North Carolina has a wide array of options for pursuing a law degree, but the differences between the American Bar Association accredited schools are significant, and you'll want to know what you're getting into before you start your studies.
Law schools in North Carolina include a top-ranked university, a Christian school, and a historically Black law school, among others. The following article provides an overview of the North Carolina law school options with some relevant observations that can help you find the school that best meets your educational needs.
Campbell University Norman A. Wiggins School of Law
Campbell Law is a small private law school that offers a "Christian perspective" on law and justice. Here you'll find students and faculty who view the practice of law as a calling to serve others and an emphasis on experiential learning.
Those especially interested in Campbell's Baptist roots may also be interested in the school's dual degree program that enables students to earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) and a Master of Divinity concurrently over five years of study.
Campbell Law is the only law school in the state located in North Carolina's capital, Raleigh. Students interested in government work can benefit from the school's proximity to legislative and judicial hubs in the city.
Tuition at Campbell Law is around $48,000 a year.
Duke University School of Law
Duke Law often appears among the top ten schools in national rankings. But this stellar reputation doesn't come cheap, with tuition at about $73,000 a year. Admission is also highly competitive, and Duke has the most expensive law program in North Carolina.
If a top-tier legal education is within your reach, however, Duke provides an extremely strong foundation for your future career. Students from Duke achieve very high bar passage rates; 97% passed the bar on their first try in 2021. The majority of Duke Law grads go on to work at prominent "Big Law" firms.
Students can gain practical experience in one or more of Duke's 25+ clinics and externship programs, including:
- Corporate Restructuring
- Start-Up Ventures
- Wrongful Convictions
- Forensics Litigation
- International Human Rights
Elon University School of Law
Located in Greensboro, Elon Law houses a working courtroom, the North Carolina Business Court, and cultivates strong relationships with other academic programs and businesses in the area. The school is fairly new, established in 2006. But its parent university has a long history in North Carolina, dating back to 1889.
In the short time the J.D. program at Elon has been up and running, it has produced impressive results and been nationally recognized for its innovation. Elon Law was the first law school in the nation to offer a J.D. program that lasts less than three years. The program utilizes a trimester schedule, so students graduate in December following their second full year. This condensed program allows Elon Law grads to take the bar exam sooner and begin their career before many of their counterparts from other schools.
The total tuition for Elon Law's 2.5-year program is around $125,000.
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Law
UNC School of Law ranks among the top 25 law schools in the nation and is the oldest law school in North Carolina. Forty percent of practicing attorneys in the state got their J.D. from Carolina Law. The school's criminal law, commercial law, and tax law offerings are especially well-regarded.
Although tuition has increased in recent years, the school has received recognition for providing legal education at a great value - and tuition remains lower than many schools at around $25,000 per year for residents.
The school's large alumni network provides ample opportunities for students to connect with attorneys in the field. And with ten clinic options, six law journals, and numerous externship opportunities, you'll have no trouble finding your niche at Carolina Law.
North Carolina Central University School of Law
Originally founded for African American law students, NCCU Law continues to produce more Black law graduates than any other North Carolina school. It is also the most affordable law school in the state, with tuition of about $14,000 a year for North Carolina residents.
NCCU Law's newly-founded Social Justice & Racial Equity Institute allows students to engage in community initiatives fighting systemic racism. Students who join the school's Technology Law and Policy Center are eligible for unique internship and mentoring opportunities with Intel Corporation. The school also offers several joint degree programs, including a Juris Doctor/Masters of Public Policy in partnership with Duke.
Bar passage rates for NCCU Law grads have been slightly below the national average in recent years, but most students who sat for the bar passed within two years of graduation.
Wake Forest University School of Law
Wake Forest Law often appears among the top 50 law schools in the nation, although it ranks slightly lower than Chapel Hill and costs more than double. However, more than half of students receive at least some scholarship funds.
Wake Forest's small class sizes draw many students looking for a more tight-knit law school experience, and with a 10:1 student/faculty ratio, you can likely count on your professor knowing your name.
The school's Pro Bono Project gives students a chance to give back to the community while gaining practical experience in immigration, healthcare advocacy, expungements, and more. Graduates from Wake Forest Law achieve higher than average bar passage rates, with close to 95% of first-time test takers passing the exam in 2021.
More Tips for Law School Success
Once you've decided which North Carolina law school is right for you, you'll be able to move on to other important considerations, like how to study for classes, prepare for exams, and choose elective courses. You'll find articles and links on these and other relevant topics at FindLaw for Law Students to help you find your way through law school and beyond.