Student Defense - Duke University School of Law

Dating back to 1868, Duke Law is consistently ranked as one of the top law schools in the United States. It is one of the “T14” law schools consistently ranked in the top 14 in the country, and in 2017, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings listed Duke Law as the number one ranked law school in the world.

Law is a celebrated field of study offering a lucrative career. As a result, the barrier to entry to a revered school like Duke is famously high, and law school will undoubtedly prove to be one of the most significant financial commitments of your life.

To have your legal career derailed after so much work and expense would be disastrous. If you are facing disciplinary processes at law school, you deserve to have your rights defended. Having an attorney advisor who understands school disciplinary proceedings and the high stakes for law students is the best way to safeguard your future.

Honor Code

Duke Law School is committed to the highest standards of academic and professional integrity. An essential part of legal training is the ethical requirements of legal practice.

Before their first day of classes, students must sign the school's honor pledge. This pledge holds students to act “in a manner that exemplifies honesty, integrity, and good character.” The pledge also promises to comply with all Duke University and Law School policies, including Student Professional Misconduct policies and standards of academic integrity.

The School of Law takes its honor code very seriously. If a student is suspected of a violation, an investigation will ensue according to Law School procedures. Though confidential, these investigations usually involve members of the administration, faculty, and student Judicial Board.

When the school has determined that a student has violated the Honor Code, they will impose a sanction ranging in severity from grade reductions to expulsion. The school will typically make a note on the student's permanent record. They may also be obliged to report the incident to the State Bar to which the student seeks admission. Depending on the offense, the State Bar may deny the student admission to the Bar. This would be catastrophic for a law student's career aspirations.

The law school's own academic and professional handbook advises that these penalties could have disastrous repercussions on a law student's prospects. Expulsion or even a lesser sanction that leaves a mark on a student's permanent record could make it impossible to pursue a legal career. The school warns that even conduct that falls short of a formal violation can have “a serious impact” on your legal career with reputational damage amongst faculty and your classmates following you through the years. These warnings underline the importance of being proactive in defending yourself from pervasive and damaging allegations.

Misconduct Disciplinary Procedures

The key figures in the investigation process at Duke Law School include the Dean, the Student Advocate Panel, and the Judicial Board. The Dean oversees all academic matters and will also be responsible for any professionalism or ethical issues. Anyone can take allegations of misconduct to the Dean. The Dean may then instruct the Student Advocate Panel to investigate. This Student Advocate Panel is made up of three elected students. The Dean and the Advocates will discuss the findings, and the Student Advocates shall determine whether to recommend a hearing by the five-person, elected Judicial Board. Should a case go to Appeal, the Appeal board will comprise three selected faculty members and two students.

  • Allegations of misconduct made to the Dean
  • Dean instructs the Student Advocate Panel to investigate
  • The Dean and the Advocates discuss the investigation
  • Judicial Board vote on whether to grant a hearing
  • Charge
  • Pre-trial conference
  • Hearing
  • Appeal

Sanctions can include any of the following:

  • Withdrawal of privileges
  • Restitution
  • No contact directive
  • Housing license restrictions/revocation
  • Fine
  • Exclusion
  • Educational initiatives
  • Community service
  • Degree revocation
  • Admonition
  • Formal warning
  • Disciplinary probation
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion

Academic Dismissal

Studying law is a challenging proposition. Meeting the demands of the heavy workload and stiff academic standards can be difficult for even the most diligent students. However, academic underperformance, even for a small part of your course, comes with the risk of academic dismissal.

If dismissed, you could still reapply for admission, in which case you will have to prove that external factors had previously prevented you from meeting the demands of the course. Your school has some discretion to offer alternative solutions if an otherwise diligent student for personal or medical reasons requires time to repeat part of their studies in order to meet the requirements for their law degree. These alternative arrangements will come with their own time and financial costs but may offer an alternative route forward when you otherwise face failure in your course.

Given the devastating consequences of dismissal or expulsion, law students should take all legitimate routes they can to avoid dismissal. Whether your defense is based on a grievance with the school or extenuating circumstances, you will want to navigate your school's disciplinary process with the best possible appeal.

Do You Need An Attorney-Advisor?

Law students face grueling schedules in a competitive environment. They must meet the competing demands on their attention while maintaining rigorous standards of integrity and excellence. Top law schools like Duke face extraordinary pressure to show peerless ethical and professional standards in order to maintain trust in the legal system. This pressure means that any infraction will be judged extremely harshly. Proceedings follow a sophisticated but complex disciplinary process.

As anyone at law school will be aware, the stakes are higher for law students. Academic or disciplinary sanctions could precede them from ever practicing in law. For this reason, if you are facing disciplinary proceedings for academic or professional reasons at law school, you must safeguard your future. To put forward your best defense and protect your right to due process, you should secure an experienced attorney-advisor.

Joseph D. Lento has unparalled experience in student discipline matters and has successfully helped countless law students address and resolve the unique challenges that can present themselves in law school. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact our offices today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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