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David Duncan

Picture of David Duncan

Partner David Duncan focuses his practice on both white-collar and non-white-collar criminal defense, campus misconduct and students' rights, including sexual assault charges, and civil litigation. He is recognized as a Criminal Defense “Super Lawyer” in Boston Magazine, listed in Best Lawyers in America, and maintains the highest possible rating by Martindale Hubbell.

Criminal Defense

David has spent decades representing criminal defendants in state and federal courts. He has tried or been co-counsel on major criminal cases representing clients accused of murder, larceny, real estate fraud, tax fraud, rape, sexual assault, drug crimes, firearm offenses, perjury, various forms of criminal conspiracy, and other charges.


David’s trial experience includes having criminal charges against his clients dismissed prior to trial in cases involving, for example, indecent assault, assault and battery on a police officer, and property crimes. He has won cases at trial, both from juries and through judgments of acquittal from judges. In one federal tax fraud case, after three weeks of trial the judge granted a judgment of acquittal before the jury even got the case, stating that it was only the second time he had done so in his twenty-year career. In a case charging his client with rape and indecent assault and battery of his wife, David obtained an acquittal on all of the charges.

In dozens of state and federal cases before juries and judges, David has obtained favorable verdicts for his clients due to his clear presentation and in-depth knowledge of legal issues. He has handled trials in major first-degree murder cases, including a triple homicide with three weeks of hearings and three weeks of trial, in assault and battery cases, in federal drug cases, in federal tax and mortgage fraud cases, and in perjury cases. In one rape case, David represented a man charged with rape and incest; he obtained an acquittal on the rape charges and persuaded the judge not to require his client to register as a sex offender. In a perjury case, David secured his client a sentence that involved no jail time. David negotiated a plea deal in an arson case that allowed his client to avoid jail time.

David is on the federal Criminal Justice Act (CJA) list to represent indigent criminal defendants in the Boston and Worcester federal district courts. He has substantial experience with the federal sentencing guidelines and their current place in federal sentencing.

David also represents clients in state district courts at clerk’s hearings, assisting them in preventing criminal charges from issuing against them.

Appeals & Other Criminal Legal Work

David applies his sharp legal analysis to his criminal appellate practice. For example, David has represented a lawyer in his sentencing and appeal on a securities fraud conviction in the Ninth Circuit, and litigated the appeal of an honest services fraud conviction in the Eleventh Circuit. In a Second Circuit case involving the growing and sale of marijuana, David obtained a reversal of an 18-year sentence for his client; when the case was remanded, the client’s sentence was reduced to 11 years. He has handled various criminal appeals in the First Circuit in cases involving questions about federal gambling and conspiracy laws. David has also represented a client in the Supreme Court on a question of what it means to carry a firearm under the sentencing enhancement provision of the federal drug laws.

David is also a contributing author to Massachusetts Criminal Practice, edited by Blumenson and Leavens. He has supervised students in Suffolk University Law School’s criminal defense clinical program, and has taught in the Committee for Public Counsel Services’ Bar Advocacy Training Program.

Campus Misconduct Charges & Students’ Rights

For over a decade, David has maintained a nationwide practice in campus misconduct and students' rights cases of all types, advising and representing students and faculty charged in internal proceedings. Because of his deep knowledge of these administrative proceedings, David has been successful in helping students reduce or avoid serious penalties and permanent marks on their records.

In his extensive experience handling sexual assault and harassment cases for students, David has obtained significant victories for his clients. For instance, he assisted a graduate student accused of rape by his former girlfriend; after a lengthy administrative hearing process the student was exonerated of that charge. In another case where a male student was accused of rape by his ex-girlfriend several months after they broke up, David assisted the student with his written submissions and prepared him for his administrative hearing where he was completely cleared of the charge. David represented another student accused of rape by a classmate who sought his expulsion; after a day-long hearing the school sanctioned him for a lesser infraction with a one-year suspension. David has also advised students complaining of sexual assault in school administrative fora.

David also frequently represents students accused of plagiarism and other academic misconduct. In one case, he represented a student appealing a suspension based on his alleged plagiarism; David helped him obtain a new hearing at which he was cleared of the plagiarism charge and his suspension was rescinded. David similarly helped a graduate student reverse the failing grade she was given for allegedly plagiarizing a class assignment. Through David's representation, other clients, including a medical student accused of theft and a dental student accused of unprofessional conduct, have had their charges and penalties reduced. David has successfully raised disability rights issues in several cases where neither the school nor the student recognized the significance of those issues. For example, he obtained the reversal of a dental student’s expulsion based on the fact that the school failed to accommodate the student’s disability. He has also persuaded one school to dismiss proceedings against a student for wearing an offensive Halloween costume based on a free speech defense.

Business and Other Civil Cases

David brings exceptional trial skills and wide-ranging knowledge of civil legal issues to his civil litigation practice. David has extensive experience in several civil practice areas, including personal injury, business litigation, employment matters, and property rights. He has represented a company in a real estate matter against its insurance company, as well as owners of a startup in a lawsuit over the dissolution of their business. In another case, David represented the shareholders of a small corporation against a breach of fiduciary duty suit. In that case, he won on a motion for summary judgment, resulting in the case against his clients being dismissed.


J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School, 1982
magna cum laude

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1974-1978
graduate program, linguistics

B.A., Columbia University, New York, 1973
magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa

United World College of the Atlantic, 1970

Bar & Court Admissions Commonwealths of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania
U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit
U.S. Supreme Court
  • Hon. Edward R. Becker (dec’d), U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, 1982-1983
Professional Affiliations

Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

National Association of Criminal Defense lawyers

Boston Bar Association

Client Reviews
I hired Mr Duncan to deal with a very sensitive issue that my daughter had. Since the first contact, I had a very good impression of him. He transmitted confidence and appeared to know exactly what to do. I called and emailed him many times, he was polite and comprehensible with the anxiety of a father and appeared to know every step to solve the case. I strongly recommend Mr Duncan. Flavio Lajoia
If you are reading this review, it means either you or a family member is in trouble and needs immediate legal counsel. Please know your search can end right now because Zalkind, Duncan & Bernstein is the law firm to hire. They are honest, responsive, compassionate and have the experience and expertise to bring... Client
I contacted Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein Law in April 2018 to get help for my son on an education-related matter. We worked primarily with Zoraida Fernandez, an Associate, and when needed met with Ruth O'Meara-Costello, a Partner. Zoraida was excellent. The whole process was emotionally exhausting and depressing and Zoraida was the only bright light in all of it... Nancy O.
I worked with Emma Quinn-Judge and Monica Shah. And from my first contact on the phone, on to my first meeting in their office and during the trial, I found them and the firm's entire team to be a group of consummate legal professionals who are very knowledgeable, patient, dedicated, fair, honest and caring... Chantal C.
I am forever grateful to all the staff at this firm, but in particular, Ms. Shah, Mr. Zalkind and Mr. Silverglate. They represented my son who was being sought for extradition to Scotland. The case took years to fight, covering new legal ground, setting precedence. But each one of these legal eagles went above and beyond the duty of office... Suzanne D.