There are many reasons to pursue Duke Law School’s Master of Laws (LLM) programme. It’s a great introduction to the US legal system for law school graduates trained outside the U.S. It lets you take advanced courses in specialised areas of the law. And, whether you’re a senior or junior associate, judge, prosecutor, academic or a policymaker, the LLM advances career goals and intellectual interests. All of these are weighty matters with big consequences on your personal and professional growth.
Ask Duke LLM’s graduates and they’ll confirm how the LLM enhanced their knowledge, skills and career prospects. But they’ll tell you something else just as significant: the Duke LLM was the best year of their lives.
Arriving as coursemates, leaving as family
Diversity is a hallmark of the Duke LLM. In class, during discussions of how the US legal system differs from a student’s home country, there is no shortage of unique perspectives. Coming from Brazil, Kenya, Switzerland, China and more, Duke LLM students are always sharing their backgrounds and interests – making every encounter dynamic, meaningful and personalised. Peers and professors know who you are, where you’re from and what you can bring to your year’s cohort.
“The campus life is vibrant and dynamic, fostering a sense of camaraderie among students from diverse backgrounds. It is a place where students are eager to collaborate, share resources, and mutually enhance each other’s learning experiences,” says graduate Moses Baguma ’23 from Uganda.
Here, it can feel as if there’s no limit to the types of collaboration you can be a part of. A big part of this is due to the fact that, unlike many other programmes, LLM students take virtually all of their classes alongside JD students. This leads to daily opportunities for cross-cultural friendship and learning within and beyond lecture halls. But that’s not all. You can also take courses in other parts of the university, such as the Fuqua School of Business, the Nicolas School of the
Environment, or the Sanford School of Public Policy. In clinics, pro bono projects, student organisations and social activities, there are more students and staff from more programmes to connect and work with.
Baguma was part of the Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA) and the Duke African Graduate and Professional Students Association (DAGPSA). “These organisations not only provided a cultural kinship but also offered a plethora of resources and activities to enrich our time at Duke,” he says. “BLSA’s game nights and Family Feud, as well as DAGPSA’s casual meet-and-greet events and Afrobeats parties, provided much-needed breaks and added a vibrant layer to the academic environment.”
For Titilola Afolabi ’23 from Nigeria, her experience was just as enriching. “With the numerous activities organised by student organisations, Duke Law affords many opportunities to meet and build relationships with other students,” she says. “Also, my involvement as a project lead with the Duke University Advanced Degree Consulting Club enabled me to work with a multi-disciplinary group of students across Duke University which helped me build relationships with students beyond the law school.”
Where you get to know your professors
As the LLM student body is small, professors are exceptionally accessible – including Duke Law’s Dean, Kerry Abrams and the Associate Dean for International Studies, Oleg Kobelev. While doing transactional work for a large, private firm in Chile, Teresa Polgatti met Dean Kobelev in Buenos Aires, who personally encouraged her and her husband to join the LLM. “He explained to us about Duke and all that it had to offer,” she says. “Duke treated us very well, and he encouraged [my husband] Vicente also to take this opportunity, so he started preparing for the LLM programme as well.”
Duke LLM students get to know their professors. These are top scholars with deep practical experience in government, private practice, and public interest work. When not testifying before Congress, arguing cases before the Supreme Court, or serving as leaders within the American Bar Association, you’ll find them in their faculty offices, just steps away from classrooms. Here, they’re dispensing invaluable guidance and advice and eagerly continuing class discussions with LLM students. You can frequently find them joining and organising social activities on and off campus– many often host students for dinners in their homes.
A ‘delightful’ kind of living
Duke is located in Durham, North Carolina – described as the state’s “hippest city” by Vogue and one of the top three in US News and World Report’s Best Places to Live Rankings for 2023-2024. These accolades only confirm what graduates have long known: Durham is among the most celebrated midsized cities in the U.S., and Duke is widely seen as having one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation.
To Baguma, living here has been “delightful.” He loves how easy it is to get from one place to another, and how everything he needs is within walking distance of home. Mountains and beaches are nearby, as is a well-connected airport. Being located in the middle of the East Coast also means easy travel to other parts of the US and the world.
“The convenience of having grocery stores within walking distance and free transportation to campus made day-to-day life smooth,” he says. “Durham’s vibrant outdoor scene was a major attraction, with Gojo, a popular nightlife spot, offering music I could easily relate to. The city also offered a range of dining options, including Afrian cuisine at places like Goorsha, an Ethiopian restaurant, and Zweli’s Kitchen, numerous cafes and restaurants dotting the campus area and downtown Durham. These factors made living in Durham, North Carolina an enjoyable, memorable experience.”
Unlike most other LLM programmes, a good life here is more affordable and comes with a lovely climate and world-class athletic facilities as well. These factors convinced Afolabi that the best start to the next chapter of her life lies in Durham. “Duke’s location in Durham, a student-friendly environment with a modest cost of living, was significant in making my choice compared to the other schools that offered me admission,” she says.