Law School History Timeline

  • Braxton Craven

    Braxton Craven

    Braxton Craven, President of Normal (later Trinity) College, in Randolph County, North Carolina, the predecessor of Duke University, inaugurates lectures on Political and Natural Law as part of a liberal arts curriculum. In 1855 these are supplemented by lectures on Constitutional and International Law.

    Date: 1850 to 1882
    Filed under: Deans
  • Law Department Established at Trinity College

    The Law Department is established as one of eleven academic departments in Trinity College.

    Date: 1865
    Filed under: Events
  • School of Law Professional Training

    A separate School of Law is organized to offer professional training in 1868. The School of Law closes and legal instruction is discontinued following President Craven's death. Legal instruction resumes as an academic course in the History Department in 1887.

    Date: 1868 to 1887
    Filed under: Events
  • A. C. Avery

    Trinity College moves from Randolph County to Durham in 1891, and the School of Law reopens with Justice A. C. Avery of the North Carolina Supreme Court as its Dean. He remains dean until 1894 when the school closes again and legal instruction is discontinued for financial reasons.

    Date: 1891 to 1894
    Filed under: Deans
  • Samuel Fox Mordecai

    Samuel Fox Mordecai

    Samuel Fox Mordecai, a Raleigh attorney and part-time law teacher at Wake Forest College, is appointed Senior Professor of Law in 1904. James Buchanan Duke and Benjamin Newton Duke provide an endowment to reopen the School of Law. Professor Mordecai is named Dean the following year and initiates a reorganization of the School of Law.

    Date: 1904 to 1927
    Filed under: Deans
  • School of Law Relocates

    The School of Law relocates to the second floor of the East Duke Building.

    Date: 1905
    Filed under: Building
  • Trinity Joined AALS

    Trinity is admitted to membership in the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) in 1905. It remains a member until 1919 when Dean Mordecai withdraws Trinity's membership in protest of the AALS policy on law library collection size.  The law school rejoins the AALS in 1930.

    Date: 1905 to 1919
    Filed under: Events
  • Duke University Created

    Duke University is created, and Trinity College becomes its undergraduate school for men.

    Date: 1924
    Filed under: Events
  • Law Library Collection Expands

    Between 1927-1930, after a period of neglect, the size of the law library increases from 4,000 volumes to over 12,000 volumes, the minimum thought essential at the time for a working library.

    Date: 1927 to 1930
    Filed under: Library
  • W. Bryan Bolich

    W. Bryan Bolich is named Acting Dean after Dean Mordecai’s death.

    Date: 1927 to 1930
    Filed under: Deans
  • School of Law Moved to Carr Building

    The School of Law moves into renovated quarters in the Carr Building on East Campus. 

    Date: 1927
    Filed under: Building
  • First Female Law Student Admitted

    Miriam Cox, a Duke Woman's College graduate and court reporter, is the first woman student admitted to Duke Law School.

    Date: 1927
    Filed under: Events
  • Three-Year Curriculum Initiated

    In 1928, the modern three-year curriculum is initiated. Prior to this time, North Carolina required only two years of study for the bar examination, so the third year was seldom elected and the LLB rarely granted.

    Date: 1928
    Filed under: Events
  • School of Law Moved to West Campus Quad

    The School of Law moves into a new building on the Main Quadrangle of the West Campus.

    Date: 1930
    Filed under: Building
  • Justin Miller

    Justin Miller

    In 1930 Justin Miller, Dean of the Law School of the University of Southern California, is appointed Dean.

    Date: 1930 to 1934
    Filed under: Deans
  • Duke Bar Association Established

    The Duke Bar Association, modeled on the American Bar Association, is established by the law students to: "1) foster legal science, 2) maintain the honor and dignity of the legal profession among law students, 3) cultivate professional ethics and social intercourse among its members, and 4) promote the welfare of the Law School of Duke University."

    Date: 1931
    Filed under: Centers and Clinics
  • Legal Aid Clinic Created

    The Duke Legal Aid Clinic, one of the first law school-connected programs of its kind in the country, is established by John S. Bradway. The clinic operates through 1959, when Bradway assumes emeritus status. Clinical legal education resumes in 1972. 

    Date: 1932
    Filed under: Centers and Clinics
  • Law and Contemporary Problems

    Law and Contemporary Problems, a faculty-edited journal begins; each issue is devoted to the cross-disciplinary treatment of a law-related topic. In 1982 students under faculty supervision assume major editorial responsibilities.

    Date: 1933
    Filed under: Publications
  • Duke Bar Association Journal

    Duke Bar Association Journal begins publication. The journal ceases in 1942.

    Date: 1933 to 1942
    Filed under: Publications
  • Order of the Coif Established

    The Duke Chapter of the Order of the Coif is established.

    Date: 1933
    Filed under: Events
  • H. Claude Horack

    H. Claude Horack

    Professor H. Claude Horack becomes Dean when Justin Miller accepts an appointment in the Roosevelt administration.

    Date: 1934 to 1947
    Filed under: Deans
  • Richard Nixon Graduates from Duke Law

    Richard Milhouse Nixon, the future 37th President of the United States, graduates from Duke Law School in 1937.

    Date: 1937
    Filed under: Events
  • Log Cabins Constructed

    Dean Horack oversees the construction of five log cabins on the northern edge of the West Campus. Built to help alleviate the shortage of housing for law students, they are used as dormitory and recreational facilities. The cabins are less spartan than their name implies and have electricity, central heating and indoor plumbing.

    Date: 1938
    Filed under: Building
  • World War II

    Many faculty members leave for wartime service, and student enrollment drops precipitously. The law schools of Duke and Wake Forest combine to conduct a unified operation in Durham for the duration of the war.

    Date: 1942 to 1946
    Filed under: Events
  • Bar Rag

    The Bar Rag, a student tabloid sheet, is published until 1959. It reappears in 1964, renamed the Devil's Advocate, and continues publication until 1981. It is revived again in 2002 and published until 2009.

    Date: 1946
    Filed under: Publications
  • Harold Shepard

    After Dean Horack’s retirement Professor Harold Shepard is appointed Dean.   Shepard remains Dean until 1949. 

    Date: 1947 to 1949
    Filed under: Deans
  • Post-War Boom

    Returning veterans enroll in numbers that swell the student population to unprecedented size for the next five years.

    Date: 1947
    Filed under: Events
  • Alumni Association Created

    The Duke Law Alumni Association is established. Every alumnus/a of the Law School is a member of the Law Alumni Association. 

    Date: 1948
    Filed under: Events
  • Prolocutor

    The Prolocutor, a yearbook, is published from 1949 until 1962.

    Date: 1949 to 1962
    Filed under: Publications
  • Charles L. B. Lowndes

    When Dean Shepard resigns to accept an appointment to the Stanford Law School, Professor Charles L.B. Lowndes is named Acting Dean.

    Date: 1949 to 1950
    Filed under: Deans
  • Joseph A. McClain, Jr.

    Joseph A. McClain, Jr., a St. Louis attorney and former Dean of the Mercer University School of Law, is named Dean in 1950. 

    Date: 1950 to 1956
    Filed under: Deans
  • Duke Bar Journal

    The first issue of the Duke Bar Journal is published. Published twice a year, it is completely student written and edited until 1953 when faculty scholarship is included.

    Date: 1951
    Filed under: Publications
  • Dale F. Stansbury

    Dean McClain resigns to return to private practice, and Professor Dale F. Stansbury becomes Acting Dean.

    Date: 1956 to 1957
    Filed under: Deans
  • Duke Law Journal

    In 1957, the Duke Bar Journal is renamed Duke Law Journal.  In 1959 the journal changes to a quarterly publication. 

    Date: 1957
    Filed under: Publications
  • Elvin R. (Jack) Latty

    Professor Elvin R. (Jack) Latty, who became Acting Dean in 1957, is appointed Dean in 1958.

    Date: 1957 to 1966
    Filed under: Deans
  • World Rule of Law Center

    The World Rule of Law Center (later called the Rule of Law Research Center) is established by Arthur Larson, who serves as its director until his retirement in 1980.

    Date: 1959
    Filed under: Centers and Clinics
  • First African-American Law Students Admitted

    Walter Thaniel Johnson, Jr. and David Robinson are the first African-American students admitted to Duke Law School.

    Date: 1961
    Filed under: Events
  • New School of Law Building

    The School of Law moved into a new building on Towerview Road and Science Drive. The Honorable Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States, is the principal speaker at the dedication ceremony on Law Day, 1963.

    Date: 1963
    Filed under: Building
  • Duke Law Withdraws from the NCBA

    To protest the North Carolina Bar Association's denial of membership to an African-American graduate of the Law School, the faculty approves a resolution to sever ties with the Bar Association until applicants are accepted without discrimination based on race. The Law School re-establishes its connection with the Bar Association in 1969.

    Date: 1966
    Filed under: Events
  • F. Hodge O'Neal

    When Dean Latty resigns to return to teaching, Professor F. Hodge O'Neal is named Dean. He is dean until 1968.

    Date: 1966 to 1968
    Filed under: Deans
  • A. Kenneth Pye

    When Dean O'Neal resigns to return to teaching and research, Professor A. Kenneth Pye is named Dean from 1968.  He became University Chancellor in 1970,  resumed the deanship when Dean Sneed resigns in 1973 to become Deputy Attorney General of the United States. Pye remains dean until 1976, returning again to the position of University Chancellor.

    Date: 1968 to 1976
    Filed under: Deans
  • Joseph Tyree Sneed

    When Dean Pye resigns to become Chancellor of the University in 1970, Professors Latty, O'Neal, and Shimm are constituted as an Executive Committee to administer the Law School until Professor Joseph T. Sneed of Stanford Law School, who had been named Dean, arrives in 1971. 

    Date: 1971 to 1973
    Filed under: Deans
  • First Female Faculty Member

    Patricia H. Marschall becomes Duke Law's first female faculty member.

    Date: 1972
    Filed under: Events
  • First Law School Faculty Chair Established

    The Duke Endowment establishes the first faculty chair at the Law School, the William R. and Thomas L. Perkins Professorship held by William W. Van Alstyne.

    Date: 1973
    Filed under: Events
  • Walter E. Dellinger III

    Dean Pye again becomes Chancellor of the University, and Professor Walter E. Dellinger III is named Acting Dean. 

    Date: 1976 to 1977
    Filed under: Deans
  • Barrister Donor Society Established

    The Barrister Donor Society is established to honor key benefactors whose generous gifts enable the School to continue its commitment to excellence in education and research.

    Date: 1977
    Filed under: Events
  • Paul D. Carrington

    Professor Paul D. Carrington of the University of Michigan Law School is named Dean in 1978.  He remains Dean until 1988.

    Date: 1978 to 1988
    Filed under: Deans
  • Duke Law Magazine

    The Duke Law Magazine, a semi-annual Law School alumni periodical, begins publication.

    Date: 1982
    Filed under: Publications
  • Alaska Law Review

    The Alaska Law Review, a student-edited, practitioner-oriented publication underwritten by the Alaska Bar Association, begins publication.

    Date: 1984
    Filed under: Publications
  • JD/LLM Program

    The JD/LLM (International and Comparative Law) combined degree program, the first of its kind in the country, was inaugurated.

    The LLM program for foreign-trained lawyers was initiated. International programs grew to include the SJD program, the international visiting scholars program, a variety of exchange programs and externship opportunities, as well as the summer institutes in Europe and Asia.

    Date: 1985
    Filed under: Events
  • Pamela B. Gann

    Pamela B. Gann

    In 1988 Dean Carrington resigns to return to teaching, and Professor Pamela B. Gann is named Dean.  She is the first woman, as well as the first Duke Law graduate, to serve as Dean.  Gann remains Dean until 1999. 

    Date: 1988 to 1999
    Filed under: Deans
  • Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law

    Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law, a specialized journal devoted exclusively to the issues of comparative and international law, begins publication in 1990.

    Date: 1990
    Filed under: Publications
  • Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum

    The Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum, begins in 1991 as an interdisciplinary magazine published annually.  Since then, the Forum has grown into a traditional environmental law journal. DELPF has affiliation with the Nicholas School for the Environment, the Terry Sanford Institute for Public Policy, and the Law School. 

    Date: 1991
    Filed under: Publications
  • Pro Bono Program

    A voluntary Pro Bono program is established with 44 students providing assistance to programs in the Durham community.

    Date: 1991
    Filed under: Centers and Clinics
  • Center on Law, Ethics, and National Security

    The Center on Law, Ethics, and National Security is founded at Duke University School of Law on September 1, 1993, by Professor Robinson Everett.  The Center focuses on national security decision-making from an ethical perspective.

    Date: 1993
    Filed under: Centers and Clinics
  • Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy

    The Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy, a student-edited annual publication begins. Its mission is to foster debate, to publish work largely overlooked by other law reviews, and to encourage scholarship outside the bounds of conventional law school curricula.

    Date: 1994
    Filed under: Publications
  • Birkerts Addition Completed

    In April 1995, the Gunnar Birkerts and Associates designed addition is completed.The project expanded the library, added classrooms, renovated student spaces, added improved faculty office space and administrative space, and created a courtyard between the faculty and library wings, which was dedicated to alumnae of the law school in 2001.

    Date: 1995
    Filed under: Building
  • Dedicated to Durham

    "Dedicated to Durham," a project encouraging students, faculty, and staff to volunteer to work with local non-profit organizations, begins as part of the dedication events for the law School addition; designed to strengthen ties with the Durham community, it becomes an ongoing law school service program.

    Date: 1995
    Filed under: Event
  • Website Goes Online

    The Law School website is launched at

    Date: 1995
    Filed under: Events
  • Journals Available Online

    All Duke Law student-edited journals are made freely and openly available on the Law School website.

    Date: 1998
    Filed under: Publications
  • Clark C. Havighurst

    Dean Gann resigns to become President of Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, and Professor Clark C. Havighurst is named Interim Dean. 

    Date: 1999
    Filed under: Deans
  • Katharine T. Bartlett

    Katharine T. Bartlett

    Professor Katharine T. Bartlett is named Dean in 2000 and remains in that position until 2007.

    Date: 2000 to 2007
    Filed under: Deans
  • Millennium Renovation

    Duke Law completes a significant building project, which includes a series of two new seminar rooms, a classroom and a new courtroom, all designed to make use of the most advanced technologies in teaching law students and preparing them to enter the high-tech professional world of the 21st century.

    Date: 2000
    Filed under: Building
  • Duke Law & Technology Review

    Duke Law & Technology Review a student-edited online legal publication that focuses on the evolving intersection of law and technology begins in 2000.

    Date: 2000
    Filed under: Publications
  • First Great Lives in the Law Lecture

    The "Great Lives in the Law" lecture series, sponsored by the Duke Program in Public Law, is inaugurated by William H. Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the United States. Subsequent speakers included other Supreme Court Justices, prominent practitioners, international jurists, and legal scholars

    Date: 2002
    Filed under: Events
  • Duke Law Blueprint for Lawyer Education and Development

    The Duke Blueprint for Lawyer Education and Development, a codification of the guiding principles upon which students are encouraged to focus during law school and throughout their careers is promulgated.

    Date: 2002
    Filed under: Events
  • Phase I of New Renovation Project Finishes

    Phase I of an ambitious building construction and renovation project, the reconstruction of two large classrooms and the replacement of the facade of the front of the building with "Duke brick," is completed.

    Date: 2004
    Filed under: Building
  • Scholarship Repository

    The Duke Law Scholarship Repository, a full-text open access archive of scholarly works written by the Duke Law faculty, is launched.

    Date: 2005
    Filed under: Events
  • Renovation Phase II Finishes

    Phase II of the building project, the addition of a 30,000 square foot wing, is completed providing new offices for faculty, program centers, clinics, and journals. 

    Date: 2005
    Filed under: Building
  • Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy

    Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy, a student-edited publication that examines legal issues at the intersection of constitutional litigation and public policy begins publication.

    Date: 2006
    Filed under: Publications
  • David F. Levi

    David F. Levi

    Dean Bartlett resigns to return to teaching and research at the end of 2006-2007 academic year, and is succeeded by the Honorable David F. Levi, Chief U.S. District Judge of the Eastern District of California. 

    Date: 2007 to 2018
    Filed under: Deans
  • Renovation Phase III Finishes

    The building project is completed in August 2008. The three-story Star Commons, providing comfortable seating for studying and casual dining, and the completely-renovated J. Michael Goodson Law Library are the foci of this last phase.

    The official dedication ceremony features remarks by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and Judge Allyson Duncan '75 of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Date: 2008
    Filed under: Building
  • Duke Forum for Law & Social Change

    Duke Forum for Law & Social Change, a journal created with a mission to foster progressive discussion around important social issues and cover a range of legal topics, begins publication. 

    Date: 2008
    Filed under: Publications
  • Duke in D.C. Program

    Duke in D.C. gives students who are interested in public policy, public service, and careers in the public sector an opportunity to engage in hands-on law practice through a full-time externship experience in Washington, D.C.

    Date: 2009
    Filed under: Events
  • LLM in Law and Entrepreneurship

    In 2011, Duke Law starts to offer a LLM in Law and Entrepreneurship.  The program provides students with a deep understanding of the historical and current perspectives on entrepreneurship and the law, plus presents students with an opportunity to explore their own potential for entrepreneurship.

    Date: 2011
    Filed under: Events
  • Judicial Studies Program Begins

    Developed by the Duke Law Center for Judicial Studies, the Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Judicial Studies begins in summer 2012.This program for sitting judges takes place over two summers, with state, federal, and international judges studying together for four weeks each summer and publishing theses based on original research at the end of the program.

    Date: 2012
    Filed under: Events
  • Judicature

    Judicature, The Scholarly Journal for Judges begins publication. Produced by the Duke Law Center for Judicial Studies, this journal contains articles by judges, scholars, and practitioners on topics such as law reform, emerging legal issues, case-management techniques, and other matters that pertain to the daily work of a judge.

    Date: 2015
    Filed under: Publications
  • Kerry Abrams

    After serving eleven years David F. Levi steps down as dean.  Kerry Abrams, vice provost for faculty affairs and professor of law at UVA, is selected as his successor.

    Date: 2018
    Filed under: Deans