Law School Organizations

Public Interest & Pro Bono

Some of your time should be spent doing pro bono work. Through public interest, law students gain an opportunity to learn about the many ways that attorneys perform public service, whether in a nonprofit organization, a governmental agency, or a private law firm. The Pro Bono Project brings classroom learning alive by providing law students with real-life opportunities to use their new knowledge and skills. The Pro Bono Project is a program whereby students are invited to pledge fifty hours of law-related service to the community during their three years of law school. Some students describe their involvement in pro bono as the most rewarding part of their law school experience. For more information, check out the public interest site or come to one of the informational meetings in the fall to hear about and sign up for various pro bono projects.

Duke Bar Association

This is what DBA says about itself: “The Duke Bar Association coordinates the professional, social, and other extracurricular activities of the student body. The association resembles in its composition and purpose both a university student government and a professional bar association. It addresses student grievances and serves as a liaison between students, faculty, and the administration. The association oversees all student organizations, publicizes Law School activities, sponsors athletic and social programs, and disburses its dues funds among the school’s organizations.” I am most familiar with DBA as the group that organizes weekly trips to a designated bar (called “bar review”—a nice turn of phrase that will come back to haunt us after we graduate when we will learn what bar review is really about: lots of time in the library). DBA organizes many other worthy events, such as Dedicated to Durham (a biannual public service event involving students and faculty), softball and bowling leagues for the law school (the biggest bowling league in North Carolina), faculty/student mixers, and other social events. One of the other key functions of DBA is to act as a liaison between the students, faculty and administration. To meet that goal DBA sends student representatives to every major Faculty Committee at Duke Law, including the Admissions, Faculty Appointments, Planning and Curriculum Committees. Each of these Committees requires a different time commitment but students are an invaluable part of every major decision made at the law school from faculty hiring to grading system changes.

Duke Law School Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF)

The Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) is composed of students interested in giving back to their communities by pursuing professional careers in public interest or government work. PILF promotes public service by raising money to fund summer positions in the public interest sector. PILF’s biggest fundraiser is also one of Duke Law’s biggest social events. The annual Auction & Gala PILF puts on brings together professors, students, staff and friends together for a night of silent and live auction fun, as well as socializing in your best dress. PILF will also bring in guest speakers to campus to discuss their careers and opportunities available in the public interest sector.

Journals and Law Reviews

The journals are student-run publications that publish academic legal articles written by law professors and legal scholars from across the country and, in some cases, across the world. Journal membership is important to many potential employers, and some students actually profess enjoying the work. Employers like the credential because it implies some form of selectivity (grades or writing ability), and journals hone students’ writing, editing, and cite checking skills. Students enjoy the relationships they can develop from working on a project within a small group as well as the opportunity to have a piece of their own published. Duke Law students are fortunate to have a number of choices (nine) when deciding which journal to join. Duke Law’s Journals are: Alaska Law Review, Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law, Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy,  Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum, Duke Forum for Law and Social Change, Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, Law and Contemporary Problems, Duke Law Journal, and Duke Law & Technology Review. Each spring, there are a few informational meetings for first-year students to learn about each journal, and the application process. All of the journals except the Duke Law Journal are now located in newly-constructed offices on first floor of the Goodson Law Library.

Moot Court

Moot Court is a chance to dress up in professional clothes and practice the skill of oral argument. As part of your Legal Analysis, Research and Writing course, each first-year must argue the topic of their appellate brief (the largest assignment for the class, due in the spring) in the first round of the Hardt Cup Moot Court Competition. This is scary for many, as the judges (older students) pepper students with questions during the oral arguments. But, it is also rewarding: for some this is the first time they have been required to think on their feet, and everyone comes through unscathed. After the first round, all students are invited to continue in the competition, where they are given a new topic and 24 hours in which to develop an oral argument. The next week it happens again. The top scoring students are invited to join the Moot Court Board, with the top eight competing to be declared Hardt Cup champion. If you don’t make Moot Court as a 1L, there’s no need to despair; competitions available to 2L’s and 3L’s allow upperclass students to join the Board.

Every year the Dean’s Cup features an opportunity for 2L and 3L students to compete in an intramural moot court competitions that has been judged by Justice Scalia and Justice Alito in years past.

Mock Trial

While Moot Court offers students the chance to test out the appellate experience, Mock Trial is an opportunity for students to perform trials — examine witnesses, make objections, and deliver opening and closing arguments. Students can compete 1L year in the spring with a team comprised of four students. Top competitors in this intrascholastic tournament make the Mock Trial Board. Once on the board, students compete in tournaments all over the country. In recent years, Duke Mock Trial Team has consistently brought home top prizes from many competitions across the nation.

Other Student Organizations

Listed below are the names of Duke Law’s student organizations. Although there are a variety of organizations, if you don’t see your interest represented, it is possible to organize your own student group (and receive funding, of course). The best way to get involved is to keep your eyes and ears open at the beginning of the year, when there will be lots of activity, as well as talk to older students to learn about groups of which they are members.


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