On the heels of being granted accreditation as one of two separately accredited law schools within the Penn State University system, Penn State’s Dickinson Law in Carlisle has seized the opportunity for curricular reform. With a core focus on producing practice-ready lawyers for a competitive, global market, our program places a heavy emphasis on experiential learning, paired with foundational understanding of national and transnational law. Dickinson Law plans to maintain intentionally small class sizes with a maximum of 75 students for each incoming class. Students will benefit from a supportive community through their education and eventual employment, with individual focus and significant interaction with professors who have practiced law and continue to be engaged with the legal profession.
The components of Penn State’s Dickinson Law program include the following:
- Degree completion will require students to complete 12 credits practicing law in a real-world setting, achieved through in-house clinics, internships, and semester-in-practice programs.
- “The Lawyer As…” curriculum guides students through elective courses that best prepare them for a specific professional field, such as public interest advocate, prosecutor or defender, or business advisor.
- We have added three new required courses to the curriculum. Problem Solving 1 will help students understand the methodology of lawyering and will provide students with hands-on lawyering experiences from the first semester of law school. Practicing Law in a Global World: Contexts and Competencies I will provide students with the opportunity to learn more about the different contexts and settings in which lawyers work. Students will learn about professional formation as they interview lawyers and hear a number of speakers talk about various skills sets and job paths. Students will also learn about international and transnational sources of law in the 1L year so that they can better understand lawyering in a global society. Drawing upon the latest research and commentary, Practicing Law in a Global World: Contexts and Competencies II will expose students to the many extra-legal competencies that lawyers need in order to practice in the 21st Century.
- Our recent curricular reforms build upon our history of innovation. (We are the 7th oldest law school in the U.S.). Some of the highlights of our curriculum include:
- Our required 1L course entitled Legal Argument and Factual Persuasion;
- Our three-decades old, multiple award-winning Trial Advocacy program;
- Our clinics, the oldest of which was began in 1979, long before many other law schools had clinics. Our current clinics include the Children’s Advocacy Clinic, which is an interdisciplinary clinical program in which law students, graduate social work students, and pediatric medical school residents partner together to represent children in the legal system, and work to address broader problems in the child welfare system. One of the new clinics we are planning is the Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic which will take advantage of our proximity to Penn State Hershey Medical Center;
- The externships and Semester-in-Residence programs that are made possible by our proximity to our state capital of Harrisburg (20 minutes); our nation’s capital (2 hours); federal court (20 minutes); and the fact that we are within easy commuting distance of five county seats (and courthouses);
- Our day-long “Negotiation Marathon,” which is now in its sixth year and is organized by Professor Nancy Welsh in conjunction with the ADR Coordinator for the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania; and
- The perspectives that our faculty bring to the classroom. All of our faculty members have practiced law and ninety percent have taught overseas and worked with foreign colleagues. Penn State’s Dickinson Law has made an institutional commitment to “engaged scholarship” in which we try to solve real-world problem and try to “improve global understanding and the lives and well-being of our students and the worlds in which they will live.”