ABA grants law school's University Park campus full approval

University Park, Pa. — The University Park campus of Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law has received immediate full approval from the American Bar Association. The accreditation was accompanied by a decision to recognize the law school’s University Park and Carlisle campuses as the nation’s only fully approved unitary two-location law school.

“We are extremely pleased and proud that the ABA has awarded Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law with immediate full approval of an innovative and exciting new arrangement that showcases cutting-edge technology and promises major advances for the future of legal education,” said Penn State President Graham Spanier. “Penn State’s investment in the Dickinson School of Law is one of the most significant in the history of legal education, and we are gratified by the attention and approval of many of the nation’s leading legal scholars, practitioners and educators.”

Penn State Law will retain its status as the ABA’s pilot program for assessing distance education rules for legal education, a distinction attributed to the law school’s effective use of audio-visual technologies to enhance learning opportunities for its students and to support collaboration with peers and institutions worldwide.

The University, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and alumni donors have provided the law school with new, $125 million state-of-the-art facilities designed specifically to meet the law school's innovative technological and two-location objectives. Lewis Katz, a 1966 graduate, and H. Laddie Montague Jr., a 1963 graduate, provided the lead donor gifts.

The law school's new Lewis Katz Building at University Park will hold its first classes on Jan. 9; the law school's new Lewis Katz Hall in Carlisle will be occupied in December 2009.

The immediate full approval of the law school’s University Park campus marks the capstone of a journey that began in 1997, when The Dickinson School of Law, which will celebrate its 175th anniversary this spring, merged with Penn State.

“Our objective since the merger has been to promote a very deep integration among the law school and Penn State’s other world-class graduate programs, including Penn State’s new School of International Affairs, so that our law school becomes a leader in interdisciplinary and international legal education,” said Philip J. McConnaughay, dean of the law school.

According to McConnaughay, that strategy has resulted in the successful recruitment of several of the world’s leading legal scholars, in unprecedented growth of applications for admission to the law school, and in the most diverse and highly credentialed student body in the history of The Dickinson School of Law.

Recent faculty appointments to the law school include one of the nation’s leading scholars of corporate mergers and acquisitions; the world’s preeminent expert on Russian law; leading scholars of commercial arbitration; renowned scholars of antitrust and law and economics; former law clerks to United States Supreme Court Justices; a leading scholar of international banking and finance; the first legal counsel to the African Union; the legal counsel to the Greek Presidency of the European Union; one of the world’s leading human rights activists and founder of TransAfrica and the Free South Africa Movement; and other active and influential teachers and scholars in a wide range of substantive areas.

The law school also has expanded its program offerings, establishing several new interdisciplinary centers, clinics and other initiatives. New programs include the Center for Immigrants’ Rights; the Civil Rights Appellate Clinic; the Children’s Advocacy Clinic; the Institute for Sports Law, Policy and Research; the Center for the Study of Mergers and Acquisitions; the Institute for Arbitration Law and Practice; and multiple joint-degree and interdisciplinary programs with Penn State’s top graduate departments.

The law faculty’s substantial international expertise has been given a significant boost by Penn State’s new professional graduate School of International Affairs. The School of International Affairs shares building space and administrative resources with the law school.

“Our collaborative relationship with the School of International Affairs adds an exciting dimension to our international legal program,” McConnaughay explained. “Our students can pursue rich and unique classroom and joint degree opportunities, as well as benefit from an international faculty that now includes former ambassadors, former directors of Middle Eastern and African affairs at the U.S. National Security Council, a former undersecretary general of the United Nations, and leading scholars of diplomacy, security, and global management of technology.”

“This is exactly the type of collaboration envisioned by our integration with Penn State,” McConnaughay said.

Reflecting Penn State’s commitment to diversity, student body diversity at the law school has more than tripled over the last several years, earning the law school recognition from U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation’s most diverse law schools. In 2007, The National Jurist reported that Penn State's Dickinson School of Law "tops the list" of all ABA-approved law schools in increasing minority enrollment during the past five years.

Founded in 1834 by Judge John Reed, Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law is the oldest law school in Pennsylvania and the fifth oldest in the nation. Its distinguished roll of graduates includes the first secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; five governors; three U.S. senators; the first woman to serve as chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania; and the current secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, who is the first confirmed Latino cabinet member in Pennsylvania history.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010