deans
  • Duke Law & Technology Review

    DLTR's logo

    Duke Law & Technology Review a student-edited online legal publication that focuses on the evolving intersection of law and technology begins in 2000.

    Date:
    Filed under: Publications
  • Millennium Renovation

    Photo Courtesy of Duke Law Magazine

    Duke Law completes a significant building project, which includes a series of two new seminar rooms, a classroom and a new courtroom, all designed to make use of the most advanced technologies in teaching law students and preparing them to enter the high-tech professional world of the 21st century.

    Date:
    Filed under: Building
  • Katharine T. Bartlett

    Katharine T. Bartlett

    Professor Katharine T. Bartlett is named Dean in 2000 and remains in that position until 2007.

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • First Great Lives in the Law Lecture

    Professor Walter Dellinger interviews Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as part of the Great Lives in the Law series on January 31, 2005.

    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 included other Supreme Court Justices, prominent practitioners, international jurists, and legal scholars

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • Duke Law Blueprint for Lawyer Education and Development

    LEAD Week logo

    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.

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • Phase I of New Renovation Project Finishes

    Groundbreaking for the building renovation

    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.

    Date:
    Filed under: Building
  • Scholarship Repository

    Homepage of Duke Law Scholarship Repository

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

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • Renovation Phase II Finishes

    Legal Clinics Offices circa 2005

    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. 

    Date:
    Filed under: Building
  • Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy

    Cover of DJCLPP's First Issue

    Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy, a student-edited publication that examines legal issues at the intersection of constitutional litigation and public policy begins publication.

    Date:
    Filed under: Publications
  • David F. Levi

    David F. Levi

    Dean Bartlett resigns to return to teaching and research at the end of 2006-2007 academic year, and is succeeded by the Honorable David F. Levi, Chief U.S. District Judge of the Eastern District of California. 

    Date: -
    Filed under: Deans
  • Renovation Phase III Finishes

    Building Dedication Week: Dedication Ceremony, Nov. 8, 2008

    The building project is completed in August 2008. The three-story Star Commons, providing comfortable seating for studying and casual dining, and the completely-renovated J. Michael Goodson Law Library are the foci of this last phase.

    The official dedication ceremony features remarks by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and Judge Allyson Duncan '75 of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Date:
    Filed under: Building
  • Duke Forum for Law & Social Change

    Cover of DFLSC's First Issue

    Duke Forum for Law & Social Change, a journal created with a mission to foster progressive discussion around important social issues and cover a range of legal topics, begins publication. 

    Date:
    Filed under: Publications
  • Duke in D.C. Program

    Duke in D.C. Program

    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.

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • LLM in Law and Entrepreneurship

    LLM in Law and Entrepreneurship

    In 2011, Duke Law starts to offer a LLM in Law and Entrepreneurship.  The program provides students with a deep understanding of the historical and current perspectives on entrepreneurship and the law, plus presents students with an opportunity to explore their own potential for entrepreneurship.

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • Judicial Studies Program Begins

    Judicial Studies Program Begins

    Developed by the Duke Law Center for Judicial Studies, the Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Judicial Studies begins in summer 2012.This program for sitting judges takes place over two summers, with state, federal, and international judges studying together for four weeks each summer and publishing theses based on original research at the end of the program.

    Date:
    Filed under: Events
  • Judicature

    Cover of Judicature, Volume 99, Number 1

    Judicature, The Scholarly Journal for Judges begins publication. Produced by the Duke Law Center for Judicial Studies, this journal contains articles by judges, scholars, and practitioners on topics such as law reform, emerging legal issues, case-management techniques, and other matters that pertain to the daily work of a judge.

    Date:
    Filed under: Publications
  • Kerry Abrams

    Kerry Abrams

    After serving eleven years David F. Levi steps down as dean.  Kerry Abrams, vice provost for faculty affairs and professor of law at UVA, is selected as his successor.

    Date:
    Filed under: Deans