PUBLISHED:June 17, 2008

Welcoming the summer starters of the Class of 2011

June 17, 2008 — Welcoming Duke Law School’s “summer starters” on May 29, David F. Levi joked that he didn’t even know what the term meant a year ago, as he was about to begin his tenure as dean. “Is this, maybe, a fertilizer for the garden, or perhaps something for a barbecue, or something like an exotic alcoholic drink with an umbrella in it?” he asked, eliciting laughter from his audience.

Levi was addressing the 46 students of the Class of 2011 who are pursuing joint degrees — either a JD/LLM in international and comparative law or a JD and a graduate degree from another Duke school or program.

“You will find many opportunities to engage with others,” Levi told them, pointing out the benefits of starting law school with a small group of peers. “Building relationships that will carry you forward as you move forward in your career is truly one of your responsibilities as law students,” he continued.

An eclectic mix of welcoming activities, including campus tours, an evening reception at a new downtown restaurant, bike rides and group runs led by faculty and staff, and a Durham Bulls baseball game — in addition to sessions on how to read a brief and an introduction to the Duke Blueprint for Lawyer Education and Development (LEAD) — helped put students at ease. “I’ve met so many people so far, and everyone is so friendly,” said Katelyn Love. “We have already started forming a really strong bond and are hanging out together.”

Introducing the students to Blueprint principles and Duke’s emphasis on leadership training, Associate Dean for Student Affairs Jill Miller took students through an exercise to help them gauge their own leadership styles and abilities to adapt to change. She started the session by showing a picture of Fred Smith, a Yale undergraduate who wrote a paper that received a “C” grade and was told by his professor his ideas weren’t feasible. Smith used those very ideas as the basis for the company he founded — FedEx, Miller explained. She used the example to show students that people have different ideas and concepts when dealing with change.

After they filled out questionnaires to determine their preferred leadership styles — “originator,” “conserver,” or “pragmatist” — Miller broke the students up into small groups where they presented their core leadership style traits. The purpose of this exercise was to assess if the group members did indeed match up to the traits of their leadership style.

Danielle Josephs called her fellow summer starters “inspiring,” an impression shared by Joshua Mitchell. “I’m in awe of their intellect, accomplishments, and enthusiasm,” he said. “We have an amazingly talented group of folks starting this summer.”

“I appreciated the brief conversations with classmates as we shuffled from one event to another,” added James Pearce. “Those brief conversations were in many ways the seeds of what I hope will grow into strong and vibrant relationships.” - C.H.