The Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Law
The information on this page was provided by the law school.
Official Guide to ABA-Approved JD Programs
Penn State Law is situated on the largest campus of Penn State University (University Park), one of the world’s top public research institutions. With typical entering classes of 120 to 140 students and first-year course sections of fewer than 50, our students enjoy the best of both worlds — an academic experience that can be customized using the resources of a world-class university in a small and supportive law school community. Penn State Law provides a rigorous, classic legal education enhanced with experiential learning opportunities both locally and away from campus to provide students with the lawyering skills needed to accomplish their professional goals. Penn State Law is Accredited by the ABA and is a member of the AALS and the Order of the Coif honorary scholastic society.
State College, Pennsylvania, the town in which the University Park campus is located, is convenient, safe, and affordable and is regularly included in lists of best places to live. Downtown State College is a classic college town with restaurants, shops, and galleries. The surrounding area offers numerous law/graduate student housing options and ample outdoor activities, as well as shopping centers, movie theaters, and a choice of gyms and other fitness and wellness centers. Athletics play a significant role at Penn State including attending football, volleyball, or hockey games, cheering on the wrestling team, participating in intramural sports, or working out in some of Penn State's state-of-the-art recreation facilities.
State College, PA is centrally located among the northeast's major cities. New York, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh are all within a few hours' drive or bus ride. The University Park airport has flights to Newark, Philadelphia, and Chicago making national and international connections easy.
The JD Program
Through a comprehensive program of study encompassing classroom-based and experiential learning, Penn State Law students are prepared to engage in sophisticated legal analysis and practice in an increasingly demanding global marketplace. Because of its location in University Park, home to more than 47,000 students and dozens of top-tier graduate programs, Penn State Law provides innumerable opportunities for students to customize their legal education with interdisciplinary study in any graduate academic area on campus.
Prior to the start of law school, Penn State Law's incoming 1Ls have access to our self-directed, online Intro to Law School course, where they learn the fundamentals to prepare for their first year of law school. Intro to Law School covers topics like briefing cases, the Socratic method, and methods for analyzing law. In addition, the course includes foundational readings on the U.S. legal system to help students from a variety of academic disciplines enter the classroom with a baseline understanding of US law. Students are also matched with a mentor prior to the start of 1L classes.
In the 1L year, students take a prescribed curriculum to help them build a foundational knowledge of the law. In addition to doctrinal classes, 1L students will take a 2-semester Legal Writing and Analysis class and a Legal Research class taught by library research faculty.
Upper-level students are required to take Professional Responsibility, an advanced Legal Writing Seminar, and at least 6 credits but up to 11 credits in experiential learning, which can be done through classes or a clinic or externship. Students will be assigned an academic advisor who can talk with them about planning upper-level courses.
In the 2nd and 3rd years, Penn State Law students can customize their curriculum to suit their professional goals. Penn State Law students may take up to twelve credits of Penn State University graduate-level courses or advanced undergraduate courses related to their legal career objectives.
Law students may also choose to pursue a joint master's degree in one of many academic disciplines on campus (joint Ph.Ds are also available through the College of Education).
Students may also earn academic credit for independent study, law review or journal membership, and Moot Court Board participation.
Clinics and Practicum
Clinic students conduct legal work under the supervision of a faculty member and serve the unmet needs of local clients and influence policy across Pennsylvania, the region, and the nation. Students in Penn State Law clinics work on ground-breaking and critical matters, like U.S. Supreme Court civil rights cases, immigration policy and representation, and patent filings.
Clinics and Practicum available at Penn State Law:
- Arts, Sports, and Entertainment Law Clinic
- Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic
- Civil Rights Appellate Clinic
- Criminal Appellate and Post-Conviction Services Clinic
- Entrepreneur Assistance Clinic
- Family Law Clinic
- Indigent Criminal Justice Trial Clinic
- Intellectual Property Clinic
- Manglona Lab for Gender and Economic Equity
- Rural Economic Development Clinic
- Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic
Externships - Externships Everywhere Program
Penn State Law students participating in our Externships Everywhere Program take a semester away from campus to serve in a full-time externship with a legal office anywhere in the world. Participating students substitute one whole semester (up to 12 credits) of coursework for working 40 hours per week in a legal office, including law firms. Students can supplement their credits with coursework through independent study or by using Penn State Law's classroom technology to attend class remotely.
Students have held externships with the following organizations:
- Allegheny County Public Defender - Pittsburgh, PA
- Blanchard Law - Greenville, MI
- Clark County Nevada District Attorney's Office - Las Vegas, NV
- Environment and Natural Resource Division: Law & Policy Section - Washington, D.C.
- Green & Schafle - Philadelphia, PA
- New York County District Attorney - New York, NY
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Williamsport, PA
- U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement - New Orleans, LA
- U.S. District Court - San Diego, CA
- Utah County Attorney's Office - Provo, UT
- White and Case, LLP - Paris, France
Semester in Washington D.C. Program
Similar to our Externships Everywhere Program, students participating in our Semester in Washington Program spend an academic semester away from campus gaining experience in Washington, DC. Students work for academic credit for a semester in federal agencies, courts, nonprofits, and public interest groups in the nation’s capital. Their work is complemented with a weekly seminar on federal regulatory and legislative practice facilitated by Stanley M. Brand, a prominent D.C. attorney and Distinguished Fellow in Law and Government at Penn State Law.
Students can secure their D.C. Externship with the help of our Career Services Office. Possible externships include:
- AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly
- American Bar Association, Government Affairs Office
- American Health Lawyers Association
- Department of the Interior, Office of Civil Rights
- Department of Justice
- Department of State
- Department of Treasury
- Environmental Protection Agency—Environmental Appeals Board
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- Executive Office for Immigration Review—Arlington Immigration Court
- Federal Communications Commission's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau
- Federal Communications Commission's International Bureau
- House Committee on Ways and Means
- Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
- National Labor Relations Board
- Project Vote
- Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia
- Securities and Exchange Commission
- U.S. Office of Special Counsel
- U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia
- U.S. China Economic Review and Security Commission
On-campus, Local, and Regional Externships
On-campus, local, and regional externships allow students to work in a legal office outside of the law school during the academic year under the supervision of practicing attorneys. Students earn academic credit and gain hands-on experience while attending classes at Penn State Law. The externship experience is complemented by a regularly scheduled class focusing on lawyering skills and students’ reflections on their achievements in their externship work. Students regularly hold externships in:
- Penn State administrative offices, including the Penn State Office of General Counsel, Athletic Compliance, Student Legal Services, Development, and Office of Physical Plant
- Chambers of federal and state judges
- U.S. and district attorneys' offices
- State administrative agencies
- Public defenders offices
Interdisciplinary Courses and Customizable Credits
Penn State Law’s location in University Park, Penn State’s largest campus, allows students to conveniently pursue interdisciplinary academic work with other Penn State graduate programs. Penn State Law students can take up to 12 credits of graduate coursework from the dozens of academic programs at Penn State to be applied toward their J.D. degree requirements. A sampling of graduate programs from which courses can be selected at Penn State includes:
- Civil Engineering
- Climate Science
- Community and Economic Development
- Data Analytics
- Educational Leadership
- Electrical Engineering
- Environmental Engineering
- Forensic Science
- Health Policy and Administration
- Information Science
- International Affairs
- Mechanical Engineering
- Public Administration
- Public Policy
- Strategic Communications
- Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Penn State Law students can create custom joint degrees with any graduate program on campus with the guidance and approval of the Penn State Law joint degree program director and the cooperating unit’s academic advisor. Previously established joint degree programs are also available, and include:
- J.D./Master of International Affairs (M.I.A.)
- J.D./Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.)
- J.D./Master of Arts (M.A.) in Media Studies
- J.D./Master of Arts (M.A.) in Educational Theory and Policy
- J.D./Doctor of Educational Theory and Policy (Ph.D.)
- J.D./Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Higher Education
- J.D./Doctor of Higher Education (Ph.D./D.Ed.)
- J.D./Master of Educational Leadership (M.Ed.)
- J.D./Doctor of Educational Leadership (Ph.D./D.Ed.)
- J.D./Master of Health Administration (M.H.A.)
- J.D./Master of Science (M.S.) in Human Resources and Employment Relations
- J.D./Master of Public Health (M.P.H.)
Each graduate program has its own admissions process. Students may apply to law and graduate programs concurrently or apply to the graduate program during their 1L year. Students are strongly encouraged to plan to complete their 1L year before beginning their graduate school program. Credits for graduate-level courses that a law student earned prior to admission to the J.D. program will not count toward the J.D. degree.
A typical four year schedule for a master's program follows:
Year 1 - First year JD
Year 2 - First year graduate school core classes
Year 3 and year 4 - remaining requirements and electives for both programs
Time spent in joint Ph.D. programs will vary by student. Students should take the full 1L curriculum in their first year of joint studies, regardless of graduate program.
Penn State Law tuition and any law school-funded scholarship will apply during the three years in which the majority of credits will come from the JD program. In other years, graduate school tuition and any graduate school-funded scholarship will apply.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Penn State University and Penn State Law are deeply committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our community and our classrooms. To help promote DEI at Penn State Law, we host our Minority Mentor Program (MMP) for students from backgrounds historically excluded and/or underrepresented in the practice of law. Through the MMP, students are paired with an on-campus mentor to help with professional development opportunities and to be a resource for support and advice. The MMP hosts a kickoff event each fall and other events throughout the year to foster a strong and inclusive community.
Penn State Law offers Equity Scholarships like the George Floyd Memorial Scholarship Fund, which provides financial support to a 2L or 3L student participating in the Black Law Students Association; the Sanchez-Crynes Visionary Legacy Endowed Scholarship, benefitting first-generation Latinx 2L or 3L law students interested in corporate law and committed to serving the Hispanic community; the Dickey, McCamey & Chilcote Penn State Law Diversity Scholarship, which includes tuition support and a summer clerkship with the law firm; and a fund to help defray travel costs of LGBTQIA+ students attending the Lavender Law Conference and Career Fair.
Students who seek to support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion through the Student Bar Association may join the Law & Equity Committee of the SBA. The Committee works with faculty, administration, and other student organizations to sponsor events, review organizations' proposals, and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the law school community.
Student Affinity Groups
Penn State Law has more than a dozen affinity student organizations, reflecting the diverse backgrounds of our community. These organizations often provide social, professional, and academic development opportunities for students.
Of particular note is the successful Penn State Law Black Law Students Association (BLSA), which was awarded the National Black Law Students Association Chapter of the Year for the 2021-2022 academic year, and through which several Penn State Law students have held national office in NBLSA. In addition, BLSA hosts a trial team, which won the Mid-Atlantic Region Mock Trial competition in February 2022.
Other affinity groups include the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, Disability Law Caucus, OutLaw, and Muslim Legal Society.
Penn State Law Review and Journals
The Penn State Law Review is the flagship publication of Penn State Law at University Park. As a general-interest journal, the Penn State Law Review publishes a broad range of legal scholarship and does not limit submissions to any specific topic. Generally, each issue includes several legal Articles and Comments. The Articles are written by legal scholars and practitioners, and the Comments are written by Penn State Law students. Every year, as part of a stringent selection process, the journal evaluates a host of submissions. The Law Review publishes three print issues per year.
The Arbitration Law Review is a student-edited publication done in a law review format. Each editorial board produces a stand-alone book rather than a number of issues that are eventually assembled in a collective volume. The Arbitration Law Review covers domestic U.S. developments in arbitration, but periodically addresses transborder developments. The Review publishes scholarly articles delivered at an annual symposium, as well as student pieces on recent case law and legislative enactments, along with book reviews. Membership on Arbitration Law Review can be achieved through participation in the law school's summer casenote writing competition that follows the end of first-year examinations. All Arbitration Law Review members must take the basic course in arbitration to secure or retain their editorial standing.
The Penn State Journal of Law & International Affairs (JLIA) is a student-edited, interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal, jointly published by Penn State Law and School of International Affairs.
The Journal publishes twice a year and includes scholarly articles and student comments focusing on developments of international law and current issues.
The Journal promotes academic and public discourse at the intersection of law and international affairs, featuring contributions in the areas of public and private international law, international relations, comparative law and politics, geography, economics, history, and policy issues in the various sciences. We cover a range of timely topics including but not limited to: global economy, international crimes, human rights, counter-terrorism, international trade, intellectual property, sports and entertainment law. We promise to publish a diverse range of articles on current international law issues and developments.
Appellate Moot Court Board and other Advocacy Opportunities
The Appellate Moot Court Board serves as the principal advocacy organization in the Law School. Its purpose is to develop advocacy skills and prepare student members to compete in selected moot court and oral advocacy competitions across the country and internationally. The Appellate Moot Court Board is run entirely by students; members are selected annually through a selection competition held at the start of the fall semester.
National Trial Competitions
Penn State Law students have the opportunity to develop and hone their trial advocacy skills through faculty-directed participation in a variety of national, regional and intra-school mock trial competitions. The national and regional mock trial teams are selected based upon students’ overall performance in Trial Advocacy, a course offered during the fall semester, which culminates with intra-school mock trial competitions where students have the opportunity to conduct a mini-trial in either a civil or criminal case. The top advocates from the intra-school competition are invited to represent the Law School in a number of regional and national mock trial competitions that are held during the spring semester, including:
- National Trial Competition
- AAJ Student Trial Advocacy Competition
- NBLSA Constance Baker Mock Trial Competition
- Academy of Trial Lawyers Mock Trial Competition
Subject to faculty approval, a student enrolled in this program will receive 2 credits.
The Willem C. Vis Moot Court Team
The Vis Moot team represents Penn State Law in the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot Competition. Each year, Penn State Law sends a team to Vienna, Austria to compete in the largest competition of its kind in the world.
In 2019, Penn State Law won first place in the competition, besting more than 370 law schools worldwide to take home the top prize, and was the first U.S. law school to win in several years. One team member also won an honorable mention for oral advocacy. In addition to being excellent advocates, the team was known for it's "We Are" spirit among competitors who cheered them on when the win was announced.
The Vis offers participants an unparalleled opportunity to hone their written and oral advocacy skills and to represent their school on a global stage. Team members also engage in a number of “pre-moot” practices against other domestic and international laws schools.
Students interested in joining the Penn State Law Vis Moot team should contact coach Ryan McWeeney or faculty adviser Jud Mathews.
Tours and class visits
Prospective applicants are welcomed at Penn State Law! You can schedule a tour with a current student or visit a class at your convenience at the link below.
Events for Prospective Students
Penn State Law's admissions team and current students are available to answer questions of any prospective JD applicant. Prospective applicants can attend one of our Online Information Sessions, meet us "on the road" at a recruitment event or LSAC Forum, or schedule a time to talk with an admissions counselor or current student at the link below.
Career Placement and Bar Passage
Overview of Career Services
Penn State Law graduates find jobs across the country and around the world with the help of the dedicated Career Services Office (CSO) team. The classes of 2018-2020 have been hired in 40 states and U.S. territories, and five foreign countries.
In addition to individual career counseling, the CSO offers Penn State Law students:
- The Legal Career Essentials Series to orient and prepare students for the job search;
- The Law Fit Career Assessment to help students understand their interests and plan a career;
- Regular panels and workshops on various practice areas and job types;
- On-campus interview recruitment programs;
- Assistance with a self-directed job search for students who do not participate in OCI;
- Mock interview program;
- Weekly emails with new job postings, job fairs, and reminders of upcoming career information sessions and events;
- Access to hundreds of job postings through Law Lion Careers.
Recent graduates have obtained positions at large AmLaw firms, small boutique firms, and everywhere in between.Graduates have also found success in public service, public interest, prosecution and defense, and corporate law. 73 graduates from 2018-2021 have held clerkships at all levels, and 60 Penn State Law alumni have been named firm partners, including alumni in nine AmLaw firms.
Overall, in 2021, 89.47% of Penn State Law graduates passed the July 2021 bar exam on their first attempt. In jurisdictions where five or more graduates sat for the exam, Penn State Law had:
- 100% bar passage in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Texas;
- 95.65% (22/23) bar passage in New York;
- 80% bar passage in Pennsylvania (20/25) and Washington, D.C. (8/10); and
- 100% pass rate in 17 of 23 jurisdictions in which graduates sat for the bar exam for the first time.
Tuition and Aid
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Admission Decisions: Beyond the Numbers
Penn State Law conducts a holistic review of applications and does not utilize weighted formulas when evaluating applicant files. However, we put considerable emphasis on test scores and academic record. An admissions test score is required for all applicants. Penn State Law will accept LSAT or GRE for all applicants. Penn State - University Park undergraduates meeting all requirements may apply with an SAT or ACT. A GMAT score will be accepted in limited circumstances.
Penn State Law does not prescribe a particular course of study for undergraduate education. Rather, we consider the rigor, depth, and breadth of an academic program; grade trends; advanced coursework; and evidence of aptitude for reading, writing, and analysis. Applicants must have earned, or will earn by the time of enrollment, an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university (with an exception for applicants applying via an established 3+3 agreement between Penn State Law and their undergraduate school).
The Admissions Committee also considers work history, leadership, and service of the applicant. Applicants who have overcome hardships or obstacles to education or who have had unique experiences are invited to share their stories. We seek applicants who will positively contribute to the law school and legal communities and support our mission of diversity, intellectual engagement, and service. Penn State Law also places significant emphasis on letters of recommendation from faculty instructors, employers, and internship supervisors.
Applicants admitted to Penn State Law are required to disclose any information that would change their responses to any questions on the application, including and especially disclosure questions regarding arrests and criminal history, disciplinary action, pending criminal charges, and professional misconduct. This obligation to disclose continues through matriculation.
Once matriculated at Penn State Law, students have an ongoing obligation to disclose any information that would change their responses to any questions on their application for admission, including but not limited to: disclosure questions regarding arrests and criminal history, disciplinary action, pending criminal charges or investigations, and professional misconduct. Once students matriculate to Penn State Law, this obligation to disclose continues through graduation.
Penn State Law places high importance on the integrity, maturity, and candor of applicants. Applicants are required to update the Office of Admissions in a timely manner of any circumstance that may alter their response to any question on the application. Penn State Law reserves the right to revoke an offer of admission if the Admissions Committee determines that an applicant has engaged in behavior that brings into question their honesty, maturity, moral character, or fitness to practice law. Penn State Law may revoke an offer of admission if the Admissions Committee determines that the applicant has provided false, incomplete, incorrect, or misleading information during the admissions process, or if new information is not provided in a timely manner. Applicants determined by the Admissions Committee to have provided incorrect, incomplete, or misleading information in their applications may be reported to LSAC's Committee on Misconduct or Irregularities in the Admission Process.