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Essays on Law, Ethics and National Security - A LENS Center Series

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Major Daniel P. Beaulieu, USAF, State Practice and Military Objectives: International Humanitarian Law Regarding Military Applications of Otherwise Civil/Commercial Satellites , No. 16, Jan. 9, 2023

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Nicole De Brigard, Money Makes the World of Terrorism Go Round , No. 14, Mar. 22, 2022

Bailey Williams, Xiaomi v. U.S. Department of Defense: Defending the International Emergency Economic Powers Act , No. 13, Feb 14, 2022

Lindsay K. Kenney, The "Havana Syndrome" and the Use of Force: Reality, Hypotheticals, and the Effect of Changing International Norms , No. 12, Jan 11, 2022

Angelina Bianchi, Regulating the Third Frontier: The Current Unrestricted Nature of Autonomous Weapons and the Need for Regulatory Safeguards , No. 11. Aug 31, 2021

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Helene Marie Snyder, Stolen Art and National Security (Can) (Should) the U.S. Do More , No. 8, March 10, 2021

Molly Byman, Keeping the Dollar King: The Impact of Economic Sanctions on American National Security , No. 7, March 4, 2021

Jesse Ruth, How Critical is "Critical"?: Holding CFIUS Accountable Under FIRRMA's Expansion , No. 6, March 2, 2021

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The Chronicle

A look into changes in Duke Law School's admissions process in response to affirmative action ruling

<p>The Duke Law School.</p>

The Duke Law School.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling overturning race-based affirmative action, law schools across the country, including Duke, have made several changes to their application components for the 2023-24 admissions cycle.

The court’s June decision came only two months before Sept. 1, the most popular date to open applications for law schools. Some of the essay prompt changes were therefore announced on short notice. 

Duke Law School previously required a personal statement and offered applicants two optional essay prompts: a diversity statement and a statement of interest. After the Supreme Court’s decision, Duke Law School kept the personal statement and the optional statement of interest, but replaced the diversity statement with short essays.

Applicants are now required to submit one or two essays from a list of six prompts. Some of the new essay prompts invite applicants to share their “exposure to a diversity of perspectives and experiences” or their “special background,” while others center on applicants’ thoughts on equal justice, interest in public service, commitment to free expression and understanding of ethical leadership.

In previous years, many law schools required a personal statement and offered an optional diversity statement. For the 2023-24 admissions cycle, Harvard Law School has replaced the prompts with two new required essays, a statement of purpose and a statement of perspective. Several other law schools have also changed their application essay prompts, including Yale Law School .

“What they have out of this cycle is kind of testing the waters, if you will, to see if it's going to produce the kind of information they want with applicants,” pre-law advisor Patrice Barley said.

According to Barley, the lack of uniformity among law school essay prompts means applicants will have to spend more time tailoring their essays to every law school they apply to. 

“Since the pivot was so late in the application cycle, I think that law schools will be granting quite a bit of grace in the essay reading process this year, because applicants didn't have a lot of time to grapple with them,” Barley said.

Revamped essay prompts are not the only change coming to law school admissions. The logic games section of the Law School Admission Test will be replaced by either a reading comprehension or logical reasoning section beginning in August 2024. The changes will not affect the current admissions cycle.

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July 19, 2022

​​How to Get Into Duke Law [Episode 481]

​​How to Get Into Duke Law 481 July 2022

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Hear about possible changes to the law admissions process and how to get accepted [Show Summary]

Mark Hill, Assistant Dean of Admissions at Duke Law, has worked in admissions for twenty years. In this episode, he shares his thoughts on how law schools will be affected by a potential recession and the possible elimination of a test requirement . Mark explores how applicants, especially those hoping to get accepted to Duke, should handle the shifting landscape. 

(Please note: Between the recording and publication of our interview, Mark Hill was promoted to Assistant Dean of Admissions at Duke Law. The recording has his old title; the show notes reflect his new title.)

Interview with Mark Hill, Assistant Dean of Admissions at Duke Law [Show Notes]

Thanks for joining me for the 481st episode of Admissions Straight Talk . Are you applying to law school this cycle? Are you planning ahead to apply to law school next year or later? Are you competitive at your target programs? Accepted’s Law School Admissions Quiz can give you a quick reality check. Just go to accepted.com/law-quiz , complete the quiz, and you’ll not only get an assessment but also tips on how to improve your qualifications and your chances of acceptance. And it’s all free. 

I’m delighted to have an Admissions Straight Talk , Mark Hill, Assistant Dean of Admissions at Duke Law . Mark earned his bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology from Duke, and then later earned a master’s in Higher Ed from Northwestern, where he also served as Assistant Director of Admissions. In 2002, joined Duke Law as an Admissions officer. Since 2013, he has served Duke Law as Senior Director/Assistant Dean of Admissions. 

Can you give us an overview of the more distinctive elements of the Duke Law School JD program? [2:21]

The way that I think about it, there are two elements that characterize Duke. One is that we’re among a handful of really top-tier national law schools with students who come from all over and have really great job prospects all across the country. Most of our grads don’t stay in North Carolina. They’re looking elsewhere. There’s a handful of law schools like that. 

The other thing that makes us distinctive is that we have a relatively small class size. We’re in a smaller city and so we’re a smaller school. We can really give individual attention to students. We help everybody who comes here craft their own course through the opportunities at Duke to get to where they want to end up.

Because it’s a smaller school and a smaller city, we really attract folks who are intending to be full-time law students. They’re focused on engaging with one another and with their professors. I suppose it’s not for everybody, but for people who want that kind of full-on focused experience, it can be really great. 

I’ve often mentioned a couple of distinctive dual degrees. We have two JD/LLM degrees that can be completed in the three years that it would take to do a JD so they don’t add any additional time. You can get a really good concentration and an LLM focusing either on international and comparative law and all the spectrum of the things that means from public law to finance and corporate transactions. The other one focuses on law and entrepreneurship. Maybe you want to be a lawyer who works in the startup space or who works with venture capital. Maybe you have entrepreneurial ideas of your own. Maybe you just want to work for law firms that help provide legal services to those kinds of companies. The JD/LLM in law and entrepreneurship is a great thing there. Those are Duke-specific dual degrees. Of course, we have dual degrees with graduate programs like JD/MBA but I like to mention those as things that are particularly distinctive about Duke.

This part of North Carolina has a lot of tech and startup activity because of Duke, UNC, and North Carolina State which are three major research universities in this area. A lot of big tech companies are actually moving in here like Google, Apple, and Meta. It’s a natural fit not only because there’s a growing demand for lawyers with those skills across the board but also because Duke is in a really good place to help our students connect with some experiences in that realm.

Is the dual degree three years or is there an additional year required? [5:26]

You do them both in three years. One component of it is a summer experience that happens in the summer after the first year of law school. The international LLM students will go to the Netherlands and study at the University of Liden. We help them line up a placement with a public interest or organization or law firm outside of the U.S. Similarly, there’s a startup boot camp for the LLM/LE students either here in North Carolina or sometimes a Silicon Valley program. That’s part of the way that you get some additional academic credit and it allows you to complete the degrees in three years with no additional time on the back end.

In the second year of the combined degree program, do students go for a typical internship? [6:12]

During the pandemic, we saw a surge in applications to all law schools. this year, the lsac overall applicant volume is down about 11.3% from last year, but still up a little bit, 3.4% from two years ago. what is duke law experiencing [6:19].

Pretty much the same. We saw a very significant increase in applications for the 2020-2021 application cycle. This year is down a bit from that peak, but still considerably higher than where we had been running pretty steadily around 5,000 applications, more or less, for the years before that. We’re down about 10-15% from that incredible peak previously, but that still was a very strong applicant pool, not only in terms of numbers but quality as well. 

Obviously, there’s a lot of talk right now about recession. Do you believe that if a recession hits, it will affect the law school application numbers? How is law school typically affected? [7:32]

I’ve been at Duke for 20 years this fall, so I’ve seen several cycles. A lot of times graduate school applications are a little bit countercyclical. When the economy is bad, people are graduating from college and think, “Well, I’m not going to get a job right now. Maybe I’ll get some additional qualifications and try to ride this out.” In the 2008 recession, we saw there was an initial increase in applications to law school and then people realized that it actually was also affecting the legal employment market. There was sort of a lag and then a decline after that. I hope it would be the same thing this time around. What we saw was that Duke graduates, and I think graduates from most of the top law schools, still had good job prospects. Even in the downturn, the kinds of law firms that hire our students were still interested in hiring them.

I think our students did a little bit better than the overall job market in the previous recession. We also have great career service folks to help guide them through that process. That’s another example of where being at a school that’s able to pay attention to you as an individual is going to be very helpful. 

Duke accepts the GRE and the LSAT, approximately what percentage of the applicant pool is applying with the GRE? [9:32]

This is only the second year for us of accepting the GRE so it’s a relatively small number. It’s only about 3-4% in the last two years of our applicant pool who have applied with GRE scores. Correspondingly, it’s a relatively small number of our offers of admission. It’s been less than five enrolling last year, and probably the same this year as well, who only have GRE scores.

It’s still relatively new for us and a pretty small part of our process. We’re still learning how to evaluate those scores. It presents the results in a different way where you actually have the subsection scores and have to think about, “Well, what does it mean if there’s this big split between the quantitative and the verbal section?” whereas with the LSAT we are more used to thinking about those things rather than just getting an aggregate score.

We did a lot of thinking with our faculty and the admissions committee to determine if it made sense for us to do this. Other schools were starting to accept the GRE, but we didn’t want to do it just because other schools were doing it. We thought a lot about it, and we wouldn’t have done it if we weren’t confident that the GRE could give us useful information that we could make good decisions with.

Check out the median LSAT scores for the top 50 laws schools >>

How should applicants choose which tests to take and submit? [11:40]

I think it depends on their individual circumstances. For us, and for most law schools, we really do know the LSAT better and just feel more comfortable interpreting those scores. But like I said, we never wanted there to be a strategic advantage in choosing one over the other. If you take some practice tests, which one fits with the way that you think about things and the way that you would approach the test ? How much time do you have to prep?

I was actually talking to a prospective student the other day who was saying she was planning to take the GRE, and I was just curious because I haven’t had a chance to talk to a lot of people and I asked how she made that decision. One of the things she stressed was flexibility. The LSAC has done a great job in increasing the availability of the LSAT, the number of times you can take it, and the ability to take it from home. GRE does still offer more flexibility there to take it on your own schedule and that may be appealing for some people. But I think the decision ought to be more based on the individual applicant’s sense of what’s going to fit their timeline best and their testing abilities best and less of a strategic thing about what we’re looking for.

I think one of the things that a lot of schools thought about, and we did as well, is if you are applying to a dual degree program like a JD/MBA while you’re already in a PhD program and have a GRE score. It makes sense if you’ve got a score already to not to take another test just for the sake of that.

If the ABA were to leave it up to schools, whether to require a test or not, do you see Duke retaining the testing requirement, issuing waivers, or making the test entirely optional? [13:44]

Of course, we’re thinking about it. It’s a relatively recent development. I think there still is value in tests. Not just as another hoop to jump through, but I think about how many times we see people who maybe weren’t in a good place when they started their college career and are able to present a test that gives us more grounded confidence that they’re ready to perform well in law school, as opposed to just them saying, “Hey, I know I could do better.” Presenting a test gives us the ability to say there’s a specific reason that we might feel this is somebody we want to admit.

There are a lot of cases like that. I don’t think we would want to go without that. I think we would want to give some flexibility to people if they felt comfortable that their record was strong and said what it needed to say. There are some people who aren’t good test takers and are otherwise really great, and they’ll be glad not to have to do it, but I know there are people because I’ve seen them and we’ve admitted them and we’ve graduated them and they’re great, who really will benefit from another opportunity to say, “Look, my college grades aren’t fully representative of who I am right now.” And I wouldn’t want them to lose the chance to do that.

I hope that we would be able to manage this transition, whatever guidance or instructions we’re given by the ABA, in a way that lets us use the information we have to make good choices and bring people to Duke who are going to do well and make contributions not only to our law school community but to the legal community at large. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Can you review Duke’s regular decision and early decision options? [18:02]

This is pretty similar to what people may be familiar with from applying to college. For regular decision, you apply, we’ll review your application and give you a decision. We work on a rolling admissions basis. It’s not necessarily a set timeframe, but we’ll give you a decision at some time after your application is complete without waiting for one date in the spring to release everyone’s decisions. I think that’s one of the big differences between most law schools. For our early decision, we have two rounds of a binding early decision application. As with many colleges, this is early decision, not early action. You’re saying, “If I’m admitted to Duke, I will enroll. I will withdraw my other applications. I won’t submit any more applications.” If you’re admitted, you’re definitely coming to Duke. For folks who really want to be here, that’s a helpful thing.

Sometimes people might want to think about showing that level of commitment and interest. It removes the ability to compare scholarship offers from other schools. I think it’s always important to say that for us, everybody goes through the same scholarship review process. Being on that committee, I know that people admitted early decision received the same scholarship award that they would have received had they been admitted regular decision. But the’re admitted and whether they like that scholarship award or not, they’re still committed to coming to Duke. It removes the chance to say, “Well, this other school gave me more money.” You have to be prepared to take whatever is offered. That’s really important to consider because obviously, the cost of law school is something that is rightly on most applicants’ minds. It should be, if not. 

I think about the college admissions process for my colleagues in Duke’s undergraduate admissions office. They probably take at least half of their freshman class through the early decision application. There’s a real strategic sense that for college applicants, you have to be early decision somewhere. I don’t think it’s nearly as big a part of the law school process. Certainly not for us. It averages maybe 15 or 20%.

Do the different application rounds have different acceptance rates? [20:29]

One of the things that I saw when I actually crunched some numbers on this is how highly variable it is. It really just depends on who applies early decision in a given year, but the criteria are the same. Early decisions really are not as much about comparing to the overall, but asking, “Is this somebody who we think we want to admit?” Overall, we have a target class size, we’re hoping to enroll about 220 students but I don’t have a sense going into the year, how many will be admitted through early decisions. 

I think what often happens with people who apply early decision is we might look at them and say, “This is somebody who looks pretty good.” Usually, the people who choose to apply early decision are solid but not at the very top of our applicant pool, because usually those folks know that they’re going to be competitive at a variety of schools. Most of the time, people who are applying early decision are people who are solid students but want to maximize their opportunities and give themselves a little bit of a boost. We know that they’re committed to coming and that they’re really interested in Duke. They’re going to be enthusiastic community members. We might go ahead and admit them. That would give somebody the push to be admitted rather than be put on the waitlist. 

That’s sort of the place where it makes a difference, but there’s a lot of variation. Maybe it’s because I read them all at once, but I think there’s a fair chunk of people who apply through early decision because they think it’s going to work a miracle for them even though they’re not competitive candidates. 

At Duke Law, is full-time work experience a nice to have, or really important to the admissions committee? [23:17]

The way that it works out is usually that somewhere around a third of our class has just graduated from college. 30 or 40% have spent a year or two doing other things before they start law school. There’s a long tail of people with more substantial careers. That’s the way it works out. We’re not trying to produce those results. That’s just sort of a function of the applicant pool. There are plenty of great folks who are graduating from college who are really thoughtful about their interest in a legal career and confident in where they’re going. They have been involved in their college communities, maybe they haven’t had full-time employment, but have had internships or volunteer experiences such that we really feel comfortable knowing that they know how to work with other people and that they’re going to do well.

One of the things that we think about is not only are you going to engage with your classmates but how are you likely to do in a job interview when you have on-campus interviews? How are you going to do when you have that opportunity? Do you know how to collaborate with other people? That’s one reason that we began requesting when people submit two letters of recommendation , at least one of them does come from a non-academic source. We definitely still want to hear about people’s classroom performance. But if possible, we really like to hear about how they do outside the classroom. 

I think that often people who have taken that time to do things before they start law school have benefited from that. They’ve learned some things about themselves. They’ve gotten some life skills. It’s definitely not a must-have. We really take each application and each candidate on their own terms, but more people than not, are getting some experience after they graduate from college. My advice is always that people should think carefully about that. It really should be a specific decision to go straight from college to law school. That shouldn’t be the default. 

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In terms of work experience or extracurricular experience, do you prefer to see something that’s closely related to law or just something that is meaningful and makes a contribution? [25:58]

We’re not specifically expecting everyone to have had focused experience in the legal world. It makes total sense that lots of people who are thinking about a legal career will have done that. I’m interested in hearing what they’ve learned from that. What did they do? How did that help to shape the direction they think they’re heading? But there are plenty of folks who have had interesting experiences in other disciplines and have realized how that touches on legal issues. We see it a lot at Duke because we have a pretty strong curriculum and faculty in environmental law. You think about the people who have been environmental science majors and have had those kinds of internships. Maybe they’ve worked in that field before they thought about a legal career but they’ve started to see how environmental regulation has been important to the things that they care about. That can work really well. 

I also don’t want to discount people who just take a little while and try a bunch of different things before they figure out what direction they’re headed. Maybe all of the pieces don’t fit together in that nice sort of single stream but hopefully, by the time they’re applying to law school, they’re able to pull some of those threads together and say, “Well, I’ve done these different things and this is how I’ve gotten to this point now.” Sure, lots of people will have law firm experience or work in DC or state house legislative work but it’s certainly not a requirement or an expectation.

Should applicants, either in the personal statement or the optional essay, address their interest in attending law school and Duke specifically? [28:09]

I’d love it if they did. Our optional essay one specifically asks that question whereas the personal statement leaves it open. I think more so, somewhere in the course of an application, I really hope to get some insight into why you’re thinking about a legal career. Maybe for some people, that’s going to be much more detailed and fully developed than for others. Tell me why you’ve decided to do this rather than applying to my colleagues across the street at the public policy school or not going to graduate school at all. Why this is the path that you’re following?

Because you have other optional essays you’re able to go in other directions as well. That’s not necessarily the only thing that you’re going to talk about in the Duke application. Some people are applying to ten or fifteen law schools and they may not have delved too deeply into the specific offerings, so hopefully, even if people haven’t seen how those things connect at the time that they apply, if we admit them and have some conversations with them, they’ll find where those things connect. 

I would caution people from feeling like they have to have that piece of it in there. Don’t just go to the website and choose a class and a professor where it’s obvious that it’s not super woven into the rest of what you’re talking about. If it’s natural for that to come out, as you write your personal statement or the optional essay, then do it. We’d love to hear it, but don’t feel like you have to force it.

Are there any guidelines on how long essays should be? [30:30]

As long as it needs to be and no longer. Two pages are usually where personal statements end up. That’s fine for the optional essay as well. Don’t write more than you need to write, but I wouldn’t ever want to put a hard and fast page length or character limit and prevent somebody from telling a story that’s more complicated. The important thing is that we want to hear what the applicant has to say about their experiences and what they think we need to know. Sometimes that is more involved. I wouldn’t cut that off, but I would think carefully about how you can say it succinctly because we are reading lots of applications and lots of essays. If I am engaged and interested in what I’m reading, I will never notice how long it is.

Read sample successful law school application essays >>

Does Duke law find addenda useful? [31:41]

Definitely so. The one thing I almost always say when people ask about the biggest mistake I say it’s leaving unanswered questions in an application. If there’s a class or a semester that has some anomalous grades compared to what else we’re seeing, I can make some guesses about what might happen but I shouldn’t have to do that. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy labored explanation. It doesn’t have to be more detailed or more personal than you’re comfortable with. I’ve seen people who have had very difficult personal and family situations and sometimes, I don’t know quite as much about that, but just enough for us to say, “Okay, I understand what was happening there.” I can put that in context.

If there’s a gap in your resume some more details can help us understand. We are well aware that we have been living through a pandemic for the last couple of years and are going to continue to see the effects of that both academically and in terms of the opportunities that people have had for professional experiences. You can give us a little bit of information about that if it’s been a significant effect. I understand that there was a year or a semester or two when most schools went to either required or optional pass/fail grading and things like that. We understand that and we remember it. 

What other factors, if any, do you weigh in addition to the test score and GPA? [34:39]

I always like to point out that even those numbers have a lot of qualitative evaluation that goes into understanding what they mean. Beyond that, the things that we have available to us are basically the resume, the essay, and the letters of recommendation. We’re interested in thinking about how people will connect with our community and where they’re going to find opportunities to make a difference. We look at how they’ve been involved in the communities they’ve been part of before . In college, are you able to find things that you care about and put yourself into them in enough depth to make a difference? That could be law-related or it could be something else altogether.

We’re thinking a lot about people’s ability to connect and contribute to a community and their personal qualities. Like I said before, are we going to enjoy being around them? Are they going to have something interesting to say to their classmates? Are employers going to think this is somebody they’d like to hire? That manifests itself in lots of different ways. Not everybody has been president of an organization. 

I always tell application reviewers when I do training that we have to remember that there are people who have the luxury and privilege to be able to take unpaid internships on Capitol Hill in the summer. There are people that have to work during the summer or even full-time during the school year. Their resumes are going to look very different, and that’s not a negative. Those are people who show tremendous work ethic and time management. We’re learning different things from that, but that’s not to say that’s not something that we don’t value and see as someone who we think could be a really valued member of our community.

The other thing I’ll say is that the writing is the chance for us to hear an applicant’s voice. It’s a judgment thing, how much they write and what they choose to write about. I like it when I get a full, well-rounded picture of students. The personal statement is required but the two optional essays, and they are truly optional, give you opportunities to present different facets of your experiences and interests. Those are often the people I feel like I know much better after reading an application. I think an applicant is doing a service to themselves to think about how they want to provide that information. 

Then recommenders just give us that third-party check on what’s going on. Sometimes they are better advocates for the applicant than the applicant is for themselves. Sometimes they’re not the best writer, and I try to be aware that that’s not something you can hold against the applicant but it gives us a sense of how you’ve done in the classroom, how you engage with your classmates, if you had a job or an internship, and how you handled that kind of professional setting. 

I can get a decent sense from glancing at a transcript and a test score of somebody’s academic ability, but they are very, very different when you dig into the other parts of the application. That’s the most interesting and the most rewarding part of it. That’s where people look different and can rise above the pack or not really do themselves as many favors.

How do you view applications from students who’ve had academic infractions or perhaps have a criminal record? [38:56]

A lot of that has to do with how they present that information and to some extent, what the infractions are. In my experience, when we see somebody that we have some concerns about, it comes from feeling like they’re not being fully honest and trying to minimize and deflect responsibility for what happens. People make mistakes. Many of them are quite minor. You don’t always know how to handle being an adult. All kinds of things happen that are minor. Some things are more significant, but especially very minor things. I might have driven above the speed limit once or twice. And if you just say, “Here’s what happened, I understand that it was a mistake and it’s not a pattern,” that kind of disclosure is totally fine. That’s not going to be any speed bump at all. It’s different when people seem like they’re trying to deflect or minimize, especially when it’s a school sanction and we have a letter from the school outlining what happened and it doesn’t quite match up.

We take cases of academic dishonesty more seriously. But again, that’s not something that’s insurmountable. Or even more serious criminal charges. If we feel comfortable that at this moment, you’ve recognized the error of your way and that you’re going to be a productive member of our communities as some event, it’s certainly possible to get past that. We just take them as they come. The really important thing is people need to be honest and upfront about their disclosure. Don’t make us wonder is there something more here that we need to be digging into.

Does Duke law consider update letters from applicants who have something significant to tell you after they submit their application and before hearing back from you, or perhaps if waitlisted? [41:40]

Sure. Any additional information that people would like to have considered is definitely welcome to add to the file. We love to have them by email. Sometimes people will call me up and want to talk about things. I can talk to you, but I’m not the only person who needs to know this information so just write it down for me. Sometimes they’re significant things like if a grade has changed or they get an internship. We’d love to hear that. We’ll always add things to the application file and consider them as part of our review. 

Right now, we’re in the middle of waitlist season and receiving information from applicants. If somebody is on the waitlist , I hope they will check in with us. I would love to hear substantive updates if they have them. People who are graduating from college may have received honors or have summer plans that they didn’t know about when they submitted their application. We say in the information we provide to folks who are on our waitlist, even if it’s not a specific piece of news, just checking in every now and then to keep on the radar and allow us to know that they’re interested is actually very helpful. I encourage applicants to use judgment. Don’t check in with us every day, but periodically, even if you don’t have anything specific to say because if it’s two weeks from now and we have the chance to admit people from the waitlist, we’re much more likely to consider folks who we know have recently touched base with us. The people who we haven’t heard from since February or March, who knows what’s happened to them? Substantive updates are helpful for waitlisted applicants but also keeping the lines of communication open too. 

It’s a very fluid position on the part of law schools, but also on the part of the applicant. Everybody has their own timeline for how long they can hang on and be considered on a wait list before they say, “I have to put down a deposit on an apartment. I have to bow out just for my own mental health. I need to commit to what I’m doing in the fall.” Some people will want to do that in April. Some people will wait until August before they do that, but I don’t know for any individual person. Knowing if somebody would be willing to consider an offer of admission is really helpful for us.

What is a common mistake you see applicants making during the application process? [44:23]

I said before, leaving unanswered questions so I won’t repeat too much of that.

One lesson that I learned very early on in my professional career before I was in higher ed at all that I think about is that everybody that you interact with in the admissions process is getting an impression of you. When you come to our office to take a tour, the person who is sitting at the reception desk is getting an impression of you. Sometimes, I’ll come out after a tour and go, “Hey, what did you think of those people?” The same goes for email communication. It is in some ways an informal medium, but know who you’re talking to and be polite and respectful of their time. I try to be when I’m communicating with prospective students or admitted students and returning the favor to us is nice to do. 

Where can listeners learn more about Duke School of Law? [47:03]

Sure, https://law.duke.edu/ is the website. The admission subsection there has all the details about how to apply. The only other thing I’ll direct you to is the section called Areas of Focus, which is a nice hub of all the faculty, courses, and news for ​​our corporate law, criminal law, environmental law, and law and technology areas.

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Related links:

  • Duke Law Admissions
  • Duke Law Areas of Focus
  • Are You Ready for Law School? , Accepted’s Law School Admissions Quiz
  • Accepted’s Law School Admissions Services

Related shows:

  • What to Do if the LSAT Becomes Optional
  • How to Get Into UVA Law
  • How to Get into USC Gould School of Law
  • UCLA Law School: How to Get Accepted
  • 4 Reasons for Rejection and How to Respond
  • What Happened to the LSAT-Flex?

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duke law essays

How to Write the Duke University Essays 2023-2024

duke law essays

Duke is consistently ranked within the top 10 colleges in the country, making it an incredibly selective school. With tens of thousands of applicants vying for a spot to be a Blue Devil, each and every aspect of your application will have to be unique and impressive—especially your essays.

For the 2023-2024 application cycle, Duke is requiring all students to answer one prompt and then they have the choice to answer up to two additional prompts. For students planning on studying abroad at Duke Kunshan or taking a gap year, there are additional prompts as well. In this post, we will go over all of the Duke prompts and breakdown how to write the essays so you can maximize your chances of admission to Duke.

Read these Duke essay examples to inspire your writing.

Duke University Supplemental Essay Prompts

All applicants.

Prompt 1 (required): What is your sense of Duke as a university and a community, and why do you consider it a good match for you? If there’s something in particular about our offerings that attracts you, feel free to share that as well. (250 words)

Prompt 2 (optional): We want to emphasize that the following questions are optional. Feel free to answer them if you believe that doing so will add something meaningful that is not already shared elsewhere in your application. Five optional questions are available – a maximum of 2 can be selected. (250 words for all)

  • Option 1: We believe a wide range of personal perspectives, beliefs, and lived experiences are essential to making Duke a vibrant and meaningful living and learning community. Feel free to share with us anything in this context that might help us better understand you and what you might bring to our community.
  • Option 2: Tell us about an intellectual experience in the past two years that you found absolutely fascinating.
  • Option 3: We believe there is benefit in sharing and sometimes questioning our beliefs or values; who do you agree with on the big important things, or who do you have your most interesting disagreements with? What are you agreeing or disagreeing about?
  • Option 4: We recognize that “fitting in” in all the contexts we live in can sometimes be difficult. Duke values all kinds of differences and believes they make our community better. Feel free to tell us any ways in which you’re different, and how that has affected you or what it means to you.
  • Option 5: Duke’s commitment to inclusion and belonging includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Feel free to share with us more about how your identity in this context has meaning for you as an individual or as a member of a community.

Duke Kunshan Applicants

Why do you think duke kunshan university is a good match for you and what special qualities do you feel you could bring to duke kunshan university (200 words), gap year prompt, please describe your gap year plans as you currently are considering them. you are not making a commitment to these plans. (250 words), all applicants—prompt 1, what is your sense of duke as a university and a community, and why do you consider it a good match for you if there’s something in particular about our offerings that attracts you, feel free to share that as well. (250 words)..

Every student applying to Duke will be submitting this “ Why This College? ” essay, so you really need to make yours stand out. Before we talk about what you should do, let’s cover common mistakes to avoid so your essay isn’t generic.

Don’t talk about factors outside of the school’s control like the location, weather, or surrounding city. You might be attracted to Duke because you want to go to a school in the South, but there are hundreds of other schools nearby. This doesn’t tell us anything about Duke in particular.

Don’t make emotional appeals like “ It feels like home ” or “ The campus is so beautiful ”. Contrary to popular belief, statements like these don’t flatter admissions officers because they read them so frequently. Saying something like this is too vague and your limited space would be better served describing resources that make you feel connected to the school.

Don’t regurgitate fun facts and statistics from a campus tour, brochure, or website. Duke doesn’t need to be told how many Nobel prize winners or cabinet secretaries attended, nor do they need to be told about the infamous Duke vs UNC game. Admissions officers especially don’t care about the student-to-faculty ratio or class sizes. Listing these as reasons for attending signals to the admissions committee you didn’t research specific offerings at the school and you might not be as dedicated.

Don’t talk badly about the school. This one should be pretty self-explanatory, but when they ask about your sense of Duke, don’t call it stuffy and pretentious! You are trying to prove your love and devotion to the school, so if you have a negative impression, maybe reconsider why you are applying.

Don’t list out a dozen reasons why you want to go to Duke. We recommend including specific offerings and resources at Duke that excite you, but it’s all about quality over quantity. Spend time explaining why each reason resonates with you or what you hope to get out of the resource or experience. If that means you only have space to include three or four, then that’s okay!

Now that you know what not to do, we’ll share some tips on what you should do in your essay to make it stand out.

Make it personal . Like any other college essay, you need to share information about yourself and your interests to demonstrate to the admissions committee why you belong at Duke. Include anecdotes or details about your experiences to highlight your personal connection to the offerings at Duke.

Include specific resources and opportunities you want to take advantage of. The prompt makes it seem like it is more optional to include offerings that speak to you, but we strongly urge you to include them! Not only does including specific offerings demonstrate the research you’ve done, it also allows you to talk more about your interests and goals through the resources you are attracted to.

Balance academic and extracurricular reasons for wanting to attend. In order to show the admissions committee you are well-rounded, you’ll need to discuss both academic and extracurricular offerings that excite you. Your extracurriculars could be related to the academic topic you’re studying, but make sure to include clubs or communities you want to join so Duke knows you will be active both in class and out.

Draw parallels between yourself and Duke to emphasize why it’s a good fit for you. This might be a little harder to conceptualize and implement in your essay, but you could go about this by finding a club on campus that aligns with one of your extracurriculars, a professor who conducts research on a topic you want to learn more about, or values the school exemplifies that you prioritize.

Have a strong narrative that still reads like a story. Just because this essay might not be as creative or story-based as other college essays doesn’t mean it can’t have a narrative style. Make sure you have an exciting hook at the beginning and a conclusion that ties everything together.

Have some fun! Your essay should still have a voice that is uniquely yours, so if that means you like to use humor, go for it. Also, you can mention fun aspects of the college experience at Duke—basketball is a huge part of the Duke experience. Just be sure that you frame it as an additional bonus of attending Duke and not the primary reason for choosing the school.

Putting all of that together, take a look at what a sample student might write:

“You’d be surprised by the power 1080px by 1920px can wield. Within those 3×6 inches, violence has been incited, hate crimes have been encouraged, and a democracy was nearly toppled. Behold, the 21st century’s mega-weapon: Instagram stories.

Media and politics are intrinsically linked, especially in the USA. My generation is faced with the burden of freeing democracy from the tight grip of the Instagram story, Twitter thread, and Facebook group. Luckily, with Duke’s commitment to forging positive change, I won’t have to go at it alone. At the Sanford School of Public Policy, I’ll join a community of people dedicated to saving our democracy. 

Through the Dewitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy, I’ll delve into the complicated relationship between media and politics to better equip myself to one day shape federal policy surrounding media practices. Courses like Can Journalism Save Democracy? and Intro to Digital Culture: Media Theory, Politics, and Aesthetics signal that I’ll find a community of students and faculty equally passionate about this field. By my junior year, I’ll take the knowledge I’ve gathered in class and apply it on the Hill with Duke in DC.

Duke is a place where I’ll learn how to fight most effectively for media that promotes healthy political discourse. In between my Instagram stories of the blue devils crushing UNC and the picturesque Chapel, expect many posts on the latest article from the Sanford Journal of Public Policy, announcements for upcoming guest speakers, and information on how to protect American democracy.”

All Applicants—Prompt 2 (Optional)

We want to emphasize that the following questions are optional. feel free to answer them if you believe that doing so will add something meaningful that is not already shared elsewhere in your application. five optional questions are available – a maximum of 2 can be selected..

Before getting started with the optional prompts, be sure to carefully read the instructions. You can respond to none of these, one prompt, or a maximum of two prompts.

While it may be tempting to only complete the one required essay, we always recommend completing all the prompts available to you, as it only gives you another chance to make a lasting impression on your application. It also shows admissions counselors that you are truly invested in Duke, and may even be the deciding factor of your application.

Since these prompts are optional though, you want to take special care to not repeat anything in your application, especially since Duke said so themselves. For example, if you already talked about Model UN in your Common App essay, there’s no need to write another essay about it. If only one of the optional prompts speaks to you, that’s fine as well. 

All Applicants—Prompt 2, Option 1

We believe a wide range of personal perspectives, beliefs, and lived experiences are essential to making duke a vibrant and meaningful living and learning community. feel free to share with us anything in this context that might help us better understand you and what you might bring to our community. (250 words).

This is one instance of the very common diversity prompt . When colleges have a diversity prompt, they want to know about your own personal background and how it has influenced your worldview and perspectives.

A quick note if you intend to write about your racial background: In June 2023, the United States Supreme Court  struck down the use of affirmative action in college admissions. The ruling, however, still allows colleges to consider race on an individual basis, which is one reason many schools are now including diversity prompts as one of their supplemental essay prompts. If you feel that your racial background has impacted you significantly, this is the place to discuss that.

In general, such a common prompt can be approached with a traditional answer. You might consider answering this prompt with what you think is the most important part of your identity, then a small discussion about how that aspect of diversity is relevant to you and your general life experiences.

Such a response might be written about one of the following scenarios:

  • Using your fluency in another language to help members of a specific community.
  • Interpreting a text in class differently from your classmates because of your ethnic culture.
  • Having a friend of a different background who has changed your perspective on something important.
  • Having an illness or disability that helps you view accessibility through a different lens than your peers.
  • Being part of a niche interest group/fandom and trying to represent the group faithfully when talking to people who aren’t members of it.

Simply listing things that generate diversity should be avoided. Sure, diversity includes different ethnicities/races, gender identities, sexual orientations, countries of origin, and languages, but writing that laundry list out doesn’t contribute much to your application.

Also, bear in mind that the traditional markers of diversity aren’t the only ones you can discuss. There are other aspects of identity that contribute to a diverse campus, including socioeconomic classes, hometowns, illnesses/disabilities, and even interests or hobbies.

Diversity encompasses all the aforementioned attributes, but you should strive for individuality and specificity in your response. This prompt, like all the others, is an opportunity to showcase your unique life perspective. You don’t want to waste this opportunity by writing down some bland dictionary definitions. Think of what diversity means to you and what you consider to be a particularly significant aspect of diversity. From there, think of personal anecdotes or stories about how that aspect of diversity has contributed to your growth or development as a person.

All Applicants—Prompt 2, Option 2

Tell us about an intellectual experience in the past two years that you found absolutely fascinating. (250 words).

For this prompt, Duke is looking to hear about your intellectual interests and your approach to learning. You could choose anything; for example, a particular class you took that sparked your interest in a topic, an individual research project you conducted, a book you read that made a strong impression, or an experiment you performed in a science class.

The key for this essay is to really highlight your passion for learning, and the way to accomplish that is to tell the reader everything about the experience so they feel like they are living it besides you. The phrase “ show, don’t tell ” is thrown around a lot when it comes to college essays—this essay will be no exception.

But what does it mean to successfully show your intellectual experience? Let’s dissect an example.

“Debates were my favorite part of my AP US History class. At the end of every unit, each person in the class would be assigned a historical figure and we would debate a prevalent issue for the period. The best one, hands down, was the debate about the ratification of the Constitution. Representing James Madison, I advocated for a separation of powers. I also pushed for the inclusion of unalienable rights. The fast-paced environment of kids in my class engaging in productive debate was so exciting to see.”

While the excerpt above does technically check the box of describing an intellectual experience this student enjoyed, this is far from what you should submit if you want to be a competitive applicant. How can we make this better? Starting with the hook, never restate the prompt. The first line of your essay shouldn’t be used to tell us what the experience was, rather it should set the scene so the reader is prepared to immerse themselves in the experience, for example:

“Accusations flew across the circle of desks haphazardly gathered in the center of the room; she was an elitist forgetting about the yeomen while he was as backwards as King George.”

This hook immediately brings action and excitement, causing the reader to ask questions which makes them more interested to keep reading. Not only that, by including details relevant to the academic topic (yeomen farmers and King George) it further demonstrates the student’s knowledge and interest of this subject. 

The next two sentences can be improved by making them more concise to cut down on the amount of background needed. You want to keep the essay focused in the moment as much as possible, so rather than zooming out to provide the reader with context, stay in the present:

“With the strike of my US History teacher’s gavel, our debate on the ratification of the Constitution had begun.”

The student then goes on to talk about their contribution to the debate, which is important to include, but we can make it stronger. Again, the key is to stay in the story and tell it in present tense with an active voice. Focus on how you viewed and approached the situation rather than what actions you took. Not only will this make the writing more engaging, it will also make it naturally easier to express your fascination with the experience—which is the whole purpose of this essay at the end of the day.

“Donning the tricorn hat of James Madison, I turned to Federalist friends on my right—including Hamilton and Adams—and sized up my foes: the Democratic-Republicans. Coming out of the gate strong, Jefferson insisted a document that enumerates rights, limits rights. How wrong he was! Before another member of my group could speak, I was on my feet conjuring a picture of the society we just escaped that lacked documentation of unalienable rights. Quoting Locke and Voltaire from memory, I watched as my opponents scrambled for a rebuttal.”

Notice the difference between the imagery and flow of these sentences compared to the original example? Each line moves the story along, while continuing to provide details for imagery and to highlight the student’s passion for the topic. There’s no need for them to tell the reader they found the experience enjoyable or exciting, because details like the student embodying the historical figure (ie “Federalist friends…and foes”), their inner monologue (“How wrong he was!”), their excitement (“I was on my feet”), and their dedication (“Quoting Locke and Voltaire from memory”) show the reader why they loved this intellectual experience.

As you go about writing, follow these tips to beef up your writing and take it from basic and boring to engaging and informative.

All Applicants—Prompt 2, Option 3

We believe there is benefit in sharing and sometimes questioning our beliefs or values; who do you agree with on the big important things, or who do you have your most interesting disagreements with what are you agreeing or disagreeing about (250 words).

This prompt is all about internal beliefs and values. Whether you choose to write about an agreement or disagreement, at the heart of your essay, you need to share one of your important values with the admissions committee. Naturally then, an integral piece in choosing this essay is having a core belief or value that is central to your personality. If nothing jumps out at you, then maybe this isn’t the prompt for you.

If religion is important to you, this prompt would be a good opportunity to delve into your religious beliefs. Similarly, you could choose to go into philosophical or ethical debates that you have with people. As you pick a belief or value, keep your audience in mind. You never know who will read your essay, and the last thing you want to do is offend them. It’s generally a good idea to stay away from any beliefs that might be highly controversial or politicized.

Not only do you need a belief or value, you also need to pick a discussion partner that either shares your ideals or challenges them. Luckily for you, because the prompt already asks for you to pick a person, it opens the door for the natural inclusion of dialogue—a great way to spice up your essay and show, not tell!

Maybe you and your best friend get into arguments about whether life exists on other planets when you are going on night-time drives around town. Take the reader into your car—what music is playing in the background, are you cruising down the highway or leisurely rolling through residential neighborhoods? Do you and your friend raise your voices as the argument goes on? Showing what it is like to be there with you during these conversations will make your essay infinitely more engaging to read.

This essay also provides you with a chance to delve deeper into your personality. You can demonstrate character traits you possess in the way you describe your conversation. If you are a detail-oriented person, include the statistics you use to convince someone of your belief. Perhaps you are extremely energetic, in that case, describe how you jump with excitement and your voice gets higher when you agree with someone on an obscure belief. 

A common misconception is that admissions officers want to see astute, academic conversations, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You could write about how you and your sibling get into disagreements about the most powerful superhero or you and your grandma agree your uncle’s cooking is better than your dad’s. Don’t be scared by the prompt asking about the “big important things,” because as long as you provide reasoning as to why your discussion is important to you and your discussion partner, it can make for a good essay.

All Applicants—Prompt 2, Option 4

We recognize that “fitting in” in all the contexts we live in can sometimes be difficult. duke values all kinds of differences and believes they make our community better. feel free to tell us any ways in which you’re different, and how that has affected you or what it means to you. (250 words).

Similar to the first option for Prompt 2, this option is purposefully open-ended to give students the freedom to identify any difference and discuss it. Again, in light of the Supreme Court striking down the use of affirmative action in college admissions, students of color might want to use this prompt to discuss their racial background in their application.

However, since this prompt is very similar to the first, we’d recommend choosing one or the other. There’s no right one to pick—go with whichever you want—but don’t spend both essays (if you choose to submit the maximum of two optional essays for Prompt 2) discussing an aspect of your identity that makes you different or unique. We’d recommend pairing either Option 1 or 4 with either Option 2 or 3.

While this prompt provides students with the opportunity to discuss racial differences they aren’t able to disclose elsewhere, it isn’t limited to discussions of race. Differences can be measured in a variety of dimensions, including:

  • Race or ethnicity
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Family structure
  • Gender or sexuality (look at Option 5 if you want to write about this)
  • Physical abilities

Regardless of what you choose, your essay must express how you are different, the emotional, mental, and physical effect that has had on you, and the way your difference will make you a valuable member of the Duke community.

An essay where a student describes her family’s low income and the lack of luxuries she’s able to afford as a result doesn’t tell us much about the student. The essay would have more depth if it discussed the embarrassment and isolation she felt when she couldn’t afford the latest trends and wasn’t welcomed by her peers. But the essay shouldn’t stop there. Now that we know about her mental response to her difference, we want to hear about how she views her difference as a source of strength and personal value. So, maybe her classmates’ focus on fashion inspired her to start a thrifting collective at her school where students can donate old clothes and find new ones without spending a lot of money. This experience taught her the value in creating community and compassion.

All Applicants—Prompt 2, Option 5

Duke’s commitment to inclusion and belonging includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. feel free to share with us more about how your identity in this context has meaning for you as an individual or as a member of a community. (250 words).

If you want to write about an aspect of your identity or a way you are different and it relates to your gender, sexuality, or sexual orientation, you should choose Option 5 over Options 1 and 4.

In the same vein as the other two options dealing with an aspect of your personality that you want to share with the admissions committee, you want to make sure that you go deeper than simply explaining your gender or sexual identity. The essay needs to go into the personal significance and the way it has shaped you as a person who will join the Duke community.

A good story always needs some conflict, whether it be internal or external, so you might want to start brainstorming by thinking about a moment of conflict that arose related to your gender or sexual identity. Maybe you choose the moment you came out to your family, or you could write about the internal battle to try and fit into societal gender expectations, or possibly you experienced discrimination or harassment as a result of your sexual orientation which emotionally affected you. There are many different ways to approach this prompt, so pick whatever stands out to you as the most consequential for you personally.

For an essay like this, it’s important to share a lot of detail with the admissions committee to ensure your unique perspective and life experiences are fully communicated, but when discussing highly personal and possibly uncomfortable topics, this might be a little difficult. There’s a delicate balance between including enough information to write a strong essay and protecting personal details. To try and address this, focus on actions you took and the emotions that motivated them, without getting too deep into the intricacies of your thoughts.

However, at the end of the day, your college essay has to reveal to the admissions officers what makes you special. If you feel that this aspect of your identity is critical to understanding you, this is the prompt for you. But if you are hesitant to share information on a delicate subject, there is no problem in choosing a different prompt option that would allow you to write more freely.

This prompt is required for students who are applying to Duke Kunshan University through the Duke University application. Duke Kunshan is a partnership between Duke and Wuhan University in China that allows students to receive an education that marries two exceptional universities.

You are asked to submit a pretty straightforward “ Why This College? ” essay for Duke Kunshan, and we would refer you to Prompt 1 in this post to learn more about the tips and common pitfalls to avoid when writing this type of essay.

A key factor to keep in mind when submitting this essay is although Duke will be reading it, it will also be sent to Duke Kunshan who will review it. For that reason, you want to make sure the college you are discussing is specifically Duke Kunshan and not regular Duke. Along those lines, you need to speak highly of Kunshan as its own entity—don’t say you want to attend because you think it will be an easier way to achieve a Duke degree.

While we normally advise against listing a school’s location as a reason for wanting to attend, in the case of an international university, it is okay to discuss your interest in Duke Kunshan because it’s in another country. However, frame it within the context of an interest in experiencing new cultures or an appreciation for Chinese history, culture, or society. Make sure your motivation for attending an international institution is clear in your essay.

The second part of the prompt asks you to consider what you can bring to the school. Just as you would for any other “Why This College?” essay, highlight ways your interests and experiences align with resources and offerings at the university. Your contribution to the campus community can also lie outside of academics. Perhaps you will bring your favorite comfort food recipe with you to support your fellow homesick American students or maybe you will share your adventurous spirit with your more reserved classmates to encourage them to explore a new environment with you.

If you indicate on the Common App that you are considering taking a gap year before enrolling at Duke, you will be required to answer this question. It’s important to note that this isn’t an official declaration of your plans; Duke is using this question to gauge what type of individual you are and how you will use your time productively.

But at the same time, don’t make up fanciful gap year plans like traveling to all seven continents if realistically you know you will spend the majority of your time working at home. You aren’t being judged on how exciting your gap year plans may sound, so be genuine about the plans you are considering.

There are many reasons you might be considering a gap year—from wanting to gain more real-world experience, to financial reasons, to unique opportunities you don’t want to miss, to family commitments—and there are an infinite number of ways to spend your year, whether it’s traveling, getting an internship, working on a campaign, supporting your family, etc.

When it comes to this essay though, there are two primary things you want to convey:

  • What you consider to be valuable.
  • How you will grow and be enriched from the gap year.

Starting with the first point, the way you choose to spend your gap year is a reflection of the values you find important. Students who want to travel value broadening their perspectives and embracing new experiences, while students who are staying home to help out their parents value family, loyalty, and devotion. Unless you are spending your time in the basement playing video games all day long, you will be doing something that, in your mind, is considered a productive use of time.

When you are discussing your plans, your values should come through. For example, if you are planning to spend the first semester backpacking South America, you wouldn’t just say, “ I will spend the first four months backpacking in China. ” You would instead show the admissions committee why you are driven to take that action: “ During my four months exploring the mountains, valleys, cities, and ancient civilizations of China, I will immerse myself in the culture I’ve felt so distant from as a Chinese adoptee. ”

The second thing your essay needs to discuss is how this experience will enrich you. Or, from Duke’s perspective, how will taking a gap year make you a more valuable member of the campus community? To answer this question, you’ll need to place yourself in a year-from-now you’s shoes and ask how you’ve changed and grown.

Are you more independent? Are you confident? Did you learn a new skill? Have you become a stronger leader? Do you have a new appreciation for learning? 

However you think you will grow from this experience, make sure to convey that in your essay. You might also want to explicitly mention what you will bring back to the Duke community, just to reiterate your commitment to attending Duke after your gap year.

Some Final Thoughts

If you choose to respond to the optional Duke supplements, you’ll need to keep a few key strategies in mind. As you draft and revise your responses, remember the following tips, which will help you to optimize your application efforts to Duke as well as any other schools to which you might apply. 

Give yourself time. Writing a short essay can often seem like a straightforward and deceptively quick process. Remember, however, that even though the Duke only wants 250 words, you’ll need to achieve the same level of impact in this response as you would with a 650 word essay. Clumsily jumbling together broad and lofty ideas won’t get you far with a 250 word prompt, so leave yourself enough time to plan, draft and redraft your response until it’s ready for submission.

Be specific. Specificity is the not-so-secret ingredient when it comes to writing a successful response. Include anecdotes and examples that tie directly to what you know and value about the Duke campus community. Don’t simply say that you love research or that you want to change the world. Think about the specific experiences you have which exemplify your interests and your academic and professional aspirations. 

Be true to yourself. It’s counterproductive to spend hours and hours writing about things that don’t truly matter to you. Be honest! Highlight the things that you care about most and reflect on why they matter to you. 

Ultimately, the purpose of any supplemental essay is to give you the opportunity to present yourself, your experiences and achievements from your own perspective using your own words. So have fun with this process. After all, no one could ever be better equipped to showcase you than you.

Where to Get Your Duke Essays Edited

Do you want feedback on your Duke essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

Related CollegeVine Blog Posts

duke law essays

Duke Law Journal

Call for submissions for student essay competition.

by [email protected] | Nov 29, 2021 | Announcements | 0 comments

The Duke Law Journal (DLJ) is excited to announce its first-ever online essay competition! The competition is open to all current Duke Law students (including LLMs) and recent graduates (Classes of 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021). Up to two winning submissions will be selected for publication in the Duke Law Journal Online in Spring 2022. Authors of the winning submissions will be awarded a $500 cash prize, * funded by Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and eligible ** winners will also be awarded DLJ membership.

Essay Topic:

Over the past few years, the United States has confronted a new chapter in an ongoing racial reckoning. For example, the public conversation around race has shifted with an increased awareness of police brutality against Black Americans and an onslaught of COVID-related hate crimes against Asian Americans. Please write an essay about the role the law plays in this conversation. This topic is intentionally broad, but submissions should focus on the intersection between race and the U.S. legal system. For instance, essays may comment on a specific case or law, consider presidential administration priorities, posit potential law reforms, or share personal anecdotes relating to law. By no means are essays limited to this illustrative list.


  • The essay should be no longer than 5,000 words (including footnotes). Please note, this is an essay, not a student note.
  • Essays must be emailed to [email protected] in both PDF and Word formats. a. The subject of the email must start with “2022 Essay Competition Submission.” b. The body of the email must include a word count (both with and without footnotes) and the title of the essay.
  • The author’s name should not be included in the document.
  • Each individual may submit no more than one piece, and submissions must be previously unpublished. Jointly written pieces will be accepted.

Any submissions that fail to follow the above instructions will be automatically disqualified.

Deadline: All pieces must be submitted by Friday, January 21, 2022, at 11:59 pm EST.

For any questions regarding the competition, please email Senior Online Editor, Chorong Song ([email protected]).

*The $500 cash prize, provided by Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, will be administered through the law school and is subject to tax. If a prize is awarded to a jointly authored submission, the amount will be divided among the credited authors.

** DLJ membership offers are limited to second-year students who do not already hold membership in an exclusive-membership journal ( Alaska Law Review , Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy , Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law , Law and Contemporary Problems ).

For information about submitting to DLJ Online , please visit our submission page.

Spring 2023 Issue

“Corpus Linguistics and the Original Public Meaning of the Sixteenth Amendment”

Fall 2023 Issue

“Creditors Strike Back: The Return of the Cooperation Agreement”

Samir D. Parikh |   PDF

“Inside the Internet”

Nick Merrill & Tejas N. Narechania |   PDF

“101 Lawyers: Attorney Appearances in Twitter v. Musk “

Andrew K. Jennings |   PDF

“All Grown Up: Qualified Immunity, Student Rights, and the Way Forward”

Matthew McKnight & Angela Guo | PDF

“Looking Backward to Move Forward: Ending the “History and Tradition” of Gun Violence Against the LGBTQ+ Community”

Brett V. Ries | PDF

To see previous scholarship published by Duke Law Journal Online, please visit our archive page.

Duke Law Journal Online Team Volume 73

Lydia Culp

Senior Online Editor

Gina Campanelli

Gina Campanelli

Online Editor

Tom Fogarty

Tom Fogarty

Madeline Sparks

Madeline Sparks

Law School Application Procedures

Last updated: July 7, 2013

Summary of Law School Application Procedures

I. applications.

Most Law schools now require students to apply electronically using LSDAS electronic applications. These LSDAS electronic applications for all ABA-approved law schools are available at no additional charge beyond the LSDAS registration fee (and individual law school application fees.) LSDAS electronic applications common-information form and the flow-as-you-go features, allows users to answer common law school application questions once and placing the answers in the appropriate spot in the individual law school applications selected. Applicants can electronically attach personal statements, resumes, and other documents to each application. LSAC will begin application transmission to the law schools during the first week in September, but applicants can fill out and save their applications as of August 1st. Users must have a current LSDAS registration.

All applicants are required to use the service of the Law School Data Assembly Service. For information about transcripts from Study Abroad see the Handout available in the Office for Pre-Law Advising.

III. Resumes

Students should send to every school to which they are applying a one-page resume.  (See sample copies available in the Office for Pre-Law Advising.)  Note the following suggestions concerning resumes from Dr. Patricia O’Connor, former Director of the Career Center at Duke University.

  • Decide the style/format for the resume.  A few suggestions are below. Since it is usually read from top to bottom, put the important things at the top of each section. Don’t include something just to make it look good. Be ready to defend everything on it. Minimize the use of bold, italics, and type style changes; they can detract from the essence of the document
  • Proof Read the document, and have at least one friend do it, too. Do not rely on spell-check on the computer. Sue and use, leaned and learned, for and fro, lust and must are all correct words but spell check may not help to discover problems with usage.  A typo such as to for two suggests you do not pay attention to detail. Your documents are being read to evaluate your future performance as a good lawyer.
  • Never allow the receiver of information to think or guess. Provide enough information in this document and the essay to ensure that the reader does not jump to the wrong conclusion about your qualifications.

There are potentially four essays that may be requested by law schools. The Pre-Law Advisor will be available to read and react to any and all of them if you wish.  If you are currently enrolled, please bring the essays to 04 Allen and leave them in the designated folder. Dean Wilson will read them and return them to the folder within 24 hours.

If you are not currently enrolled, but wish for Dean Wilson to read your essays, please mail (Box 90048) or fax (919-684-3414) or email them to [email protected].

  • Personal Statement: The statement should be at least two pages double- spaced and sent to all schools whether requested or not.  For more specific guidelines, see the article in The Pre-Law Handbook for Duke Students “The Private ‘I’:  The Personal Statement”. The personal statement should not be a narrative version of your resume. The resume tells what you have done, the personal statement tells who you are.
  • Academic Essay: Some law schools may request an “academic essay” which is not to exceed two pages double-spaced. Some schools give specific word limits. This should not be a repeat of your personal statement but rather should indicate your ability to make an intellectual contribution in the classroom and beyond.  Choose some topic that has engaged you intellectually.
  • Diversity Essay: This essay should be written by individuals who come from different cultural, social, ethnic, or economic backgrounds and who can add to the educational experience of all students in the class.  Do not write this essay unless you meet the criteria set forth.  Limit to two pages double-spaced.
  • School Specific Essay: Some schools (not many) may require a brief statement (one page limit) on why you are applying to their law school.  Make sure you are familiar with the key aspects of the school and can make a case for why you and that particular school are a good match. Limit to one page.

V. Recommendations

Faculty, Employer, or other Recommendations:  For this you will use the Law Services Letter of Recommendation Service (LOR).  We recommend for those currently enrolled at Duke, that two faculty members and one other meaningful recommendation be submitted.  For graduates, at least one from faculty and one or two from employers or others should be submitted.  Employer or other meaningful recommenders should state (a) their connection with you, (b) your performance under their supervision, (c) their assessment of your ability to perform in law school, and (d) their estimate of your success as a lawyer. (See Basic Information for Senior Pre-Law Students, “A Word to Seniors About Faculty Recommendations, p. 6)   NB:  The Dean’s Form or College Questionnaire is NOT part of this system.

VI. Dean’s Forms/College Questionnaire

  • These forms should be brought to Dean Wilson’s office along with a stamped envelope addressed to the law school.  We do not fill out these forms, but rather write a letter of recommendation and attach this to each form.
  • Since we do write a letter, we recommend that we send the letter( often with handwritten notes specific to each school) from our office to all of the law schools to which you apply even if they do not require such a letter.  We suggest this because of our long standing connections with law schools and our willingness to show institutional support for a student application. Just give this office a stamped envelope for each law school, addressed to that law school.
  • All Dean’s Forms and letters will be mailed directly to the law schools.

For further information, see handout “Basic Information for Senior Pre-Law Students”, section on “Dean’s Forms/College Questionnaires” p. 3.

VII Deadlines        

  • Deadlines for early decision/early action applications should be noted. These deadlines are usually very firm.
  • For other applications the best rule still is to get the application in early, but the question is defining “early.” By all means aim for early December or early January at the very latest. A school may state that their application deadline is March 15, but by that time 90% of the class will be filled, so make sure you have your application completed and in well before the closing date.


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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, why duke essay: 4 tips for a great essay.

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College Essays


Are you hoping to become a Blue Devil? The Why Duke essay is a small but important part of your Duke application. This is the place where you explain exactly why you love Duke so much. However, there are thousands of students who want to attend Duke, and only a small percentage of them get in. What can you do to make sure your Why Duke essay sets you apart and helps you get accepted?

Keep reading to learn what the Why Duke essay prompts are, exactly what Duke is looking for when they read them, and what you should write about to and convince Duke you'd be an asset to their school. We also include a Why Duke essay example so you can see what an actual essay response looks like.

The Why Duke Essay Prompts

The Why Duke essay prompt is o ne of several essay prompts you'll need to answer in your Duke application. You can learn more about the other Duke essays in our in-depth guide . (You can also get more information about how to answer the "Why This College?" style essay prompts here. )

Here's the Why Duke essay prompt:

What Is the Purpose of the Why Duke Essay?

Why does Duke require applicants to answer this essay? What are they really looking for in your response to "why Duke"? Let's analyze these prompts. No matter which schools you're applying to, the " why this school " prompt is probably the most common prompt you'll on college applications. Why? Because colleges want to see that you really want to attend their school.

Students who love the school they attend and feel that it's a good fit are more likely to accept an offer of admission, be interested in their studies, take advantage of what the school offers, and give back after they graduate. Basically, Duke and other schools which include this prompt are looking for students who will take advantage of all the unique opportunities they offer so they have the biggest impact at the school and when they're alumni.

If you show that you really love Duke and are ready to make the most of your time there, it makes admissions officers feel more confident you're going to have a significant and positive impact on their school.

If you can't give any compelling reasons for choosing Duke or you don't seem to have done much research on the school, that makes Duke worry that you'll only do the bare minimum in college or have much of an impact during your time at Duke or afterwards. Additionally, Duke asks you to write this essay to make sure you and their school are a good fit for each other. If you use this essay to talk about majors, classes, internships, study abroad options, etc. that Duke doesn't offer, the admissions team may be hesitant to offer you a place at Duke since it may not be the best place for you to reach your goals.

Basically, the purpose of this essay is twofold: Duke wants to make sure you know and value what they offer, and they also want to see how you're going to make use of these opportunities to reach your goals for the future.


What Should You Write About in Your Why Duke Essay?

Because Duke has so many opportunities to offer students, there are many ways to approach this essay topic. Here's a list of potential ideas:

  • Majors, minors, certificates, and/or classes Duke offers that you're especially interested in. This also includes Program II, where you can design your own individual degree program.
  • The Focus Program, which lets first-year students take classes on unique topics.
  • Duke professors whose work you admire and with whom you'd like to study or conduct research.
  • Duke's Service Learning or DukeEngage programs which give students the opportunity to provide services to communities in need.
  • Clubs or sports teams that you'd be interesting in joining.
  • The Duke Startup Challenge which helps students who want to be entrepreneurs.
  • Research opportunities you'd like to have (the more specific you can be, the better).
  • Internship opportunities Duke offers.
  • Duke students or alumni you've met who you admire.
  • Financial aid opportunities Duke offers that make it possible for you to attend.

In your response, you should choose about one or two reasons why you think Duke is the best school for you. For each reason, you should describe what Duke offers and connect it back to your interest and skills to show how you're a good match for the school.

For example, you could write that you've always been interested in global health, and you have an idea for an invention/idea that could improve global health in developing countries. You want to attend Duke to take advantage of the Duke Startup Challenge to get your product out there, then participate in DukeEngage or a similar program Duke offers to try the product out in the field. Or, you may be a mechanical engineering student who wants to work with a specific professor at Pratt and take advantage of the research opportunities Duke offers to study thermal and fluids systems.

Remember to be as specific as possible to show Duke that you've done your research, and show both what you care about/want to do with the rest of your life and how Duke can help you get there.


Look: we get it. Duke basketball is AMAZING. But don't talk about it in your "Why Duke?" essay. Save it for Cameron Stadium. (Keenan Hairston/ Wikimedia )

A Note About Duke Basketball

Duke's basketball team has an extremely dedicated fan base, and many students choose to go to Duke at least partly because they love the basketball team. However, we strongly discourage you from using this essay to discuss your love of Duke basketball.

There are several reasons for this . First, many, many applicants mention the basketball team as a reason they want to attend Duke, so you won't make your essay unique or memorable if you give the same reason most other people do. Second, Duke is foremost an academic institution, and it wants students who are dedicated to their studies. Duke classes require a lot of work, and if you give the impression that all you'll be doing at Duke is waiting hours in line so you can be the first one in Cameron Stadium for each game, they may wonder if you'll succeed at the school.

So write about something other than the basketball team, and then once you get in, feel free to paint yourself blue and join the other Cameron Crazies.


Tips for Writing a Great Why Duke Essay

No matter how you decide to answer the "Why Duke" prompt, here are four tips you should keep in mind to make sure you stand out from the crowd and show Duke that you're a student they want to have at their school.

#1: Do Your Research

Before you start writing, you should know a lot about the opportunities Duke offers and why you want to go there. Here are some places to start your research:

  • Duke website
  • Duke majors, minors, and certificates
  • Course catalog
  • The Duke Chronicle (school newspaper)
  • Duke internship opportunities
  • Duke research opportunities
  • Campus visit
  • Meeting with an alum or current student
  • Meeting with a professor

#2: Be Specific

From your research, you now have multiple reasons as to why Duke is a great school for you. Choose one or two of them to write about in your essay. The more specific you can be when answering the "Why Duke" prompt, the better. Don't just say that Duke has great classes, smart professors, and an interesting student body. Most schools have that, and the people reading your essay will wonder if you're using an identical essay for every school you're applying to.

Instead, try to mention opportunities only Duke can provide, such as specific professors, course names, extracurriculars, or research programs. The things you discuss should be things your other top schools don't offer, things that really make Duke stand out.

#3: Show Your Passion

Duke students are a passionate bunch, and Duke wants students who care a lot about their studies and their school. A generic statement like, "I am impressed by Duke's strong engineering programs" doesn't tell the school anything about you or help you stand out from other applicants.

Why does the engineering program make you so excited? How do you want to use your engineering skills in the future? Write about those things instead. Showing a passion that's unique will help differentiate you from other applicants and show Duke that you'll take your studies seriously.

#4: Make Every Word Count

The word limit on this essay means that it's going to be very short, so you want to get the most out of those words. Start with an outline of your main points: why you want to go to Duke and how you'll make the most of those opportunities at the school and after graduation, then expand from there until you hit 250 words.

This isn't the essay to tell an in-depth story about your childhood or go into flowery descriptions. Instead, make your main points strong and don't worry about adding too many embellishments to the essay.


Why Duke Essay Example

Sometimes the best way to understand what a great Duke essay looks like is to look at an example. Below is a Why Duke essay example, followed by an explanation of what makes it stand out.

- Calvin Thompson

What Makes This Essay Work?

This essay is strong in three key ways:

Shows Passion: It's clear that this student loves Duke. From gasping at his first look at campus to his mouth almost watering at the thought of going there, he's clearly committed to the school.

Mentions Specific Details: This is a short essay, but the writer still manages to mention multiple professors, programs, and subjects Duke has that he's interested in. That shows he did his research and definitely isn't using the same generic essay for each school he applies to.

Shows a Plan for the Future: His plans for the future (education + business) aren't super specific, but that's fine since most students start college don't know exactly what they want to do in the future, and Duke doesn't expect you to have everything figured out already. However, he has a plan to get started and see where those interests take him, which shows motivation and initiative.

Summary: Writing a Great Why Duke Essay

The Why Duke essay is a key part of your Duke application since it lets the school know why you want to go to Duke, what you want to get out of your time there, and how Duke will prepare you for the future. In 250 words or less, you need to explain why Duke is the school you want to attend.

There are many ways to answer the prompt, but you should always make sure to do your research on the school, use specific examples, show your passion for the school, and make every word count.

What's Next?

Want to know how to answer the other Duke essay prompts? Check out our guide on the Duke essays for everything you need to know!

Is Duke an Ivy League School? Learn more about the Ivy League and whether Duke is part of it by reading our guide to Ivy League schools .

Want to stand apart from other Duke applicants? Learn how to score a perfect 1600 on the SAT , so you can increase your shot at getting into the school of your dreams!

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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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  • Airpower / Book Review
  • JFQ Book Review: Ben Lambeth’s “Airpower in the War Against ISIS”

by Charlie Dunlap, J.D. · 18 February 2024

Ben Lambeth’s provocative book Airpower in the War Against ISIS is one I’ve long recommended.   But now I’ll tell you why!  My review of it was just published by Joint Force Quarterly (JFQ) and you can find it here .

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Here’s another extract:

Lambeth makes clear that despite ultimately achieving success, “ill-advised leadership directives, in this case an inappropriate gradualist strategy at the campaign’s start that misunderstood the enemy and wrongly insisted on ROE intended for a different kind of war,” cost lives. He bluntly charges:

“[T]here were the incalculable but monumental human costs that were imposed by the war’s overly prolonged and pointless early incrementalism. Without seeking at this point to provide even a rough estimate of the number of innocent Iraqis and Syrians who were killed or wounded throughout the more than four-year-long campaign, the anemic start that President [Barack] Obama insisted on at the effort’s outset and sustained with no truly consequential escalation for two more years produced millions of displaced civilians and caused a profusion of noncombatant fatalities in both countries, most of them at the hands of [IS] marauders rather than as the result of any errant coalition bombs.”

Given the Department of Defense’s recent issuance of its Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response-Action Plan (and its implementing directive ), I believe Airpower in the War Against ISIS is a must-read for military professionals and their lawyers wanting to avoid the kind of missteps Lambeth identifies as marring the early part of the campaign against the Islamic State. 

Take a look at the review for yourself, but better yet, read the book and make your own assessment!

Remember what we like to say on  Lawfire ® : gather the facts, examine the law, evaluate the arguments – and then decide for yourself !

Tags: Ben Lambeth ISIS

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  • Previous story  LENS Essay Series: “Through a New Lens: Using Vitoria’s Work to Recontextualize Economic Sanctions and the Use of Force”

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Home — Application Essay — Law School — Why Duke Law: A Passion for Justice and Excellence

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Why Duke Law: A Passion for Justice and Excellence

  • University: Duke University School of Law

About this sample


Words: 647 |

Published: Feb 15, 2024

Words: 647 | Pages: 1 | 4 min read

I am honored to submit my application for admission to Duke Law School. The esteemed reputation, unwavering commitment to justice, and exceptional academic offerings of Duke Law make it my ultimate choice for furthering my legal education.

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My passion for the law has been deeply ingrained in me since high school, where I actively participated in debate clubs and competitions. Through researching and presenting legal arguments, I realized the power of the law to shape society and defend the rights of individuals. This realization propelled me on a path of intellectual curiosity and personal growth, ultimately leading me to pursue a legal education at Duke Law School.

One aspect of Duke Law that particularly resonates with me is its commitment to excellence. The institution's rigorous academic curriculum, distinguished faculty, and vibrant learning environment provide an unparalleled foundation for aspiring lawyers. The opportunity to learn from esteemed professors who are leading experts in their respective fields, while engaging with a diverse student body, will foster an intellectually stimulating experience I crave.

Furthermore, Duke Law's emphasis on experiential learning through clinics, internships, and externships is of great significance to me. I firmly believe that theoretical knowledge alone cannot suffice to fully comprehend the intricacies of the law. The practical application of legal principles enables aspiring lawyers to develop critical skills such as negotiation, client advocacy, and legal research. Duke Law's extensive network of partnerships with leading law firms and legal organizations ensures that students have access to unparalleled hands-on experiences, further solidifying their foundational knowledge and professional aspirations.

Duke Law's commitment to public interest law is another compelling factor that drew me to the institution. The school's dedication to promoting social justice aligns perfectly with my own values and aspirations as a future attorney. From the renowned Duke Law Innocence Project to various pro bono initiatives, the opportunities to actively contribute to meaningful legal work are abundant at Duke Law School. By immersing myself in public interest law initiatives, I aim to make a tangible impact on the lives of marginalized communities and advocate for a fair and just society.

In addition to academic and professional opportunities, Duke Law's vibrant campus life offers a dynamic and enriching experience. The tight-knit community, collaborative learning environment, and numerous extracurricular activities contribute to a holistic development of students. As an individual deeply committed to engaging with diverse perspectives and fostering meaningful relationships, the sense of community at Duke Law is immensely appealing to me. I am excited about the prospect of joining student organizations and participating in the vibrant intellectual discourse that characterizes Duke Law.

The emphasis on interdisciplinary studies at Duke University is yet another aspect that distinguishes Duke Law School from its counterparts. As a student with diverse academic interests, I value the opportunity to explore cross-disciplinary collaboration. Interacting with students and faculty from various disciplines will broaden my perspective and equip me with a well-rounded approach to legal problem-solving. Duke Law's commitment to interdisciplinary studies reflects the ever-evolving nature of the legal profession and the need for lawyers who can think critically and adapt to emerging challenges.

Lastly, the prestigious reputation of Duke Law School is undeniable. Its alumni network, comprised of accomplished legal professionals and influential figures in various industries, is a testament to the institution's ability to produce exceptional lawyers. The global recognition and respect that Duke Law enjoys will undoubtedly open doors to numerous opportunities for personal and professional growth throughout my legal career.

In conclusion, Duke Law School's unwavering commitment to excellence, dedication to public interest law, vibrant campus life, interdisciplinary approach, and prestigious reputation make it the ideal institution to nurture my passion for justice and foster my intellectual growth. As a college student with a profound dedication to pursuing a legal career, I am thrilled at the prospect of becoming part of the Duke Law community and contributing to the pursuit of justice in our society.

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duke law essays

Duke Law > Duke Law Scholarship Repository > Journals > LCP > Vol. 74 > No. 1 (2011)

Law and Contemporary Problems

Director confidentiality.

Cyril Moscow

The Corporate Directors Guidebook contains the bare proposition that a director must keep confidential all matters involving the corporation that have not been disclosed to the public. Moscow explores the need to modify the flat recitation of a rule of director confidentiality in light of the limited authority for a blanket restriction, and the necessary exceptions in the business contexts in which the issue arises. In particular, many situations do not involve damage to the corporation, or there is express or implied consent to the sharing of information.

Cyril Moscow, Director Confidentiality, 74 L aw and C ontemporary P roblems 197-210 (Winter 2011) Available at: https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/lcp/vol74/iss1/17

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Ashleigh Merchant, a Defense Lawyer, Is Arguing for the Prosecutors’ Disqualification

Ms. Merchant, who brought the allegations against Fani Willis and Nathan Wade to light last month, has said their relationship poses a conflict of interest.

  • Share full article

Ashleigh Merchant, in a pink top and gold necklace, speaks during a hearing in the Georgia election interference case.

By Anna Betts

  • Feb. 15, 2024

Ashleigh Merchant is a lawyer representing Michael Roman, a former campaign official for former President Donald J. Trump and a co-defendant facing criminal charges in the Georgia election interference case.

Ms. Merchant, who was recently elected president of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers , owns a private practice with her husband. She was previously a public defender in Fulton County for several years.

In early January, Ms. Merchant filed court documents accusing Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, of engaging in a “clandestine” relationship with Nathan J. Wade, the special prosecutor she hired in 2021 to help with the case against Mr. Trump and his allies.

Georgia Prosecutor Fani Willis Delivers Tense Testimony

The fulton county district attorney, who is overseeing the state’s prosecution of donald j. trump, was combative and accused the defense of spreading lies..

“You and Mr. Wade met in October 2019 at a conference?” “That is correct, and I think in one of your motions you tried to implicate I slept with him at that conference, which I find to be extremely offensive.” “Your office objected to us getting Delta records for flights that you may have taken when Mr. Wade.” “Well, no, no, no, look. I object to you getting records. You’ve been intrusive into people’s personal lives. You’re confused. You think I’m on trial. These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020. I’m not on trial no matter how hard you try to put me on trial. It’s interesting that we’re here about this money. Mr. Wade is used to women that, as he told me one time, the only thing a woman can do for him is make him a sandwich. We would have brutal arguments about the fact that I am your equal. I don’t need anything from a man. A man is not a plan. A man is a companion. And so there was tension always in our relationship, which is why I would give him his money back. I don’t need anybody to foot my bills. The only man who’s ever foot my bills completely is my daddy.” “Mr. Wade visit you at the place you laid your head.” “When?” “Has he ever visited you at the place you laid your head?” “So let’s be clear, because you’ve lied and this – Let me tell you which one you lied in. Right here. I think you lied right here. No, no, no, no. This is the truth. And it is a lie. It is a lie.” “Ms. Willis.” “Mr. Sadow, thank you. We’re going to take five minutes. Be back in five.”

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Ms. Merchant has argued that the relationship between Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis should disqualify them, as well as Ms. Willis’s entire office, from prosecuting the case, citing a conflict of interest. She claimed that Ms. Willis was profiting financially from the prosecution, accusing her of taking vacations with Mr. Wade with money he had made working for her.

Ms. Willis admitted to a relationship with Mr. Wade in February but argued that it was not a reason to disqualify her or her office from the case. She and Mr. Wade have also said they split costs for private travel.

In the court filings, Ms. Merchant said that Mr. Wade was unqualified for the role. But in 2016, she praised Mr. Wade’s “robust legal background” on Facebook, when she was supporting him in one of his failed bids to be elected as a Superior Court judge. In another post, a photo showed her posing in a Wade campaign T-shirt.

Asked about the posts, Ms. Merchant said recently that Mr. Wade “was the most qualified candidate in that race.”

Before the Thursday hearing, Ms. Merchant sent subpoenas demanding that Mr. Wade, Ms. Willis and several witnesses testify regarding the relationship between the prosecutors. It is unclear whether the judge will allow her to put them on the stand.

Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim contributed reporting.

Anna Betts reports on national events, including politics, education, and natural or man-made disasters, among other things. More about Anna Betts

Our Coverage of the Trump Case in Georgia

Former president donald trump and 18 others face a sprawling series of charges for their roles in attempting to interfere in the state’s 2020 presidential election..

RICO Charges:  At the heart of the indictment in Georgia  are racketeering charges under the state Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act . Here’s why such charges  could prove to be a powerful tool for the prosecution .

Who Else Was Indicted?:   Rudy   Giuliani , who led legal efforts in several states to keep the former president in power, and Mark Meadows , the former White House chief of staff, were among the 18 Trump allies  charged in the case.

Plea Deals: Sidney K. Powell , Kenneth Chesebro  and Jenna Ellis  — three lawyers indicted with Trump in the case — pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors   against the former president.

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones: Since the indictment of Trump and his allies, a question has gone unanswered: Would charges also be filed against the longtime Trump supporter? It is now up to a state agency to find a special prosecutor to investigate him .

MIA   >  Archive   >  Pashukanis

Evgeny Pashukanis

Marksistskaia teoriia gosudarstva i prava , pp.9-44 in E. B. Pashukanis (ed.), Uchenie o gosudarstve i prave (1932), Partiinoe Izd., Moscow. From Evgeny Pashukanis, Selected Writings on Marxism and Law (eds. P. Beirne & R. Sharlet), London & New York 1980, pp.273-301. Translated by Peter B. Maggs . Copyright © Peter B. Maggs. Published here by kind permission of the translator. Downloaded from home.law.uiuc.edu/~pmaggs/pashukanis.htm Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive .

Introductory Note

In the winter of 1929-1930, during the first Five Year Plan, the national economy of the USSR underwent dramatic and violent ruptures with the inauguration of forced collectivization and rapid heavy industrialization. Concomitantly, it seemed, the Party insisted on the reconstruction and realignment of the appropriate superstructures in conformity with the effectuation of these new social relations of production. In this spirit Pashukanis was no longer criticized but now overtly attacked in the struggle on the “legal front”. In common with important figures in other intellectual disciplines, such as history, in late 1930 Pashukanis undertook a major self-criticism which was qualitatively different from the incremental changes to his work that he had produced earlier. During the following year, 1931, Pashukanis outlined this theoretical reconstruction in his speech to the first conference of Marxist jurists, a speech entitled Towards a Marxist-Leninist Theory of Law . The first results appeared a year later in a collective volume The Doctrine of State and Law .

Chapter I of this collective work is translated below, The Marxist Theory of State and Law , and was written by Pashukanis himself It should be noted that this volume exemplifies the formal transformations which occurred in Soviet legal scholarship during this heated period. Earlier, Pashukanis and other jurists had authored their own monographs; the trend was now towards a collective scholarship which promised to maximize individual safety. The source of authority for much of the work that ensued increasingly became the many expressions of Stalin’s interpretation of Bolshevik history, class struggle and revisionism, most notably his Problems of Leninism . Last, but not least, the language and vocabulary of academic discourse in the 1920s had been rich, open-ended and diverse, and varied tremendously with the personal preferences of the individual author; this gave way to a standardized and simplified style of prose devoid of nuance and ambiguity, and which was very much in keeping with the new theoretical content which comprised official textbooks on the theory of state and law. The reader will perhaps discover that The Marxist Theory of State and Law is a text imbued with these tensions. Pashukanis’ radical reconceptualization of the unity of form and content, and of the ultimate primacy of the relations of production, is without doubt to be preferred to his previous notions. But this is a preference guided by the advantages of editorial hindsight, and we feel that we cannot now distinguish between those reconceptualizations which Pashukanis may actually have intended and those which were produced by the external pressures of political opportunism.

CHAPTER I Socio-economic Formations, State, and Law

1. the doctrine of socio-economic formations as a basis for the marxist theory of state and law.

The doctrine of state and law is part of a broader whole, namely, the complex of sciences which study human society. The development of these sciences is in turn determined by the history of society itself, i.e. by the history of class struggle.

It has long since been noted that the most powerful and fruitful catalysts which foster the study of social phenomena are connected with revolutions. The English Revolution of the seventeenth century gave birth to the basic directions of bourgeois social thought, and forcibly advanced the scientific, i.e. materialist, understanding of social phenomena.

It suffices to mention such a work as Oceana – by the English writer Harrington, and which appeared soon after the English Revolution of the seventeenth century – in which changes in political structure are related to the changing distribution of landed property. It suffices to mention the work of Barnave – one of the architects of the great French Revolution – who in the same way sought explanations of political struggle and the political order in property relations. In studying bourgeois revolutions, French restorationist historians – Guizot, Mineaux and Thierry – concluded that the leitmotif of these revolutions was the class struggle between the third estate (i.e. the bourgeoisie) and the privileged estates of feudalism and their monarch. This is why Marx, in his well-known letter to Weydemeyer, indicates that the theory of the class struggle was known before him. “As far as I am concerned”, he wrote,

no credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society, or the struggle between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this class struggle, and bourgeois economists the economic anatomy of the classes.

What I did that was new was to prove: (1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical forms of struggle in the development of production ...; (2) that the class struggle inevitably leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat; (3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and the establishment of a classless society. [1]

[ Section 2 omitted – eds. ]

  Top of the page  

3. The class type of state and the form of government

The doctrine of socio-economic formations is particularly important to Marx’s theory of state and law, because it provides the basis for the precise and scientific delineation of the different types of state and the different systems of law.

Bourgeois political and juridical theorists attempt to establish a classification of political and legal forms without scientific criteria; not from the class essence of the forms, but from more or less external characteristics. Bourgeois theorists of the state, assiduously avoiding the question of the class nature of the state, propose every type of artificial and scholastic definition and conceptual distinction. For instance, in the past, textbooks on the state divided the state into three “elements”: territory, population and power.

Some scholars go further. Kellen – one of the most recent Swedish theorists of the state – distinguishes five elements or phenomena of the state: territory, people, economy, society and, finally, the state as the formal legal subject of power. All these definitions and distinctions of elements, or aspects of the state, are no more than a scholastic game of empty concepts since the main point is absent: the division of society into classes, and class domination. Of course, the state cannot exist without population, or territory, or economy, or society. This is an incontrovertible truth. But, at the same time, it is true that all these “elements” existed at that stage of development when there was no state. Equally, classless communist society – having territory, population and an economy – will do without the state since the necessity of class suppression will disappear.

The feature of power, or coercive power, also tells one exactly nothing. Lenin, in his polemic of the 1890s with Struve asserted that: “he most incorrectly sees the distinguishing feature of the state as coercive power. Coercive power exists in every human society – both in the tribal structure and in the family, but there was no state.” And further, Lenin concludes: “The distinguishing feature of the state is the existence of a separate class of people in whose hands power is concentrated. Obviously, no one could use the term ‘State’ in reference to a community in which the ‘organization of order’ is administered in turn by all of its members.” [2]

Struve’s position, according to which the distinguishing feature of a state is coercive power, was not without reason termed “professorial” by Lenin. Every bourgeois science of the state is full of conclusions on the essence of this coercive power. Disguising the class character of the state, bourgeois scholars interpret this coercion in a purely psychological sense. “For power and subordination”, wrote one of the Russian bourgeois jurists (Lazarevsky), “two elements are necessary: the consciousness of those exercising power that they have the right to obedience, and the consciousness of the subordinates that they must obey.”

From this, Lazarevsky and other bourgeois jurists reached the following conclusion: state power is based upon the general conviction of citizens that a specific state has the right to issue its decrees and laws. Thus, the real fact-concentration of the means of force and coercion in the hands of a particular class-is concealed and masked by the ideology of the bourgeoisie. While the feudal landowning state sanctified its power by the authority of religion, the bourgeoisie uses the fetishes of statute and law. In connection with this, we also find the theory of bourgeois jurists-which now has been adopted in its entirety by the Social Democrats whereby the state is viewed as an agency acting in the interests of the whole society. “If the source of state power derives from class”, wrote another of the bourgeois jurists (Magaziner), “then to fulfil its tasks it must stand above the class struggle. Formally, it is the arbiter of the class struggle, and even more than that: it develops the rules of this struggle.”

It is precisely this false theory of the supra-class nature of the state that is used for the justification of the treacherous policy of the Social Democrats. In the name “of the general interest”, Social Democrats deprive the unemployed of their welfare payments, help in reducing wages, and encourage shooting at workers’ demonstrations.

Not wishing to recognize the basic fact, i.e. that states differ according to their class basis, bourgeois theorists of the state concentrate all their attention on various forms of government. But this difference by itself is worthless. Thus, for instance, in ancient Greece and ancient Rome we have the most varied forms of government. But all the transitions from monarchy to republic, from aristocracy to democracy, which we observe there, do not destroy the basic fact that these states, regardless of their different forms, were slave-owning states. The apparatus of coercion, however it was organized, belong to the slave-owners and assured their mastery over the slaves with the help of armed force, assured the right of the slave-owners to dispose of the labour and personality of the slaves, to exploit them, to commit any desired act of violence against them.

Distinguishing between the form of rule and the class essence of the state is particularly important for the correct strategy of the working class in its struggle with capitalism. Proceeding from this distinction, we establish that to the extent that private property and the power of capital remain untouchable, to this extent the democratic form of government does not change the essence of the matter. Democracy with the preservation of capitalist exploitation will always be democracy for the minority, democracy for the propertied; it will always mean the exploitation and subjugation of the great mass of the working people. Therefore theorists of the Second International such as Kautsky, who contrast “democracy” in general with “dictatorship”, entirely refuse to consider their class nature. They replace Marxism with vulgar legal dogmatism, and act as the scholarly champions and lackeys of capitalism.

The different forms of rule had already arisen in slave-owning society. Basically, they consist of the following types: the monarchic state with an hereditary head, and the republic where power is elective and where there are no offices which pass by inheritance. In addition, aristocracy, or the power of a minority (i.e. a state where participation in the administration of the state is limited by law to a definite and rather narrow circle of privileged persons) is distinguished from democracy (or, literally, the rule of the people), i.e. a state where by law all take part in deciding public affairs either directly or through elected representatives. The distinction between monarchy, aristocracy and democracy had already been established by the Greek philosopher Aristotle in the fourth century. All the modern bourgeois theories of the state could add little to this classification.

Actually the significance of one form or another can be gleaned only by taking into account the concrete historical conditions under which it arose and existed, and only in the context of the class nature of a specific state. Attempts to establish any general abstract laws of the movement of state forms – with which bourgeois theorists of the state have often been occupied – have nothing in common with science.

In particular, the change of the form of government depends on concrete historical conditions, on the condition of the class struggle, and on how relationships are formed between the ruling class and the subordinate class, and also within the ruling class itself

The forms of government may change although the class nature of the state remains the same. France, in the course of the nineteenth century, and after the revolution of 1830 until the present time, was a constitutional monarchy, an empire and a republic, and the rule of the bourgeois capitalist state was maintained in all three of these forms. Conversely, the same form of government (for instance a democratic republic) which was encountered in antiquity as one of the variations of the slave-owning state, is in our time one of the forms of capitalist domination.

Therefore, in studying any state, it is very important primarily to examine not its external form but its internal class content, placing the concrete historical conditions of the class struggle at the very basis of scrutiny.

The question of the relationship between the class type of the state and the form of government is still very little developed. In the bourgeois theory of the state this question not only could not be developed, but could not even be correctly posed, because bourgeois science always tries to disguise the class nature of all states, and in particular the class nature of the capitalist state. Often therefore, bourgeois theorists of the state, without analysis, conflate characteristics relating to the form of government and characteristics relating to the class nature of the state.

As an example one may adduce the classification which is proposed in one of the newest German encyclopaedias of legal science.

The author [Kellreiter] distinguishes: (a) absolutism and dictatorship, and considers that the basic characteristic of these forms is that state powers are concentrated in the hands of one person. As an example, he mentions the absolute monarchy of Louis XIV in France, tsarist autocracy in Russia and the dictatorial power which was invested by the procedure of extraordinary powers in the one person, for instance the president of the German Republic on the basis of Art.48 of the Weimar Constitution; (b) constitutionalism, characterized by the separation of powers, their independence and their checks and balances, thereby weakening the pressure exerted by state power on the individual (examples: the German Constitution before the 1918 revolution, and the USA, where the President and Congress have independent powers); (c) democracy, whose basic premise is monism of power and a denial in principle of the difference between power and the subject of power (popular sovereignty, exemplified by the German Republic); and (d) the class-corporative state and the Soviet system where as opposed to formal democracy, the people appear not as an atomized mass of isolated citizens but as a totality of organized and discrete collectives. [3]

This classification is very typical of the confusion which bourgeois scholars consciously introduce into the question of the state. Starting with the fact that the concept of dictatorship is interpreted in the formal legal sense, deprived of all class content, the bourgeois jurist deliberately avoids the question: the dictatorship of which class and directed against whom ? He blurs the distinction between the dictatorship of a small group of exploiters and the dictatorship of the overwhelming majority of the working people; he distorts the concept of dictatorship, for he cannot avoid defining it without a relevant law or paragraph, while “the scientific concept of dictatorship means nothing less than power resting directly upon force, unlimited by laws, and unconstricted by absolute rules”. [4] Further it is sufficient to indicate, for instance, that under the latter heading the author includes: (a) a new type of state, never encountered before in history, where power belongs to the proletariat; (b) the reactionary dreams of certain professors and so-called guild socialists, about the return to the corporations and shops of the Middle Ages; and, finally (c) the fascist dictatorship of capital which Mussolini exercises in Italy.

This respected scholar consciously introduces confusion, consciously ignores the concrete historical conditions under which the working people actually can exercise administration of the state, acting as organized collectives. But such conditions are only the proletarian revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

4. The class nature of law

Bourgeois science confuses the question of the essence of law no less than the question of the state. Here, Marxism-Leninism opposes the diverse majority of bourgeois, petit bourgeois and revisionist theories which, proceeding from the explanation of the historical and class nature of law, consider the state as a phenomenon essential to every human society. They thus transform law into a supra-historical category.

It is not surprising, therefore, that bourgeois philosophy of law serves as the main source for introducing confusion both into the concept of law and into the concept of state and society.

The bourgeois theory of the state is 90% the legal theory of the state. The unattractive class essence of the state, most often and most eagerly, is hidden by clever combinations of legal formalism, or else it is covered by a cloud of lofty philosophical legal abstractions.

The exposure of the class historical essence of law is not, therefore, an unimportant part of the Marxist-Leninist theory of society, of the state and of law.

The most widespread approach of bourgeois science to the solution of the question of the essence of law consists in the fact that it strives to embrace, through the concept of law, the existence of any consciously ordered human relationships, of any social rules, of any phenomenon of social authority or social power. Thus, bourgeois scholars easily transfer law to pre-class society, find it in the pre-state life of primitive tribes, and conclude that communism is unthinkable without law. They turn law as an empty abstraction into a universal concept devoid of historical content. Law, for bourgeois sociologists, becomes an empty form which is unconnected with concrete reality, with the relationships of production, with the antagonistic character of these relationships in class society, [and] with the presence of the state as a particular apparatus of power in the hands of the ruling class.

Representatives of idealist philosophy of law go still further. They begin with “the idea of law”, which stands above social history as something eternal, immutable and independent of space and time.

Here, for example, is the conclusion of one of the most important representatives of the ideological neo-Kantian philosophy of law – Stammler:

Through all the fates and deeds of man there extends a single unitary idea, the idea of law. All languages have a designation for this concept, and the direction of definitions and judgements expressed by it amount, upon careful study, to one and the same meaning.

Having made this discovery, it cost Stammler nothing “to prove” that regardless of the difference between the “life and activity of nations” and “the objects of legal consideration”, we observe the unity of the legal idea and its equal appearance and intervention.

This professorial rubbish is presented without the least attempt at factual proof In actuality it would be rather difficult to explain how this “unity of the legal idea and its equal appearance” gave birth to the laws of the Twelve Tablets of slave-owning Rome, the serf customs of the Middle Ages, the declarations of rights of capitalist democracies, and our Soviet Constitution.

But Stammler is not embarrassed by the scantiness of factual argument. He deals just as simply with the proof of the eternity of law. He begins from those legendary Cyclops described in the Odyssey; even these mythical wonders were the fathers of families and, according to Stammler, could not do without law. On the other hand, however, while Stammler is ready to admit that the pigmy tribes of Africa and the Eskimos did not know the state, he simply denies as deceptive all reports about peoples not knowing law. Moreover, Stammler immediately replaces the concrete historical consideration of the question with scholastic formal-logical tightrope walking, which among bourgeois professors is presented as a methodological precision. We present these conclusions, for they typify the whole trend and, moreover, are most fashionable in the West.

Stammler proposes that the concrete study of legal phenomena is entirely unable to provide anything in the understanding of the essence of law. For if we assign any phenomenon to the list of legal ones, this means that we already know that this is law and what its characteristics are. The definition of law which precedes the facts presupposes knowledge of what is law and what is not law. Accordingly, in the opinion of Stammler, in considering the concept of law, it is necessary to exclude all that is concrete and encountered in experience and to understand “that the legal idea is a purely methodological means for the ordering of spiritual life”.

This conclusion, which confronts one with its scholasticism, is nothing other than a Kantian ideological thesis embodied in the context of Stammler’s legal stupidity. It shows that the so-called forms of knowledge do not express the objective characteristics of matter, are determined a priori, and precede all human experience and its necessary conditions.

Having turned law into a methodological idea, Stammler tries to locate it not in the material world where everything is subordinate to the law of cause and effect, but in the area of goals. Law, according to Stammler, is a definition which proceeds not from the past (from cause to effect), but from the future (from goal to means). Finally, adding that law deals not with the internal procedure of thoughts as such, but with human interaction, Stammler gives this agonizing and thoroughly scholastic definition:

The concept of law is a pure form of thought. It methodically divides the endlessly differentiated material of human desires apprehended by the senses, and defines it as an inviolable and independent connecting will.

This professorial scholasticism has the attractive feature for the bourgeoisie that verbal and formalistic contrivances can hide the ugly reality of [their] exploiting society and exploiting law.

If law is “a pure form of thought”, then it is possible to avoid the ugly fact that the capitalist law of private property means the misery of unemployment, poverty and hunger for the proletarian and his family; and that in defence of this law stand police armed to the teeth, fascist bands, hangmen and prison guards; and that this law signifies a whole system of coercion, humiliation and oppression in colonies.

Such theories allow the disguising of the fact that the class interest of the bourgeoisie lies at the basis of bourgeois law. Instead of class law, philosophers such as Stammler dream up abstractions, “pure forms”, general human “ideas”, “whole and durable bonds of will” – and other entirely shameless things.

This philosophy of law is calculated to blunt the revolutionary class consciousness of the proletariat, and to reconcile it with bourgeois society and capitalist exploitation.

It is not without reason that the social fascists speak out as such zealous exponents of neo-Kantianism; it is not without reason that Social Democratic theorists on questions of law largely subscribe to neo-Kantian philosophy and re-hash the same Stammler in different ways.

In our Soviet legal literature, a rather wide dissemination has been achieved by bourgeois legal theories. In particular, there have been attempts to spread the idealist teaching of Stammler in the works of Pontovich and Popov-Ladyzhensky. The criticism and unmasking of this eructation is necessary for the purpose of eradicating this bourgeois ideological infection.

Thus, we know that the state is an historical phenomenon limited by the boundaries of class society. A state is a machine for the maintenance of the domination of one class over another. It is an organization of the ruling class, having at its disposal the most powerful means of suppression and coercion. Until the appearance of classes the state did not exist. In developed communism there will be no state.

In the same way as the state, law is inseparably tied to the division of society into classes. Every law is the law of the ruling class. The basis of law is the formulation and consolidation of the relationship to the means of production, owing to which in exploitative society, one part of the people can appropriate to itself the unpaid labour of another.

The form of exploitation determines the typical features of a legal system. In accordance with the three basic socio-economic formations of class society, we have three basic types of legal superstructure: slave-owning law, feudal law and bourgeois law. This of course does not exclude concrete historical national differences between each of the systems. For instance, English law is distinguished by many peculiarities in comparison with French bourgeois law as contained in the Napoleonic Code . Likewise, we do not exclude the presence of survivals of the past – transitional or mixed forms – which complicate the concrete picture.

However, the essential and basic – that which provides the guiding theme for the study of different legal institutions – is the difference between the position of the slave, the position of the serf and the position of the wage labourer. The relationship of exploitation is the basic lynchpin, around which all other legal relationships and legal institutions are arranged. From this it follows that the nature of property has decisive significance for each system of law. According to Lenge, the brilliant and cynical reactionary of the eighteenth century, the spirit of the laws is property.

5. Law as an historical phenomenon: definition of law

The appearance and withering away of law, similar to the appearance and withering of the state, is connected with two extremely important historical limitations. Law (and the state) appears with the division of society into classes. Passing through a long path of development, full of revolutionary leaps and qualitative changes, law and the state will wither away under communism as a result of the disappearance of classes and of all survivals of class society.

Nevertheless, certain authors, who consider themselves Marxists, adopt the viewpoint that law exists in pre-class society, that in primitive communism we meet with legal forms and legal relationships. Such a point of view is adopted for instance by Reisner. Reisner gives the term “law” to a whole series of institutions and customs of tribal society: marriage taboos and blood feud, customs regulating relationships between tribes, and customs relating to the use of the means of production belonging to a tribe. Law in this manner is transformed into an eternal institution, inherent to all forms of human society. From here it is just one step to the understanding of law as an eternal idea; and Reisner in essence leans towards such an understanding.

This viewpoint of course fundamentally contradicts Marxism. The customs of a society not knowing class divisions, property inequality and exploitation, differ qualitatively from the law and the statutes of class society. To categorize them together means to introduce an unlikely confusion. Every attempt to avoid this qualitative difference inevitably leads to scholasticism, to the purely external combination of phenomena of different types, or to abstract idealist constructs in the Stammlerian spirit.

We should not be confused by the fact that Engels, in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State , uses the expression “the eternal law”; or, that he cites, without particular qualification, Morgan’s description of the member of a tribal community as having “equality of rights”, and of a person violating tribal customs as having placed himself “outside the law”.

It is clear that the terms “right” and “law” are used here not in their direct sense, but by analogy. This does not mean, however, that in classless society we will be dealing only with purely technical rules. Such an argument was put forward by Stuchka in his dispute with Reisner. To assign the customs and the norms of pre-class society to the area of technology would mean to give the concept of technology a very extended and undefined sense. Marriage prohibitions, customs relating to the organization of the tribe, the power of the elders, blood feud etc. – all this of course is not technology and not technical methods, but the customs and norms of social order. The content and character of these customs corresponded of course to the level of productive forces and the production relationships erected on it. These social forms should be considered as a superstructure upon the economic base. But the basic qualitative difference between this superstructure and the political and legal superstructures of class society, consists in the absence of property inequality, exploitation, and organized class coercion.

While Marxism strives to give a concrete historical meaning to law, the characteristic feature of bourgeois philosophers of law is, on the contrary, the conclusion that law in general is outside classes, outside any particular socio-economic formation. Instead of deriving a concept of law from the study of historical facts, bourgeois scholars are occupied with the concoction of theories and definitions from the empty concept or even the word “law”.

We already saw how Stammler, with the help of scholastic contrivances, tries to show that concrete facts have no significance for the definition of law. We, however, say the opposite. It is impossible to give a general definition of law without knowing the law of slave-owning, feudal and capitalist societies. Only by studying the law of each of these socio-economic formations can we identify those characteristics which are in fact most general and most typical. In doing so we must not forget Engels’ warning to those who tend to exaggerate the significance of these general definitions.

For example, in Chapter VI of the first part of Anti-Dühring , having given a definition of life, Engels speaks of the inadequacy of all definitions because they are necessarily limited to the most general and simplistic areas. In the preface to Anti-Dühring , Engels formulated this thought still more clearly, indicating that “the only real definition is the development of the essence of the matter, and that is not a definition”. However, Engels at once states that for ordinary practical use, definitions which indicate the most general and characteristic features of a category are very convenient. We cannot do without them. It is also wrong to demand more from a definition than it can give; it is wrong to forget the inevitability of its insufficiency.

These statements by Engels should be kept in mind in approaching any general definition, including a definition of law. It is necessary to remember that it does not replace, and cannot replace, the study of all forms and aspects of law as a concrete historical phenomenon. In identifying the most general and characteristic features we can define law as the form of regulation and consolidation of production relationships and also of other social relationships of class society; law depends on the apparatus of state power of the ruling class, and reflects the interests of the latter.

This definition characterizes the role and significance of law in class society. But it is nevertheless incomplete. In contradistinction to all normative theories – which are limited to the external and formal side of law (norms, statutes, judicial positions etc.) – Marxist-Leninist theory considers a law as a unity of form and content. The legal superstructure comprises not only the totality of norms and actions of agencies, but the unity of this formal side and its content, i.e. of the social relationships which law reflects and at the same time sanctions, formalizes and modifies. The character of formalization does not depend on the “free will of the legislator”; it is defined by economics, but on the other hand the legal superstructure, once having arisen, exerts a reflexive effect upon the economy.

This definition stresses three aspects of the matter. First is the class nature of law: every law is the law of the ruling class. Attempts to consider law as a social relationship which transcends class society, lead either to superficial categorization of diverse phenomena, or to speculative idealistic constructs in the spirit of the bourgeois philosophy of law. Second is the basic and determinant significance of production relationships in the content that is implemented by law. Class interests directly reflect their relationship to the means of production. Property relationships occupy the prominent place in the characterization of a specific legal order. Communist society, where classes disappear, where labour becomes the primary want, where the effective principle will be from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs: this does not require law. The third aspect consists of the fact that the functioning of a legal superstructure demands a coercive apparatus. When we say that social relationships have assumed a legal expression, this means inter alia that they have been given a coercive nature by the state power of the ruling class. Withering away of the law can only occur simultaneously with the withering away of the state.

Relationships which have received legal expression are qualitatively different from those relationships which have not received this expression. The form of this expression may be different, as was indicated by Engels [5] ; it may sometimes be good and sometimes be bad. It may support the progressive development of these relationships or, on the contrary, retard them. Everything depends on whether power is in the hands of a revolutionary or a reactionary class. Here the real significance of the legal superstructure appears. However, the degree of this reality is a question of fact; it can be determined only by concrete study and not by any a priori calculations. Bourgeois jurists characteristically concentrate their attention on form, and utterly ignore content. They turn their backs on life and actual history. As Engels showed, “they consider public and private law as independent areas, which have their own independent development and which must and may be subjected to independent systematic elaboration by the consistent elimination of all internal contradictions.” [6]

Bourgeois jurists usually define law as the totality of norms to which a state has given coercive power. This view of law typifies so-called legal positivism. The most consistent representatives of this trend are the English jurists: of the earliest Blackstone (eighteenth century), and thereafter Austin. In other European countries legal positivism also won itself a dominant position in the nineteenth century, because the bourgeoisie either gained state power or everywhere achieved sufficient influence in the state so as not to fear the identification of law with statute. At the same time nothing was better for legal professionals, for judges, [and] for defence counsel since this definition fully satisfied their practical needs. If law in its entirety was the complex of orders proceeding from the state, and consolidated by sanction in the case of disobedience, then the task of jurisprudence was defined with maximum clarity. The work of the jurist, according to the positivists, did not consist in justifying law from some external point of view – philosophers were occupied with this; the task of the jurists did not include explaining from where a norm emerged, and what determined its content – this was the task of political scientists and sociologists. The role of the jurist remained the logical interpretation of particular legal provisions, the establishment of an internal logical connection between them, combining them into larger systematic units in legal institutions, and finally in this way the creation of a system of law.

The definition of law as the totality of norms is the starting point for supporting the so-called dogmatic method. This consists of using formal logical conclusions in order to move from particular norms to more general concepts and back, proceeding from general positions to propose the solution of concrete legal cases or disputes. It is obvious that the practical part of this role developing especially luxuriantly in the litigious circumstances of bourgeois society – has nothing in common with a scientific theory of law. Applications of so-called legal logic are not only theoretically fruitless, they are not only incapable of revealing the essence of law and thus of showing its connection with other phenomena-with economics, with politics, with class struggle – but they are also harmful and impermissible in the practice of our Soviet courts and other state institutions. We need decisions of cases, not formally, but in their essence; the state of the working people, as distinct from the bourgeois state, does not hide either its class character or its goal – the construction of socialism. Therefore, the application of norms of Soviet law must not be based on certain formal logical considerations, but upon the consideration of all the concrete features of the given case, of the class essence of those relationships to which it becomes necessary to apply a general norm, and of the general direction on of the policy of Soviet power at the given moment. In the opposite case a result would be obtained which Lenin defined as: “Correct in form, a mockery in substance.”

The denial of formal legal logic cultivated by the bourgeoisie does not mean a denial of revolutionary legality, does not mean that judicial cases and questions of administration must be decided chaotically in the Soviet state, systematically on the basis of the random whims of individuals, or on the basis of local influences. The struggle for revolutionary legality is a struggle on two fronts: against legal formalism and the transfer to Soviet soil of bourgeois chicanery, and against those who do not understand the organizational significance of Soviet decrees as one of the methods of the uniform conduct of the policy of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Thus, the law is the means of formulating and consolidating the production relationships of class society and the social relationships which are connected with them. In the legal superstructure, these relationships appear as property relations and as relations of domination and subordination. They appear, in particular, as relations of an ideological nature, i.e. as relations which are formed in connection with certain views and are supported by the conscious will of the people.

We shall not touch upon the question of the degree to which the legal ideology of the exploiting classes is capable of correctly reflecting reality, and in what measure it inevitably distorts it (representing the interest of the exploiting class as the social interest in order, legality, freedom etc.). Here, we merely emphasize the fact that without the work of legislators, judges, police and prison guards (in a word, of the whole apparatus of the class state), law would become a fiction. “Law is nothing without an apparatus capable of enforcing observation of the norms of law” (Lenin).

The conscious will – towards the formulation and consolidation of production and other relationships – is the will of the ruling class which finds its expression in custom, in law, in the activity of the court and in administration. The legal superstructure exists and functions because behind it stands an organization of the ruling class, namely the apparatus of coercion and power in the form of the army, the police, court bailiffs, prison guards and hangmen. This does not mean that the ruling class has to use physical force in every case. Much is achieved by simple threat, by the knowledge of helplessness and of the futility of struggle, by economic pressure, and finally by the fact that the working classes are in the ideological captivity of the exploiters. It is sufficient to mention the narcotic of the religious ideology of humility and meekness, or the genuflection before the idol of bourgeois legality preached by the reformist.

But the ultimate argument for, and the basis of, the legal order is always the means of physical force. Only by depending on them could the slaveowner of antiquity or the modern capitalist enjoy his right.

The attempts by certain bourgeois jurists to separate law from the state, or to contrast “law” and “force”, are dictated by the attempt to hide and conceal the class essence of law.

Often these proofs that law is independent of the state bear a truly laughable character. Thus, for instance, Stammler claims that he has proved this thesis relying on the fact that on a dirigible which flies over the North Pole, i.e. outside the sphere of action of any state power, the emergence of legal relationships is possible.

By such empty dogmatic chicanery the scientific question of the relationship of state and law is decided. Can one be surprised at Lenin’s sharp reaction to Stammler when he says that: “From stupid arguments, Stammler draws equally stupid conclusions.”

The dependence of law on the state, however, does not signify that the state creates the legal superstructure by its arbitrary will. For the state itself, as Engels says, is only a more or less complex reflection of the economic needs of the dominant class in production.

The proletariat, having overthrown the bourgeoisie and consolidated its dictatorship, had to create Soviet law in conformity with the economy, in particular the existence of many millions of small and very small peasant farms. After the victory of the proletarian revolution the realization of socialism is not an instantaneous act but a long process of construction under the conditions of acute class struggle.

From the policy of limiting its exploitative tendencies and the elimination of its front ranks, we moved to the policy of liquidating the kulaks as a class by widespread collectivization. A successful fulfilment of the first Five Year Plan; the creation of our own base for the technical reconstruction of the whole national economy; the transfer of the basic mass of the peasantry to collectivization; these events enabled the basic task of the second Five Year Plan to be:

the final liquidation of capitalist elements and classes in general, the full elimination of the causes of class differences and exploitation, the overcoming of the survivals of capitalism in the economy and the consciousness of the people, the transformation of the whole working population of the country into conscious and active builders of a classless society. [7]

At each of these stages Soviet law regulated and formulated production relationships differently.

Soviet law in each of the stages was naturally different from the law of capitalist states. For law under the proletarian dictatorship has always had the goal of protecting the interest of “the working majority, the suppression of class elements hostile to the proletariat, and the defence of socialist construction. Those individual Soviet jurists who considered law as the totality of norms (i.e. externally and formally) are not in a position to understand this. Finding identically formulated norms in the system of bourgeois and Soviet law, these jurists began to speak of the similarity between bourgeois and Soviet law, to search out “general” institutions, and to trace the development of certain “general” bases for bourgeois and Soviet law. This tendency was very strong in the first years of NEP. The identification of Soviet with bourgeois law derived from an understanding of NEP as a return to capitalism, which found expression in the Marxist ranks.

If NEP, as the Zinoviev opposition asserted at the XIVth Party Congress, is “capitalism which holds the proletarian state on a chain”, then Soviet law must be presented as bourgeois law, in which certain limitations are introduced, to the extent in the period of imperialism that the capitalist state also regulates and limits the freedom of disposition of property, contractual freedom etc.

Such a distortion in the description of NEP led directly to an alliance with bourgeois reformists in the understanding of Soviet law.

In fact, NEP “is a special policy of the proletarian state intended to permit capitalism while the commanding heights are held by the proletarian state, intended for the struggle between the capitalist and socialist elements, intended for the growth of the role of the socialist elements at the expense of the capitalist elements, intended for the victory of the socialist elements over the capitalist elements, intended for the elimination of classes and for the construction of the foundation of a socialist economy.” [8]

Soviet law as a special form of policy followed by the proletariat and the proletarian state, was intended precisely for the victory of socialism. As such, it is radically different from bourgeois law despite the formal resemblance of individual statutes.

Juridicial formalism, which conceives of nothing other than the norm and reduces law to the purely logical operation of these norms, appears as a variety of reformism, as a Soviet “juridical socialism”. By confining themselves only to the norm and the purely juridical (i.e. formal ideas and concepts), they ignored the socio-economic and political essence of the matter. As a result, these jurists arrive at the conclusion that the transformation of property from an arbitrary and unrestricted right into a “social function” (i.e. a tendency which is “peculiar to the law of the advanced”, that is, capitalist, countries), finds its “fullest” expression in Soviet legislation. Making this contention, the Jurists “forgot” such a trifle as the October Revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

It is not only important to “read” the norm, but also to know what class, what state, and what state apparatus is applying this norm.

6. Law and production relationships

Production relationships form the basis of society. It is necessary to begin with these relationships in order to comprehend the complex picture presented by the history of mankind.

To search for the basic characteristic of society and social relations in an area other than production relationships means to deprive oneself of the possibility of a scientific understanding of the laws of development of social formations. However, it by no means follows from this that, according to Marx, only relations of production and exchange are social relations. Such a concept is a caricature of Marxism. The equation of social relations with production relations in this case is understood purely mechanically. However, a number of times Lenin noted that Marx’s great service was that he did not limit himself to the description of the economic “skeleton” of capitalist society, but that:

in explaining the construction and development of a definite social formation “exclusively” by production relations, he nonetheless thoroughly and constantly studied the superstructure corresponding to these production relations, which clothed the skeleton with flesh and blood. The reason that Das Kapital had such enormous success was that this book (“by a German economist”) showed the capitalist social formation as a living thing-with its everyday aspects, with the actual social phenomena essential to the production relations between antagonistic classes, with the bourgeois political superstructure protecting the domination of the capitalist class, with the bourgeois ideas of freedom, equality etc., with bourgeois family relations. [9]

Stuchka looks differently at the matter. In his opinion, Marx considered only relations of production and exchange to be social relations. But this would mean affirming that Marx limited himself to the “skeleton” alone, as if having indicated the basic and eventually determinant in social life and social relations he then passed by that which is derivative and requires explanation. However, more than once Marx directly points out the existence of social relationships which are not production relations but which merely derive from them and correspond to them. Characterizing revolutionary proletarian socialism in France in 1848, Marx wrote:

This socialism is the proclamation of the permanence of the revolution , a proclamation of the class dictatorship of the proletariat as a necessary transition toward the elimination of class differences altogether, toward the elimination of all production relations upon which these differences are based, toward the elimination of all social relationships corresponding to these production relations, toward a revolution in the entire world of ideas arising from these relationships. [10]

Nevertheless, Comrade Stuchka firmly defends his understanding of the term “social relationships”:

We proceed from social relationships; I emphasize the word “social”, for here my critics are desperately confused. I thus selected the word “social” and a whole chapter in my first book was dedicated to it only in the sense of relations of production and exchange (as Marx and every Marxist understands this). [11]

Proceeding from the equation of production and social relationships, Stuchka defined law as a “system (or order) of social relations corresponding to the interests of the ruling class and protected by its organized force”. In this definition, as he himself indicated, there was room only for the law of property and the law of obligations.

As earlier, so even now [he wrote] I consider basic law , law in general, to be civil law , understanding thereby the form of organization of social relationships in the narrow and specific sense of the word (i.e. relations of production and exchange). I consider that all the remaining areas of law are either of a subordinate or derivative character, and that only bourgeois law (subjecting to its influence all the remaining areas of law) created a legal state, or state law and criminal law, as an equivalent norm for crime and punishment, not even mentioning administrative, financial etc., and finally international law or even the law of war. [12]

The positions outlined in this excerpt contain a series of mistakes. There is no doubt that the formulation and conformation of social relationships to the means of production is basic to law. Proceeding from the economic basis, from different forms of exploitation, we differentiate slaveowning, feudal and capitalist systems of law. But, in the first place, it is incorrect to subsume the property relations of slaveowning or feudal society under the concept of civil, i.e. bourgeois, law as “law in general”. In the second place, state law may not be equated with the so-called Rechtsstaat of the bourgeoisie. If one takes this point of view then one must either deny the existence of a distinctive feudal state law, or show that despite the existence of a Soviet state we do have Soviet state law. At the same time, in other places in his textbook, Stuchka proceeds from the existence of different class systems of law: feudal, bourgeois, Soviet. Here he argues for a “general law” which is equated with the civil law of bourgeois society. At the same time state law is equated with the theory of bourgeois jurists of the so-called Rechtsstaat , and criminal law (i.e. formalized class repression) with the ideology of equivalent retribution.

The basic question – do relationships exist that enter into the content of law, which are not, however, relations of production and exchange? – is avoided by Stuchka; he cites the subsidiary, derivative etc. character of state, criminal etc. law. However, it is clear that the structure of family relationships, the formalization of class domination in the state organization, the formalization of class repression, all this is embraced by the different branches of law (family, state and criminal).

The content of this legal intermediary is the social and political relationships which, in the final analysis, are reducible to the same production relationships, but by no means correspond to them.

Stuchka’s subsequent definition of law suffers from the shortcoming that he limits the area of law merely to production relations. This definition also introduces confusion because it confuses law with economics. Proceeding from the indisputable position that not all which is stated in a norm (in a statute) is realized in fact, Stuchka has made the incorrect conclusion that law is indeed the very relation of production and exchange. Stuchka has therefore declared Marx’s teaching – that law is an ideological superstructure to be a tribute to the “volitional theory” of the old jurists.

Whoever has mastered the form of theorizing of Marx and Engels that capital, money etc., are social relationships, will at once understand my views on the system of social relationships. This will be hardest of all for a jurist for whom law is a purely technical and artificial superstructure, strangely enough, holding sway over its base. Even Karl Marx gave a small tribute to this concept when he spoke of law as an ideological superstructure. But Marx was raised on Roman law and in general on the juridic concepts of the 1830s, considering it an expression “of the general will” ( Volkswillen ), and he was [therefore] accustomed to its terminology. [13]

In conducting the struggle with the narrow, formal legal concept of law as a totality of norms, we cannot deny the real existence of the legal superstructure, i.e. of relationships formulated and consolidated by the conscious will of the ruling class. Only to the extent that this process of formulation and consolidation proceeds may one speak of law. To study law only as totality of norms means to follow the path of formalism and dogmatism. But to study law only as relationships of production and exchange means to confuse law with economics, to retard the understanding of the reciprocal action of the legal superstructure and its active role. At the same time as production relations are imposed on people regardless of their will, legal relationships are impossible without the participation of the conscious will of the ruling class. The teaching of Marx, Engels and Lenin on law as an ideological superstructure needs no correction. Law cannot be understood unless we consider it as the basic form of the policy of the ruling class. In the later editions of The Revolutionary Role of State and Law , Stuchka supplemented his definition of law, developing the theory of the so-called three forms of law. The first, or in Stuchka’s words, the concrete form of law, is a legal relationship which corresponds to a production relationship and, with it, constitutes the base [or] reality. On the contrary, the two &ldquo;abstract&rdquo; forms – statute and legal ideology as Stuchka expresses it – are the essence of “the manifest superstructure”. [14]

This approach is also incorrect and non-dialectical. A legal relationship is a form of production relations because the active influence of the class organization of the ruling class transforms the factual relationship into a legal one, gives it a new quality, and thus includes it in the construction of the legal superstructure. This result is not achieved automatically by laissez faire , in the same way that prices are established under free competition. Even in the case of so-called customary law, the ruling class – through its special agencies, through the courts – ensures that the relations correspond to obligatory rules. This is all the more true with respect to the legislative creation of norms.

In particular, the revolutionary role of the legal superstructure is enormous in the transitional period when its active and conscious influence upon production and other social relationships assumes exceptional significance. Soviet law, like any law, will cease to exist if it is not applied. But the application of law is an active and conscious process by which the state apparatus plays the decisive role as a powerful weapon of class struggle. Would it be possible, for instance, to speak of Soviet law which did not somehow recognize the Soviet state, the Soviet agencies of power, Soviet courts etc.? It is clear that while an individual statute may be removed from the real legal order and remain a pious wish, concrete legal relationships may never be removed from the consciousness and will of the ruling class, may never be transferred from the superstructure to the base without parting from the heart of historical materialism.

From all that has been said above it is clear that the definition of law as a formal intermediary of the economy must be recognized as insufficient and incorrect. The different branches of law are connected differently with the economy; this must never be forgotten, and this is not expressed in the above-mentioned definition. On the contrary it can lead to the notion that the area of law is limited to property relationships alone. Then all the other types of law must be declared non-existent. Stuchka would, in fact, have had to reach this conclusion. But he speaks of criminal and state law, not entirely consistently with his other position, i.e. by referring to them he recognizes their existence.

There is no doubt that economics is at the base of political, familial and all other social relations. [15] But the election law of any capitalist country facilitates the economy differently from civil law or the Criminal Code. To try to force all the varied branches of law into one formula is to give preference to empty abstractions.

Law as a formal facilitation of social and (primarily) production relationships must be studied concretely. This study may not be replaced with ready citations from Hegel with respect to the “transformation of form into substance and substance into form”. The dialectical method, which teaches that every truth is concrete, becomes in this instance its own opposite-dead scholasticism, barren arguments and disputes on the theme that “form is not without content and content not without form”. However, the matter really consists of showing the role and character of law as form in specific and concrete branches of law and concrete historial conditions with a relation to concrete content. Only in this manner can the real relation of form and content be established and can one be convinced that it is far from identical in different instances. Often legal form hides economic content directly contrary to it (thus in the period when we conducted the policy of restricting the kulak, the leasing of a horse or tools by a poor peasant to a rich one often hid the sale of the first’s labour power to the second). A transaction of purchase and sale can hide the most diverse economic content. The same could be said about any other relationships within the so-called law of obligations. Here we meet with a phenomenon whose form is relatively indifferent to its content, but it is improper to conclude from this that in civil law we have a “faceless instrumentality” which must be used independently of the economic class content of the relationships which it implements. On the contrary, the significance of form is recognized only through content, through economics, through politics and through relations between classes.

Therefore, it is a flagrant error to equate law as an historical phenomenon – including various class systems – with the totality of those features of bourgeois law that derive from the exchange of commodities of equal value. [16] Such a concept of law minimizes the class coercion essential to bourgeois law, essential to feudal law and to all law. Law in bourgeois society serves not only the facilitation of exchange, but simultaneously and mainly supports and consolidates the unequal distribution of property and the monopoly of the capitalist in production. Bourgeois property is not exhausted by the relationships between commodity owners. These [owners – eds. ] are tied by exchange and the contractual relationship is the form of this exchange. Bourgeois property includes in a masked form the same relationship of domination and subordination which, in feudal property, appears chiefly as personal subordination.

This methodological mistake was related to the relegation of the class repressive role of law, and to an incorrect presentation of the relation between state and law (the state as the guarantor of exchange), and to mistakes in questions of morality (the denial of proletarian morality) and in questions of criminal law.

The attempts to distinguish between formal characteristics and abstract legal concepts expressing the relationship between commodity owners, and to proclaim this &ldquo;form of law&rdquo; as the subject of the Marxist theory of law, should be recognized as grossly mistaken. This paves the way to the separation of form and content, and diverts theory from the task of socialist construction to scholasticism.

The immediate relation, in practice, between the proletariat (as the ruling class) and law (as a weapon with whose help the tasks of class struggle at any given stage are decided) is in this case replaced by the abstract theoretical denial of the &ldquo;narrow horizons of bourgeois law&rdquo; in the name of developed communism.

From this perspective Soviet law is seen exclusively as a legacy of class society imposed on the proletariat and which haunts it until the second phase of communism. The abstract theoretical exposure of &ldquo;bourgeois&rdquo; law hides the task of the concrete analysis of Soviet law at different stages of the revolution. Accordingly, it gives insufficient concrete indication of the practical struggle against bourgeois influences, and against opportunist distortions of the Party’s general line on Soviet law.

The theoretical mistake of exaggerating the importance of market relations can be the basis for right opportunist conclusions about always preserving the bourgeois forms of law corresponding to private exchange. Conversely, to ignore exchange in considering the problems of Soviet law leads to &ldquo;leftist&rdquo; positions about the withering away of law which is now in the process of socializing the means of production, and about the withering away of economic accountability and the principle of payment according to labour, i.e. to the defence of the elimination of individual responsibility and wage egalitarianism.

Top of the page

1. K. Marx, Letter to Weydemeyer (March 5, 1852), MESW , vol.1, p.528.

2. V. I. Lenin, The Economic Content of Narodnism (1895), LCW , vol.1, p.419.

3. See Kellreiter’s article The State ;, in D. Elster et al. (eds), Handwörterbuch der Rechtswissenschaft (1923), Fischer, Jena, p.599.

4. V.I. Lenin, A Contribution to the History of the Question of Dictatorship (1920), LCW , vol.31, p.353.

5. F. Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy (1888), MESW , vol.3, p.371.

6. ibid. , p.371.

7. From a resolution of the XVIIth Party Conference (1932).

8. J. Stalin, The Fourteenth Congress of the CPSU (1925), Stalin: Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow (1954), vol.7, p.374.

9. V.I. Lenin, What the “Friends of the People” Are (1894), LCW , vol.1, pp.141-42.

10. K. Marx, The Class Struggles in France (1850), MESW , vol.1, p.282.

11. P.I. Stuchka, A Course on Soviet Civil Law (1927), Communist Academy, vol.1, p.13.

12. ibid. , pp.78-79.

13. P.I. Stuchka, The Revolutionary Role of Law and State (1921), Moscow, p.15.

14. ibid. (3rd edition); and P.I. Stuchka’s article Law in Encyclopaedia of State and Law, (1925-1927), vol.3, pp.415-430.

15. “The state and law are determined by economic relations. Of course, the same must be said of civil law whose role in essence consists of the legislative clarification of the existing economic relations between individuals which are normal in the given circumstances” F. Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy (1888), op. cit. p.370.

16. This erroneous conception was developed in E.B. Pashukanis, The General Theory of Law and Marxism (1927), 3rd edition. See also E.B. Pashukanis, The Situation on the Legal Theory Front , Soviet State and the Revolution of Law (1930), no.11-12; and For a Marxist-Leninist Theory of State and Law (1931) Moscow, where a critique of this mistaken conception is given.  

Last updated on 13.5.2004


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  1. Juris Doctor Application Information

    Application Process and Timeline We begin accepting First-Year JD Applications through LSAC on September 1. The application deadline for Regular Decision candidates is February 15. Applications may be submitted after the deadline if space is available in the class.

  2. LENS Essay Series

    Essays on Law, Ethics and National Security - A LENS Center Series | Duke University School of Law Essays on Law, Ethics and National Security - A LENS Center Series Andrew Parco, Through a New Lens: Using Vitoria's Work to Recontextualize Economic Sanctions and the Use of Force, No. 22, Feb. 7, 2024

  3. JD Admissions Frequently Asked Questions

    Applying to Duke Law School When should I submit my application? May I submit an application after the February 15 deadline? How should I submit my application? Do you offer an Early Decision option? Do you waive the application fee? Do you require a Dean's Certification form? Do you conduct interviews as part of the application?

  4. The Personal Statement

    Columbia requires 3 different essays as part of the LEAD application. Therefore, the advice here is not directly applicable to the LEAD program. Regular Law School Application Cycle The personal statement is a part of every law school application during the regular law school application cycle.

  5. Application Tips: Duke Law's School-Specific Short-Answer and Optional

    Beyond the Personal Statement, Duke Law School requires applicants to submit responses to one or two short-answer essay prompts and offers an additional optional essay opportunity. Crafting a compelling response to each essay gives the school a better idea of who you are and your views of the law and the world.


    Welcome to Duke Law School! The Goodson Law Library has a wide collection of materials that can help you get the most out of your law school experience. These resources cover a broad range of topics, from how to plan your course load to managing ... Writing Essay Exams to Succeed (Not Just to Survive), 3d ed., (KF283 .D47 2010). Fischl, Richard ...

  7. A look into changes in Duke Law School's admissions process in response

    October 31, 2023 | 7:49pm PDT In the wake of the Supreme Court's recent ruling overturning race-based affirmative action, law schools across the country, including Duke, have made several...

  8. Apply

    Master of Judicial Studies A remarkable nucleus of scholars and experts delivering an intensive and challenging curriculum for sitting judges. Learn More Dual Degrees Pursue two world-class degrees at once and prepare yourself for a career at the intersection of law and another discipline. Learn More Doctor of Juridical Science

  9. How to Get Into Duke Law

    Hear about possible changes to the law admissions process and how to get accepted [Show Summary] Mark Hill, Assistant Dean of Admissions at Duke Law, has worked in admissions for twenty years. In this episode, he shares his thoughts on how law schools will be affected by a potential recession and the possible elimination of a test requirement.

  10. Legal Writing at Duke Law School

    Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing for International Students. Duke Law School recognizes that LLM students will be writing in English for US lawyers and clients during their careers. It therefore requires as part of the LLM curriculum a one-semester legal analysis, research, and writing course. The course trains students in US-style ...

  11. LENS Essay Series

    25 July 2023 LENS Essay Series: "Not Just Words: Grappling with the Doxing of Civilians in War" Do you know what "doxing" (sometimes spelled "doxxing") is? Do you understand how it might be used in wartime? How should the law of armed conflict treat it? The latest installment of the LENS...

  12. Resources

    Grammar and Style Duke Law Library Resources (an asterisk indicates that the text is on reserve) Bouchoux, Deborah, The Aspen Handbook for Legal Writers * (KF250 .B68 2005) Calleros, Charles, Legal Method and Writing * (KF250 .C345 2002) Charrow, Veda, Clear & Effective Legal Writing * (KF250 .C452 2001)

  13. How to Write the Duke University Essays 2023-2024

    Every student applying to Duke will be submitting this "Why This College?" essay, so you really need to make yours stand out. Before we talk about what you should do, let's cover common mistakes to avoid so your essay isn't generic. Don't talk about factors outside of the school's control like the location, weather, or surrounding city.

  14. New Duke Law Requirement: Short Answer Essay : r ...

    Just a head's up that Duke Law now requires each applicant to submit one to two 250-500 word short-answer essays. This change likely comes from the recent SCOTUS decision on affirmative action. Here are the prompts, which can also be found on Duke Law's website :

  15. Call for Submissions for Student Essay ...

    The Duke Law Journal (DLJ) is excited to announce its first-ever online essay competition! The competition is open to all current Duke Law students (including LLMs) and recent graduates (Classes of 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021). Up to two winning submissions will be selected for publication in the Duke Law Journal Online in Spring 2022.Authors of the winning submissions will be awarded a $500 ...

  16. Law School Application Procedures

    There are potentially four essays that may be requested by law schools. The Pre-Law Advisor will be available to read and react to any and all of them if you wish. If you are currently enrolled, please bring the essays to 04 Allen and leave them in the designated folder. Dean Wilson will read them and return them to the folder within 24 hours.

  17. Women & Law

    Grace Paras, Georgetown Law Journal. The Editors-in-Chief at the flagship law reviews of the top sixteen law schools in the country were all—for the first time ever—women. What follows is a commemoration of this anomaly. Celebrating in concert with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the sixteen of us joined forces to publish a ...

  18. Why Duke Essay: 4 Tips for a Great Essay

    Basically, the purpose of this essay is twofold: Duke wants to make sure you know and value what they offer, and they also want to see how you're going to make use of these opportunities to reach your goals for the future. What Should You Write About in Your Why Duke Essay?

  19. JFQ Book Review: Ben Lambeth's "Airpower in the War Against ISIS"

    Charles J. Dunlap Jr., the former deputy judge advocate general of the United States Air Force, joined the Duke Law faculty in July 2010 where he is a professor of the practice of law and Executive Director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security. Read more. ... LENS Essay Series: "Through a New Lens: Using Vitoria's Work to ...

  20. Why Duke Law: A Passion for Justice and Excellence

    Read an admission essay sample, "Why Duke Law: A Passion for Justice and Excellence", with 647 words. Get ideas for your college application essay.

  21. "Director Confidentiality" by Cyril Moscow

    The Corporate Directors Guidebook contains the bare proposition that a director must keep confidential all matters involving the corporation that have not been disclosed to the public. Moscow explores the need to modify the flat recitation of a rule of director confidentiality in light of the limited authority for a blanket restriction, and the ...

  22. Fourteen Words

    Graffiti with a Nazi swastika and 14/88 on a wall in Elektrostal, Moscow, Russia Graffiti with 1488 and an obscure message on a wall in Volzhsky, Volgograd Oblast, Russia. Fourteen Words (also abbreviated 14 or 14/88) is a reference to two slogans originated by David Eden Lane, one of nine founding members of the defunct white supremacist terrorist organization The Order, and are accompanied ...

  23. Who Is Ashleigh Merchant? The Defense Lawyer in the Fani Willis Hearing

    Ms. Merchant, who brought the allegations against Fani Willis and Nathan Wade to light last month, has said their relationship poses a conflict of interest. By Anna Betts Ashleigh Merchant is a ...

  24. Evgeny Pashukanis: Marxist Theory of State and Law (1932)

    1. The doctrine of socio-economic formations as a basis for the Marxist theory of state and law. The doctrine of state and law is part of a broader whole, namely, the complex of sciences which study human society. The development of these sciences is in turn determined by the history of society itself, i.e. by the history of class struggle.

  25. Ivan, Grand Prince Of Moscow

    IVAN THE TERRIBLE Book: Ivan The Terrible by Chelsea House The reign of Grand Duke Vasili III in medieval Russia was the beginning of a complete turn-around for Moscow. Moscow got better and better until it became the most powerful city of medieval Russia, and Russia as a whole was under the overall rule of Moscow.