PUBLISHED:April 26, 2018

Duke Law no. 1 in full-time legal employment for class of 2017

Duke Law ranks first among all U.S. law schools for the percentage of 2017 graduates employed in legal jobs as of March 15, according to a National Law Journal analysis.

Of the 225 members of Duke’s class of 2017, 93.8 percent are employed in long-term, full-time jobs that require bar passage and are not funded by the school  largely considered the gold standard for law jobs, NLJ wrote  while 95.6 percent are employed in long-term, full-time jobs requiring bar passage or for which a JD is an advantage and not funded by the school. An additional 2017 graduate is working in a Law School-funded fellowship for the year.

Duke also ranks third among all law schools in the percentage of 2017 graduates working in federal clerkships or jobs at firms of 100 or more lawyers, a category NLJ termed “elite jobs.” Duke ranks fourth in federal clerkships alone.

“These outstanding employment numbers reflect a recognition by employers that Duke Law graduates will come to them well trained for the practice of law and also will have acquired those personal attributes which enable young lawyers to excel,” said David F. Levi, James B. and Benjamin N. Duke Dean of the School of Law.

On another key measure of employment outcomes, 97.44 percent of Duke’s 2017 graduates passed the bar exam on the first try, which ranks third among all law schools, according to the American Bar Association. Other results for the class of 2017 include:

  • Sixty-eight percent are working in law firms. Of those, nearly eight in 10 are with firms with 500 or more lawyers. Latham & Watkins, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, and Ropes & Gray employ the most members of the class of 2017.
  • Twenty percent are serving in judicial clerkships. Members of the class of 2017 are clerking in U.S. District Courts across the country and most of the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals as well as in many state courts. Eleven members are going on to a second clerkship.
  • Six percent of are employed in government or public interest positions. They include four graduates with positions in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps of the U.S. Armed Forces, two who secured spots in a federal government Legal Honors Program, and one recipient each of Skadden and Equal Justice Works fellowships for work with non-profit organizations.
  • The most popular destination for 2017 graduates was New York, which accounts for nearly one-third of the class, followed by Washington, D.C., North Carolina, and California.

Duke Law students are encouraged to begin thinking about their career paths the moment they arrive as 1Ls. First-year students meet one-on-one with a career counselor at least three times, participate in a variety of extracurricular programs designed to teach professional development skills, and have frequent opportunities to network with alumni and employers, including the ESQ Symposium and 1L Blueprint for Success events.

“Employment success starts with great admitted students, outstanding curricular and co-curricular experiences over all three years, and investing in yourself and your own professional development from day one,” said Bruce Elvin, associate dean and director of the Career and Professional Development Center. “Good outcomes don’t just happen magically after three years of law school.”  

Duke’s small class size enables students to get individualized support for their specific career objectives. For example, students who are interested in clerking meet with a dedicated director of clerkship programs and are assigned a faculty clerkship advisor. Those who get a clerkship interview participate in a mock interview and are connected with alumni who clerked on that court or for that judge.

Students interested in public interest careers can participate in the new Public Interest and Public Service Certificate program. In addition to working with a dedicated law school career counselor, students in the program will be assigned faculty, alumni and peer mentors who assist in planning courses to take and navigating opportunities during law school.  Students pursuing public interest careers often work with career counselors and faculty to prepare fellowship proposals or are provided mock interview panels for the unique job interviews associated with this work.

Ocoszio Jackson ’17, who is now working in the Legal Honors Program at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, entered Duke Law knowing he wanted to help people but unsure exactly where his career might take him. He applied for the program after receiving encouragement from Levi and support from Assistant Dean Stella Boswell and Assistant Director and Senior Career Counselor Jennifer Caplan.

“I’m grateful for the career office and Dean Levi for encouraging us to apply for the federal government Honors Program,” Jackson said. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities to do work that has real impact.”

For complete Duke Law employment data, visit the Career Center website.