Penn State's Dickinson Law

Introduction

Penn State’s Dickinson Law is committed to producing profession-ready lawyers equipped with the doctrinal knowledge, practical skills, and extralegal competencies necessary to excel in an increasingly global legal market. The hallmarks of a Dickinson Law education are an innovative curriculum that, from the very first day of law school, relies heavily on experiential learning to prepare our students to practice law, and a welcoming and supportive community.

Founded in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1834, Dickinson Law is the oldest law school in Pennsylvania and the fifth oldest in the country. Over the past 182 years, Dickinson Law graduates have included the nation’s most distinguished attorneys, judges, government and corporate leaders, and legal educators. Our 1997 merger with Penn State expanded our reputation, network, and joint-degree programs—complementing Dickinson Law’s legacy as an innovative leader in experiential education.

To ensure that we can provide hands-on training to our students, Dickinson Law has capped the entering first-year class at 75 students. This intentionally small class size ensures that students receive focused attention from faculty, guarantees ample opportunities to learn in practice settings, and fulfills the law school’s promise to best position its students to secure employment in a competitive marketplace.

Core Principles

The faculty of Penn State’s Dickinson Law has adopted the following core principles, which reflect and guide the institution’s values and aspirations:

  1. To vest in our students the entire range of concrete lawyering skills necessary to most effectively perform as legal professionals at the local, state, national, transnational, and international levels in the twenty-first century.
  2. To engage in a constant quest for knowledge and wisdom that we share not only with our students but also with legal professionals, scholars, policy makers, and others, consistent with Penn State’s role as a world-class research university.
  3. To willingly contribute our services to the university and to local, state, national, and international efforts to improve global understanding, the lives and well-being of our students, and the world in which they will live.
  4. To strive, on a daily basis, to foster a sense of community and mutual support between and among faculty, students, and staff, and in our interactions outside the law school.

Curriculum

In accordance with the first of the four core principles, the Dickinson Law faculty has reimagined the J.D. program to blend theory and practice. Dickinson Law’s first-year curriculum includes traditional courses that introduce students to the core doctrinal, theoretical, and policy foundations of domestic, transnational, and international law. However, we have also developed a unique set of courses designed to teach the lawyering skills and complementary competencies that our students will need to graduate workplace-ready for a global marketplace.

The upper-level elective curriculum is uniquely organized around the substantive ways lawyers use their training. Dickinson Law students may pursue a Certificate in Litigation and Dispute Resolution or a Certificate in Government Affairs, obtain a joint degree from a coordinate department of Penn State, or supplement their legal education with cross-disciplinary learning by taking up to six credits from many of Penn State’s graduate programs.

Experiential Learning

The capstone of our mission to ready our students for the practice of law is our experiential learning requirement. Every Dickinson Law student must earn credits by practicing law in one of the following real-world settings.

In-House Clinics

As certified legal interns working under the guidance of clinical faculty, students provide much-needed legal services to low-income clients and public interest organizations while sharpening their legal skills and broadening their practice experience. Dickinson Law currently offers clinics that allow law students to engage in direct client representation as well as policy advocacy work.

Internships

Because Dickinson Law school is located less than 20 miles from the state capital and less than two hours from Washington, DC, our students have the opportunity to intern with national law firms; government agencies on the local, state, and federal levels; private corporations; and nonprofit organizations—and in doing so, to gain a sense of urban, suburban, and rural legal communities.

Semesters-in-Practice

Dickinson Law students have the opportunity to continue their transition from promising student to practicing attorney by participating in the Law School’s Semesters-in-Practice. These immersive programs allow students to spend one semester working full-time in a variety of legal settings in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Washington, DC; or an international venue. Past placements have included:

  • International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (The Hague, Netherlands)
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (Cape Town, South Africa)
  • International Bar Association (London)
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Internal Revenue Service
  • US Securities and Exchange Commission
  • US Department of Justice, Environmental Enforcement Section
  • US Department of Justice, Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section
  • US Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control
  • US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • Project on Government Oversight (whistleblower advocacy agency)
  • Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General
  • Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education
  • YWCA Domestic Violence Legal Center

Faculty

Dickinson Law students learn from a distinctive and dedicated full-time faculty complemented by an adjunct faculty of practicing attorneys and judges. Significantly, all full-time faculty members have spent years practicing law, and they continue to engage nationally and internationally with the legal profession through pro bono litigation, mediation, advisory committees, and scholarship.

The faculty believes that their scholarly and teaching missions should be complementary. As engaged scholars, they accept that having a solid understanding of theory is indispensable to our students’ ability to operate as legal professionals in an increasingly global, diverse, and sophisticated legal environment.

The faculty is wholly committed to community and to supporting the success of our students. Long before it became in vogue, the faculty embraced an open-door policy that encouraged students to stop by faculty offices without a scheduled appointment.

Public Interest and Pro Bono

The Rules of Professional Conduct oblige every lawyer, regardless of the area of his or her practice, to provide legal services to the underrepresented. Dickinson Law endorses this requirement and believes that helping the underprivileged is one of the most rewarding parts of a lawyer’s job. The Law School’s Miller Center Pro Bono Program ensures that students have opportunities to engage in pro bono public interest work as early as their first semester. Dickinson Law awards fellowship funding for summer public interest work, and the school’s Bridge Fellowship and Loan Repayment Assistance Program help students to pursue full-time public interest work upon graduation

An Inclusive Community

We believe that diversity enriches everyone’s educational experience. We are as committed to welcoming people of diverse cultures and lifestyles as we are to preparing them to become the next generation of practice-ready attorneys. As an inclusive community, Dickinson Law defines diversity broadly to include racial and ethnic minorities, women, disabled individuals, members of the LGBTQ community, veterans, first-generation students, adult learners, and any others who have experienced subordination, marginalization, or isolation in academic communities because of their identity status.

We are delighted to support a variety of student affinity organizations, such as:

  • Black Law Students Association (BLSA)
  • Latino/a Law Student Association (LLSA)
  • Military Law Caucus (MLC)
  • OutLaw (the LGBTQ student association)
  • Women’s Law Caucus (WLC)

Moreover, Dickinson Law’s core courses integrate diverse perspectives and examine the relevance of diversity to law, the legal process, and practice. Through the Law School’s curricular offerings and its extracurricular activities, Dickinson Law students are able to develop cultural competencies and better understand minority viewpoints.

Alumni Network

When you graduate from Dickinson Law, you will join a far-reaching network of loyal alumni. As the oldest Law School in Pennsylvania and the fifth oldest in the country, Dickinson Law boasts a distinguished alumni base. Not only will you become part of this long and proud legacy of Dickinson Law graduates, but you will also become a member of the Penn State alumni network—the largest active, dues-paying alumni network in the world.

Physical Plant

Dickinson Law’s completely renovated historic home in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, has been intentionally designed to further the Law School’s commitment to community. This LEED-certified facility features state-of-the-art classrooms and seminar rooms; a signature moot courtroom with a 200-seat observatory; a legislative hearing room; the three-story H. Laddie Montague, Jr. Law Library; group-study rooms; the Ridge Commons; a courtyard; and a café. All classrooms are equipped with sophisticated audiovisual technology that allows students and professors to communicate in real time with colleagues and professionals around the world. Additionally, Dickinson Law has completed significant upgrades to the school’s clinic building, located one block from the courthouse in downtown Carlisle. This building serves as the law office from which clinic students practice law as certified legal interns.

Career Services

To help students negotiate today’s challenging job market, Dickinson Law offers a number of resources that go above and beyond traditional career services. Dickinson Law’s innovative first-year curriculum introduces students to myriad practice areas and aims to equip students with competencies not typically taught in law school—skills that make Dickinson Law graduates very attractive job candidates. In addition, the extensive networks of loyal alumni from both Penn State and Dickinson Law are committed to helping our students succeed in their desired professions. Dickinson Law graduates enjoy rewarding careers in varied areas of law practice, as well as in business and industry, government, and academia.

Admission and Financial Aid

Prospective students are welcome to apply on our website or directly through LSAC’s site. Dickinson Law takes a holistic approach to admission by considering accomplishments beyond test scores and college grades. In considering applicants, the Law School values life and work experience, leadership, community service, advanced degrees, and other personal and professional accomplishments. All students admitted to Dickinson Law are automatically considered for scholarships. Admitted students are welcome to apply for financial aid up to the date of enrollment; however, students are encouraged to submit their financial aid applications by March 1 if they are seeking need-based aid. The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid helps to counsel admitted students on how to obtain the funding necessary to finance their legal education.

LL.M. ADMISSIONS

The LL.M. Program at Penn State’s Dickinson Law gives students and lawyers trained outside of the U.S. a high-level understanding of the American legal system. The program’s foundational courses introduce you to our unique analytic methodologies. Students then may choose courses from our “Lawyer As …” curriculum divided by specialized fields of study, and create personalized tracks based on areas of interest.

Our LL.M. cohort is kept intentionally small to foster greater interaction with J.D. students and law school faculty, as well as judges and lawyers in the Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. areas.

The LL.M. program is a 24-credit, one academic year course of study. Students must enroll in at least 12 credits per semester and may enroll in no more than 17 credits per semester. Penn State University is consistently ranked among the top research and teaching institutions in the world. Come study with us at Penn State’s Dickinson Law.

To learn more about the LL.M. Program at Penn State’s Dickinson Law, contact the Assistant Dean of Graduate and International Education, Professor Amy C. Gaudion.

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Programs

This school also offers:

LLM

Master of Law

Campus Full time 1 year Open Enrollment USA Carlisle

The LL.M. Program at Penn State’s Dickinson Law gives students and lawyers trained outside of the U.S. a high-level understanding of the American legal system. The program’s foundational courses introduce you to our unique analytic methodologies. Students then may choose courses from our “Lawyer As …” curriculum divided by specialized fields of study, and create personalized tracks based on areas of interest. [+]

The LL.M. Program at Penn State’s Dickinson Law gives students and lawyers trained outside of the U.S. a high-level understanding of the American legal system. The program’s foundational courses introduce you to our unique analytic methodologies. Students then may choose courses from our “Lawyer As …” curriculum divided by specialized fields of study, and create personalized tracks based on areas of interest. Our LL.M. cohort is kept intentionally small to foster greater interaction with J.D. students and law school faculty, as well as judges and lawyers in the Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. areas. The LL.M. program is a 24-credit, one academic year course of study. Students must enroll in at least 12 credits per semester and may enroll in no more than 17 credits per semester. Penn State University is consistently ranked among the top research and teaching institutions in the world. Come study with us at Penn State’s Dickinson Law. LL.M. Degree Requirements To earn the LL.M. degree, students must earn a minimum of 24 credits, and complete with a passing grade the following courses: Legal Argument & Factual Persuasion (3 credits) Problem Solving II: The Lawyer as Writer (2 credits) Introduction to the United States Legal System (2 credits) In addition, students must enroll in one course from the following list: Civil Procedure Constitutional Law I Contracts Criminal Law Criminal Procedure Property Torts The academic deans may waive any of the course requirements where students have satisfactorily completed equivalent courses at another U.S. law program or in a common law country. LL.M. Elective Courses and Concentrations To complete the degree requirements, LL.M. students may enroll in a rich array of courses offered in the law school curriculum, including a focused course of study in one of the specialized fields below: Advocacy and Litigation Arbitration, Mediation and Negotiation Business Law Constitutional and Administrative Law Criminal Law and Procedure Security Law Public Interest Law Tax law Elder Law LL.M. Graduate Level Courses With the approval of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, LL.M. students may enroll in courses offered in other Penn State graduate programs, including but not limited to the University’s Masters in Public Administration and Masters in Business Administration degree programs (offered at the Penn state Harrisburg Campus), and the University’s World Campus. LL.M. Independent Study LL.M. students may take independent study courses for up to 3 credits in any one semester, and no more than a total of 4 credits during the two semesters of the LL.M. program. LL.M. Experiential Learning With the approval of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, LL.M. students may enroll in experiential learning courses offered at the law school, including pro bono, clinical and externship programs. LL.M. Third Semester Option LL.M. students may apply to stay for a third semester of legal study with the intent of completing an experiential learning program or preparing for a U.S. bar exam. Transfer to the J.D. Program Candidates for the LL.M. degree may seek to transfer to the J.D. program. Criteria for transferring to the J.D. program are set by the Dean of Admissions and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. Important factors are excellent English language skills and strong performance in classes taken at the Law School. [-]

Juris Doctor

Juris Doctor

Campus Full time 3 years Open Enrollment USA Carlisle

Our reimagined J.D. program merges theory, doctrine, and experiential learning to produce practice-ready lawyers. Our 1L curriculum introduces both lawyering skills and extra-legal competencies. Then, your upper-level “The Lawyer As…” curriculum begins to shape your career with a concentrated focus on specific areas of legal practice. Courses are taught by a full-time faculty with extensive practice experience, along with sitting judges and practicing attorneys. [+]

Our reimagined J.D. program merges theory, doctrine, and experiential learning to produce practice-ready lawyers. Our 1L curriculum introduces both lawyering skills and extra-legal competencies. Then, your upper-level “The Lawyer As…” curriculum begins to shape your career with a concentrated focus on specific areas of legal practice. Courses are taught by a full-time faculty with extensive practice experience, along with sitting judges and practicing attorneys. J.D. Requirements Earn at least 88 credits, including all first-year required courses. The maximum number of credits permitted per semester is 17. Full time students must be in residence for at least six semesters. To be in residence, the full time student must enroll in at least 12 credits, at full tuition, and not work more than 20 hours per week during the semester. Credits earned through the Semester-in-Washington Program, the Semester-in-Harrisburg Program and the International Justice Internship Program and authorized Dickinson Law semester-long study abroad programs may be used to fulfill this requirement. Credits earned during the summer months may not be used to fulfill this requirement. A first-year student who receives an F in Problem Solving II may not enroll in Problem Solving III and must repeat Problem Solving II in the following academic year. A second-year student who receives an F in Problem Solving III loses credit for Problem Solving II, irrespective of his or her grade in that course, and must repeat Problem Solving II and III in the following academic years. Complete with a grade of at least C one course designated as a Seminar course. Complete with a grade of at least C the course in Professional Responsibility. Complete with a grade of at least C the course on Practicing Law in a Global World: Competencies. Complete with a grade of at least C, or a grade of Pass in Pass/Fail courses, 12 credits in Experiential Learning from the upper level curriculum. The student must earn at least 6 of the required 12 credits by practicing law in an in-house legal clinic, an internship, or a semester-in-practice. The student may earn remaining experiential learning credits by enrolling in courses designated as skills or practicum courses. Each student is responsible for fulfilling the above graduation requirements. Students should track their academic record and progress using their assigned faculty advisor, the academic dean, the office of the Law School registrar, and other administrative personnel. HOW TO APPLY Dickinson Law awards both the Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree and a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree. Our reimagined J.D. program merges theory, doctrine, and experiential learning to produce practice-ready lawyers. Our LL.M. program gives students and lawyers trained outside of the U.S. a high-level understanding of the American legal system. Decisions are made on a rolling basis. The Admissions team reviews completed applications on an ongoing basis. Although the Admissions Committee attempts to notify candidates whose files are incomplete, it is ultimately the applicant's responsibility to ensure timely completion of his or her application. LEARNING OUTCOMES The Learning Outcomes set forth here are the Faculty’s description of the aims of a comprehensive legal education for each student. The overarching goal of the faculty is to vest in our students the entire range of concrete lawyering skills necessary to most effectively perform as legal professionals at the local, state, national, transnational, and international levels in the 21st Century. Every course in the Law School’s Curriculum is designed to achieve some but not all of the Learning Outcomes. Categories 1, 2 and 3 address knowledge outcomes, and Categories 4, 5, 6 and 7 address skills outcomes. Category 8 addresses professional values outcomes. I. KNOWLEDGE Category 1 — Substantive rules of law. Each graduating student must have demonstrated knowledge of the basic rules of law and the diversity of law practice as contained in: The first-year curriculum: Civil Procedure, Torts, Criminal Law, Legal Argument and Factual Persuasion, Problem Solving I, Property, Contracts, Constitutional Law, Problem Solving II; Practicing Law in a Global World: Contexts. The upper-division required courses of Professional Responsibility; Problem Solving III; and Practicing Law in a Global World: Competencies. In addition, each graduating student must have at least 12 credit hours of coursework requiring hands –on work of the type performed in law practice, and at least 6 of those credit hours must be earned in a “real” setting as opposed to a simulated setting. Category 2 — Preparation for the bar examination. Each graduating student must take a minimum number of courses covering subjects and skills typically tested on the bar examination. The minimum coursework for bar preparation is the first year curriculum, Problem Solving III and Professional Responsibility. Category 3 — Sources of law and the process of law creation and evolution. Each graduating student must understand: the roles and differing characteristics of sources of law: the common law; legislation, administrative regulations; treaties, and judicial interpretation of legislation, regulations, treaties and constitutions; the processes through which law is made and changed and how those processes differ from one source of law to another; and the different roles that state and federal law play in the process of lawmaking  II. SKILLS Category 4 — Research. Each graduating student must have demonstrated the ability to: Devise and implement a coherent research plan to effectively resolve specific legal issues. Identify and employ the fundamental tools of legal research, whether in print or electronic format. Evaluate different types of resources and assess their appropriate use as reference or authorities. Category 5 — Writing. Each graduating student must have demonstrated the ability to: Write analytically and persuasively; and Draft legal documents such as contracts, legal memoranda, client communications, opinion letters and briefs. Category 6 — Basic legal analysis, fact development and law-finding. Each graduating student must have demonstrated satisfactory or better performance in the following: Extracting rules and policy from cases, statutes, and administrative regulations and analyzing, applying, interpreting and arguing differing interpretations of rules and statutes; Conducting investigation of facts; Identifying legal issues in fact patterns and applying rules and policy to facts; Weighing evidence to reach factual inferences; Constructing arguments and identifying flaws in an argument; Presenting analysis orally; and Using policy to analyze and persuade. Category 7 — Entry level lawyer capabilities. At the level of proficiency required for effectiveness as an entry level lawyer, and in a manner appropriate to a student’s professional goals, each graduating student must have demonstrated satisfactory or better performance in most of the following learning outcomes: strategic legal research and strategic planning regarding research; problem solving in light of a client’s objectives: anticipating consequences and assessing risks; recognizing the most common ethical and professional liability dilemmas and resolving them with high professional standards; recognizing how international and foreign law can affect a client’s rights and knowing how to respond; negotiating in dispute, transactional, or regulatory contexts; communicating with clients and others; interviewing; performing basic trial or other dispute resolution system tasks (including using the rules of evidence); using procedural tools such as motions and discovery; knowing how to read transactional and financial documents, including financial statements; utilizing experts and expert knowledge; working collaboratively; learning from experience through self-critique; managing projects within time and resource limitations; presenting orally outside of litigation; and using technology in legal practice. III. PROFESSIONAL VALUES Category 8 — Professional Identity and Perspectives. Each graduating student will understand: the structure of the legal profession and the role of lawyers in the profession; how to conduct one's self in accordance with standards of professional conduct. For example, knowing how to apply the principles and policies reflected in the law governing lawyers, including a lawyer’s duty of loyalty to clients, fiduciary duties, and obligation of competent representation; the important role that cultural competency serves in a lawyer’s ability to deliver competent legal services to clients; the expectations of employers and others with respect to lawyers’ knowledge, skills, qualities, and behavior; and a lawyer’s commitment to and expanding access to justice to those who lack the resources to hire a lawyer. [-]