PUBLISHED:May 09, 2021

Class of 2020 continues Duke Law's record of employment success


As of March 15, 92.5% of 2020 graduates were employed in long-term, full-time positions requiring bar passage and not funded by the school, which ranked fourth among all law schools.

Law school building

The Class of 2020 maintained the Law School’s record of success in employment outcomes for its graduates despite graduating in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its annual filing with the American Bar Association (ABA), the Law School reported that 92.5% of 2020 graduates were employed in long-term, full-time positions requiring bar passage and not funded by the school as of March 15.

Duke ranked no. 4 among all law schools for these positions, considered the “gold standard” of legal jobs. Duke also ranked fourth in large law firm jobs and “elite jobs,” defined as federal clerkships or positions at firms with more than 100 lawyers, according to a National Law Journal analysis of the ABA data.

In another key measure of post-graduate outcomes, 97.5% of 2020 graduates who took the bar exam passed on the first try. Duke’s bar passage rate ranked no. 8 among all law schools.

“The Class of 2020’s success in launching their careers would be a source of great pride for the Law School in an ordinary year, but given that they graduated at a time of historic instability in the world and uncertainty about the future, it is truly remarkable,” said Kerry Abrams, James B. Duke and Benjamin N. Duke Dean of the School of Law. “I am so proud of these terrific Duke Law graduates, and appreciate the work of our Career and Professional Development and Academic Affairs staffs in helping them transition into the workforce.”

Added Bruce Elvin ’93, associate dean for career and professional development: “The entire Duke Law community plays a role in the successful launching of our students, beginning with enrolling students who are among the very best and providing rigorous academic and legal training. Faculty, staff, classmates, and alumni invest their personal time and energy to further prepare students for practice, secure positions and, sometimes, pull those needing a little extra support into the profession. It’s quite humbling to see.”

Overall, 97.5% of the Class of 2020 was employed as of March 15, with the largest share working at law firms. More than two-thirds were employed at firms with more than 100 attorneys. The most popular location for employment was New York, with 34.9% of the class, followed by Washington, D.C., California, North Carolina, Texas, and Florida.

A substantial number of 2020 graduates were clerking for judges or working in the public or non-profit sector. Overall, 13.1% of the class was employed in a judicial clerkship as of March 15, including 11.7% in federal clerkships. Another 8.4% were employed in positions in government or with public interest organizations.

“Interest in public service remains strong, but those positions can be challenging to secure, particularly as the pandemic delayed or deferred some hiring,” Abrams said. “I have made it a priority to support students who want to pursue careers in government or public interest organizations and we have continued to expand our support through our Certificate in Public Interest and Public Service, funding for summer jobs, post-graduate fellowships, and Bridge to Practice program.” 

To view Duke’s ABA full employment summary for the Class of 2020 and previous classes, visit