Applications, diversity surge at law school as dual-campus plan moves forward

January 20, 2006

University Park, Pa. -- In a sharp reversal from just four years ago, The Penn State Dickinson School of Law quickly is becoming one of the most desirable destinations for legal education in the United States as the University moves forward with a $100 million capital investment in Penn State's law school at Carlisle and University Park.

This turnaround was the theme of an informational report to Penn State's Board of Trustees Jan. 20, which included an update on the law school's establishment of a second campus at University Park -- a plan approved by the board last year.

While national applications to law schools are down more than 10 percent nationally this year, The Penn State Dickinson School of Law conversely has seen applications surge by nearly 30 percent over last year alone. In excess of 1,000 more students will apply for admission to the law school this year than had applied in 2002 -- a more than 60 percent increase over a four-year period.

"The progress at the law school is particularly noteworthy, and demonstrates that the efforts this board has supported to strengthen Dickinson are being very favorably received by law school applicants," said Penn State President Graham B. Spanier.

Interest in the law school is not the only area that has seen dramatic enhancement. In 2002, The Dickinson School of Law was among the least diverse law schools in the nation, according to Philip McConnaughay, dean of The Penn State Dickinson School of Law. Today, it is one of the most diverse, with minority enrollments tripling over the past four years from below 8 percent to nearly 25 percent.

At the same time, the average academic credentials of the law school's student body have improved significantly.

"The law school needed to start acting like it was the law school of Penn State University. Everything else started falling into place from there," said McConnaughay.

This attitude, along with the dual-campus plan designed to more closely align with the interdisciplinary education opportunities offered by Penn State, has helped attract several preeminent legal scholars to campus as well. The extensive international experience and interests of many of the new faculty is expected to be valuable in the planning and administration of a new Penn State School of International Affairs, an initiative that would be dedicated to professional education in international affairs across a variety of professional pursuits offering a uniquely multi-disciplinary curriculum and faculty.

The proposed school is one of many ways that Penn State is leveraging the very significant capital investment in the law school for the benefit of the entire University and the commonwealth. Other initiatives under way that have resulted from the closer integration between the University and the law school include a part-time J.D. program that will serve working parents and mid-career applicants in south-central Pennsylvania; summer executive programs in law and public affairs; and continuing legal education offerings for Pennsylvania lawyers.

The design for the two new signature buildings that will serve as the centerpieces of The Penn State Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle and at University Park is under way, led by Polshek Partnership of New York. The University is increasingly optimistic that a full $50 million re-building project in Carlisle will occur, thanks to the generosity of alumni and donors and the matching support provided by the commonwealth.

"Along with these new programs and the law school's new ability to connect meaningfully with the faculty and resources of University Park, this investment promises an exceptionally bright and long future for The Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle," said McConnaughay.

Construction on the Carlisle campus is imminent, and the law school expects to relocate to a transition space in Carlisle this June.

Concurrently, the law school has established a presence at University Park, with several faculty arriving permanently last summer and as many as 80 first-year law students expected in fall 2006. Until a new facility is fully funded and built, the law school will operate out of Beam Building, which was previously occupied by the Smeal College of Business until the completion of the new Business Building last fall.

"Our plan for two campuses remains as it always has been: to operate meaningfully as a single enterprise, with a single identity, single reputation, and single stature," said McConnaughay. "I am very confident that our new buildings, our new programs, and all of the people who comprise The Dickinson School of Law will ensure this as much as they will the law school's ongoing success."

As part of the dual-campus implementation, the board separately approved the purchase of property at 357 West South Street in Carlisle, which adjoins and is surrounded by the law school's campus. The acquisition of the property provides the opportunity for further campus development.

The .08-acre property includes a two-story, three-bedroom half-duplex and half of a detached garage.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 22, 2015