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Downturn in Law School Applications Leads to Changes at Penn State Dickinson School of Law
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According to, a nationwide downturn in law school applications leads to planned changes at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. Yet, the school remains committed to maintaining its dual campuses in University Park and Carlisle. Dean Philip McConnaughay said:  “We benefit from both locations. We want to be in both locations.”

Penn State Law offers a J.D. degree, a LL.M. degree for foreign-trained lawyers, and opportunities for joint degrees with Penn State graduate programs, including the School of International Affairs.


The law school plans to decrease total enrollment from around 660 to an estimated 500 students, according to a Business Journal interview with McConnaughay in late August 2012. To account for the reduction in tuition revenue, the school is considering consolidating first-year classes in University Park, stated McConnaughay. The law school will use saved resources to diversify curriculum offerings at the Carlisle campus, including a children’s law advocacy clinic and international studies, McConnaughay said.

Presently, first-year J.D. degree classes are offered in University Park and Carlisle. Because the classes all taught in person, there are duplications of offerings that consolidation will eliminate, McConnaughay stated. First year courses include:  civil procedure, criminal law, torts, criminal procedure, constitutional law, and property.

The first-year curriculum and certain upper-level courses are required. After the first year, students can participate in clinics and externships. Externships include placements with:  federal judicial, federal government, state government, public interest and non-profit, semester in Washington, and international justice. Clinics include:  Center for Immigrants’ Rights, Children’s Advocacy, Civil Rights Appellate, Community Law, Family Law, International Sustainable Development Projects, and Rural Economic Development.

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Other extracurricular activities include moot court. The law school’s faculty is augmented by judges, attorneys, and litigation experts who volunteer to mentor students in moot court and national trial competitions. In 2010, the school completed renovations amounting to $150 million for courtroom facilities that feature state-of-the-art video technology and digital evidence presentation equipment.  The school has hosted actual circuit court arguments.

Unlike first-year classes, upper-level courses are taught simultaneously to students on University Park and Carlisle campuses using audiovisual technology. The equipment has garnered the law school an American Bar Association variance from restrictions on distance education, McConnaughay stated. In the second and third years, students may concentrate their studies in the following fields:  advocacy and litigation, arbitration, mediation and negotiation, business law, constitutional and administrative law, energy law and policy, international and transnational law, labor and employment law, land use and environmental law, public interest law, or science and technology law.


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