Dore joins Duke Law as director of pro bono
As an attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina, Dore helped secure a state Supreme Court ruling strengthening the rights of public housing tenants.
D.J. Dore joined Duke Law in May as director of pro bono programs, the latest step in a career devoted to public service.
A veteran currently serving in the U.S. Army Reserve, Dore worked for the past eight years as an attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC), representing hundreds of clients at the administrative, agency, and trial court levels. He is an experienced litigator and recognized expert in the areas of second chance work – including criminal record expunction and driver license restoration – and veterans law. He also was a member of the appellate team that won a unanimous ruling by the North Carolina Supreme Court strengthening due process rights for public housing tenants in the state.
Most recently he served as a supervising attorney in LANC’s Durham office and as the Veterans Law Practice Group manager for the state. While there, he helped establish the Durham Expunction and Restoration (DEAR) Program and has organized numerous other pro bono second chance clinics involving Triangle-area law schools, private attorneys, and community partners.
Dore helped found and supervise Duke Law’s Fair Chance Project, which provides criminal record expunction relief to Durham residents and has a partnership with Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers (TROSA), and served as supervising attorney for Duke Law’s Veterans Assistance Project, which assists low-income veterans with VA benefits appeals and discharge upgrade cases.
“One of the highlights of my work at Legal Aid was mentoring and training law students, so being able to do that full time at Duke is very exciting,” Dore said.
“Commitment to public service and pro bono work seems only to be increasing here, so I’m thrilled to be able to expose students to a broad range of opportunities and help develop that interest.”
Dore earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his JD from UNC School of Law, where he was an Army ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate. He holds an LLM in International Criminal Justice and the Law of Armed Conflict from the University of Nottingham School of Law. He brings extensive management and leadership experience from serving twelve years in the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, including multiple deployments in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe with conventional and special operations forces.
Dore is charged with revitalizing and expanding Duke Law’s student pro bono projects and restoring them to regular operations after two years in which pandemic restrictions limited the scope of their community services and outreach. “I’m looking forward to a return to normalcy where students can pursue a wide range of pro bono projects and, frankly, help more people,” he said.
Part of the Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono, the program provides experiential learning opportunities for students and critically needed legal services to the community through partnerships with Duke Law’s clinics and outside organizations with a wide range of missions. There are more than a dozen student-run pro bono groups at Duke Law, including the Duke Immigrant and Refugee Project, the Consumer Rights & Economic Justice Project, and the Clemency Project.
“D.J. is the ideal person to help us expand and enhance the program, given his years of experience in public interest work, his wide range of practice area exposure, his strong ties to the Legal Aid community, and what we already knew from observing his work with our pro bono projects,” said Assistant Dean of Public Interest and Pro Bono Stella Boswell.
“He is passionate about service, excellent at training students and lawyers, and loves mentoring students. Through partnering with him in the past, I have been impressed with his mentoring skills and how he models the highest levels of professionalism, respect, and client care, regardless of whether or not that client is paying for the help. I love that our students are going to learn that from him.”
Dore’s own motivation for public service began growing up in Durham and developed throughout law school, where he won numerous student pro bono awards. When an opportunity to join LANC’s Raleigh office opened he jumped at the chance to work under the tutelage of Victor Boone, a much-honored public interest attorney who spent his entire career at Legal Aid, and assist people experiencing domestic violence, elder abuse, housing insecurity, benefits denials, and more. “I found that work to be very appealing and very important. And it’s a passion that I’m excited to bring to Duke.”
Positions at Legal Aid flagship offices have gotten increasingly more competitive, and newly minted attorneys must not only demonstrate a commitment to public service, but be practice-ready, Dore said.
“Legal service organizations are looking for that new attorney who can show up and within a couple weeks of starting be polished enough to go to court. At Legal Aid, you’re interacting with clients who are going through the most difficult time of their lives, so you need both the hard skills to fiercely advocate their case and the soft skills to be able to establish trust with a domestic violence victim, a person who is facing eviction from their home, or a homeless veteran with undiagnosed PTSD. That’s what’s required to get hired now.”
To that end, Dore’s plans for the pro bono office include standardizing student training so all pro bono volunteers start their projects with a baseline level of client engagement skills.
“Some Duke students show up with well-developed soft skills. Others have less experience and need the space to practice. We want to set up any student who volunteers with the skills to be successful,” he said. “Ultimately if they’re successful in pro bono projects that’s going to make them better summer interns, whether they go to big law or public interest work, and better attorneys wherever they end up.”
Dore’s hiring reflects one of the top priorities of James B. Duke and Benjamin N. Duke Dean Kerry Abrams: instilling a habit of service in students so they will continue to use their skills and privilege as lawyers to further access to justice throughout their careers.
At a recent Duke Law alumni event Dore was impressed by the number of graduates who told him pro bono work was the most meaningful part of their law school experience, and who continued to volunteer after embarking on their careers.
He’d like to see every Duke Law student participate in pro bono work: “That doesn’t mean everyone has to be a pro bono all-star, but I would love it if every student experienced a pro bono project by the time they graduate. Developing a sense of professional responsibility to do pro bono work is good for them, it’s good for Duke, and it’s absolutely critical for those clients who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access such high-quality legal services."
Indeed, the support of private co-counsel from Robinson Bradshaw’s appellate team helped tip the scales in Raleigh Hous. Auth. v. Winston, 376 N.C. 790, 855 S.E.2d 209 (2021), LANC’s recent victory for public housing residents, he noted.
“To have talented appellate attorneys bring their expertise to a pro bono case was not only transformative to our client, who was able to stay in her home but, more importantly, set precedent in North Carolina that protects thousands of low-income tenants,” Dore said. “Duke Law students can make the same impact when they graduate but the skills and values are nurtured now.”