Two-Week Courses

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The Duke Law Summer Institute on Law and Policy curriculum will focus on topics important to potential and future law students, as well current and aspiring practitioners in fields that require mastery of constitutional, statutory, and regulatory law and policymaking.

Registration and tuition will include special events for program participants and course materials. Upon successful completion of the program, participants will be awarded a certificate endorsed by the Dean of Duke Law School, Kerry Abrams, and Faculty Director of the Institute, Neil Siegel.

The program takes place over the weeknights of two, two-week sessions in July; with the exception noted below, classes meet on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings, with Wednesday evenings reserved for special programs. Institute classes will be held online. Courses will introduce participants to legal reasoning, US constitutional law, with a focus on timely subjects such as the constitutionality of affirmative action programs, current topics in race, elections, and politics.

Tuition for a single course is $600; for each additional course, tuition is $400.

Session One: Monday, July 1 - Thursday, July 11, 2024*

How to "Think Like a Lawyer": Introduction to Legal Reasoning

Professor Neil Siegel
5:45 pm-7:15 pm

This course introduces students to what it means to “think like a lawyer.” Students will learn to identify the predominant features of legal reasoning, and will examine whether those features are distinctive to law or instead are persistent characteristics of ordinary human thinking. Topics include rules-based reasoning, reasoning from precedent, reasoning from authority, analogical reasoning, the common law method, the interpretation of statutes, and the skeptical charge of legal realism that legal reasoning does not actually decide cases. An over-arching question is whether legal reasoning is predominantly backward-looking, or whether it is characteristically forward-looking as well. Those students potentially interested in applying to law school will especially benefit from this course, as it introduces several of the basic themes and analytical tools of the law school curriculum.

* Due to the Independence Day holiday, classes during the first week of this session will be held on July 1, July 2, and July 3.


Session Two: Monday, July 15 - Thursday, July 25, 2024

From Congressional and Presidential Power to Liberty and Equality Rights: Introduction to Constitutional Law

Professor Neil Siegel
5:45 pm-7:15 pm

This course introduces students to the field of U.S. constitutional law through the study of federalism, the separation of powers, and select constitutional rights. Constitutional law is a core course typically taught during the first year of law school and is the subject of, or a pre-requisite to, numerous advanced courses in the second and third years. Students in this course will learn about the primary themes of the U.S. Constitution, the different kinds of constitutional arguments, some basic principles of constitutional analysis, and various sources of constitutional change. Case studies include important questions of congressional power, presidential power, or individual rights: (1) whether Congress has the power to create a national bank and require Americans to possess health insurance; (2) when the President may act in defiance of Congress; (3) when gun-control legislation violates the Second and Fourteenth Amendments; (4) why Brown v. Board of Education is correctly decided (and the implications for affirmative action); and (5) whether state bans on same-sex marriage violate the Constitution’s liberty or equality guarantees.

Thinking About Law School (or Starting Soon)? How to Succeed as a Law Student

Professor Rebecca Rich
7:30 pm-9:00 pm

This course is designed for those who are wondering whether law school would be right for them and for those who will start law school in the fall.  Students will learn about the law school curriculum, with a focus on the first (“1L”) year; how to meet their own expectations and the expectations of their professors; and how to make the most of the intellectual and professional experience.  The course first introduces each of the standard 1L courses: (1) Civil Procedure, (2) Contracts, (3) Torts, (4) Property, (5) Criminal Law, (6) Constitutional Law, and (6) Legal Research and Writing. It then surveys the professional skills and practices that are necessary to thrive across that curriculum.  The legal skills featured in the course include how to prepare for class by reading and briefing judicial opinions with care, how to prepare for final exams by outlining courses, and how to use proven exam-taking strategies.  The practices covered include responding to “cold calls” and volunteering in class, making effective use of office hours, taking advantage of other opportunities to develop a strong relationship with professors, and scheduling both to succeed in school and to achieve a healthy work-life balance.  Whether your goals are to practice law, to become a law professor, or to work in a different field for which a legal education and law degree are useful, this course will give you a good sense of what law school is like so that you can make sound decisions and get the most out of your education.