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.
The faculty of Penn State’s Dickinson Law has adopted the following core principles, which reflect and guide the institution’s values and aspirations:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This school offers programs in: