PUBLISHED:July 10, 2014

From the Dean

Dear Friends,

In April, I gave the inaugural Judge Lloyd D. George Lecture on the Judicial Process at the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law. Judge George, the former Chief District Judge for the District of Nevada, has had a distinguished career on the bench, and it was an honor for me to be the first to give this lecture named for him.

I used the occasion to try to “think big” about the legal profession and system of justice more generally. My talk, entitled “The Grand Challenges for the Legal Profession and Judiciary,” focused on what I think are the largest problems facing lawyers and judges today. I got the idea from the U.S. National Academies, which a few years ago set for themselves the task of identifying the “grand challenges” in various disciplines within the sciences. I thought it would be inter­esting to try to do the same for the law. The tentative list I came up with — seven in all — run the gamut from access to justice for the poor and unrepresented and keeping our judiciary independent and neutral to improving the criminal justice system. They are all big, dif­ficult issues, and there are no easy solutions for any of them. But I did humbly suggest some starting points for discussion and action. (You can read an excerpt starting on Page 32.)

One of the most vexing of our challenges is the increasing frag­mentation of the legal profession itself; the bench, the academy, and the practicing bar have few opportunities for in-depth discus­sion. Most lawyers who have been practicing for more than 10 years have very little idea of what goes on in law schools today. Yet every day seems to bring a new proposal from state bars or state supreme courts as to what law schools must teach or young lawyers must do in order to gain entry to the profession (a particular problem for a school like Duke that doesn’t draw students from predominantly one state). There is also a disconnect between our judiciary and the academy. I frequently hear judges say that there is nothing in law journals of any interest or importance to them, and academics are often harshly critical of judicial opinions as reflecting partisan motivations or other kinds of bias. A final point of fragmentation is between lawmakers in Washington and state capitals — many of whom are also lawyers — and the rest of the legal profession. In the bar, the judiciary, and the law schools, there is a huge reservoir of knowledge about most of the critical areas of life that are subject to regulation and legislation. Yet we have not found it easy to get this knowledge into the hands of legislators and agencies.

So what can be done? At Duke Law, we are very proud of our close and deep connection with the profession. Our alumni are deeply engaged with what’s going on here: They come back frequently to speak about their career paths and current issues in the law, serve on our extended faculty and teach practical skills classes during Wintersession, and mentor future lawyers in our many experien­tial programs. Our Master of Judicial Studies program is opening lines of communication and collaboration between scholars and the bench; the first 14 graduates of this new program, all state, federal, or international judges, received their degrees in May after complet­ing a rigorous course of study and writing a thesis. Our new class of 20 judges just completed their first summer of study and will return next summer. And programs such as Duke in D.C. and the D.C. Summer Institute on Law and Policy are bringing students and faculty to Washington to connect with lawmakers, policymakers, and regulators and address issues of concern to society as a whole, from health care to human trafficking.

We aren’t going to fix the problem of a fragmented profession on our own. But with your help, we will continue to be a place where lawyers, judges, scholars, and students can come together and work across the lines of separation towards solutions to this and other “grand challenges” we face.

Thank you for your continued support of Duke Law.


David F. Levi

Dean and Professor of Law