From The Dean
The last few years have disrupted some long-held assumptions about work. Many people no longer see the daily commute to the office as essential to being effective at their jobs. For many others wellness and work-life balance are now non-negotiable — along with guarantees of respect, inclusivity, and meaningful professional development.
None of these ideas is completely new. But since 2020 — as the world has endured a pandemic, reckoned anew with our history of racism and sexism and other forms of discrimination, and experienced unsustainably high levels of stress and anxiety — they have taken on renewed urgency and import, including in the legal profession.
Our cover story in this issue of Duke Law Magazine examines how lawyers and law firms are addressing these workplace trends, whether it’s by expanding remote work and flexible hours, building more diverse, equitable, and inclusive teams, or recognizing the need to care for our well-being and mental health. We also highlight seven inspiring alumni who have “pivoted” over the past three years, transforming the way they work or the work they do and finding greater satisfaction in their careers.
Most of us have made changes in our professional lives of late, even if it’s just the occasional Zoom meeting or work-from-home day. Here at Duke Law School, even as we’ve returned to a normal schedule of in-person classes and events, we have held on to some of the adaptations we made in the teeth of the pandemic. For example, we continue to use technology to host events for students that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, such as career-oriented conversations with alumni working abroad.
The legal profession has a well-earned reputation for being hidebound, so it is gratifying to see these changes take root, but they don’t come without risk. As convenient as remote work can be, we can’t lose sight of our need for community and collaboration. That’s why our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee has invited faculty, staff, and students to join Community Discussion Groups in which they can meet regularly in person to build relationships across difference (see page 7).
As we strive to find better balance in our lives, we shouldn’t lose our spirit of ambition and innovation. Our faculty has devoted considerable effort to renewing the intellectual life of the Law School since the pandemic, and I’ve been delighted by the energy that our 13 new faculty members this year have brought to the community (see page 21). They have introduced new ideas, fields of experience, and ways of thinking to the Law School while embracing our culture of close mentorship of students and collaboration among faculty.
I hope you are finding the change you need to be effective in the work you do and in your life. Thank you as always for your friendship and support.
James B. Duke and Benjamin N. Duke Dean
of the School of Law and Distinguished Professor of Law