Waitlisted, you seemed pretty damn excited about your PSU-DSL acceptance on LSN...just sayin'...
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Messages - aslaw505
Yeah, I'll probably be there
I go to Dickinson, so to avoid being called a troll, I'm not going to add much to this debate. (I also never looked at Pitt, so anything I could say would be pretty one-sided.) However, I think the article below makes a good point. This blurb is from the ABA Journal:
Why U.S. News Rankings May Mislead
Posted Jan 2, 2008, 07:51 am CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Potential law students who want a job at a top law firm shouldn’t blindly follow the rankings of U.S. News & World Report.
Students who attend a top-tier law school are likely to get interviews at any law firm they desire, according to a Wall Street Journal op-ed (sub. req.) written by lawyer and law professor Cameron Stracher. But grades and law review are more important than school rank at lower-tier schools, he says.
“The difference between the 55th-ranked law school and the 105th law school is of little significance in determining which students are more likely to get a good job,” he says.
“At both schools, unless a student is in the top 15 percent or 20 percent of his class, he has little chance of getting a high-paying job directly upon graduation. Students might be better served by going to a lower-ranked law school and doing better, rather than going to a middling law school and not doing as well.”
The magazine’s rankings stress reputation over bar passage rates, which account for only 2 percent of a school’s rank.
Stracher concludes that law schools would better serve their constituencies if they released accurate information about numbers that matter to students—about bar passage rates, the kinds of jobs its graduates land, and average salaries after graduation.
From the point of view of a current law student, I would really stress this point - it's something that's far too often overlooked on this site.
If you have any specific questions about PSU, I'd be happy to try to answer them.
I don't know much about the trial advocacy program unfortunately, except that we have a bunch of moot court teams and a number of in-house clinics where students get to represent clients as 3L's. Here's the blurb from the website, in case you haven't found it on your own:
The 30-year-old, award-winning trial advocacy program at Penn State Dickinson is one of the most accomplished and thorough programs of its kind nationwide. It is led by Professor Gary Gildin, 1999 winner of the Jacobson Award for outstanding teaching in trial advocacy and Director of the Miller Center for Public Interest Advocacy.
Preparation for the lawyer's role as advocate begins in the first year of study. Students take courses that teach them the fundamental analytical tools that ground “thinking like a lawyer.” Some of these courses, including Civil Procedure and Lawyering Skills, also introduce students to concepts, rules and skills especially relevant to litigation. In addition, first-year students can elect to participate in an intraschool competition that gives them the opportunity to conduct a trial. Professional Responsibility, which is generally taken in the second year, offers students a window into ethical issues that may arise for all lawyers, including those serving as advocates. The upper-level course of Evidence, which is a co-requisite for Advocacy I, teaches fundamental evidentiary rules governing trials and their application. Other upper-level courses — such as Advanced Legal Research, Appellate Practice, Civil Liberties Litigation, Client Counseling, Federal Courts, Field Placement Clinics, In-House Clinics, International Litigation and Arbitration, Negotiation, Pennsylvania Criminal Law Practice, Pennsylvania Practice, Post-Conviction Process, Remedies, Writing and Editing for Lawyers, Writing Workshop and others — also have particular relevance in training legal advocates.
In the third year of study, Penn State Dickinson offers the centerpiece of its Trial Advocacy curriculum — dedicated training in fundamental pretrial and trial advocacy skills in Advocacy I and Advocacy II. Professor Gildin leads these courses and is assisted by a carefully-selected team of experienced lawyers and judges who serve as one-on-one evaluators and mentors. The courses capture the rigor, excitement and tension of real-life litigation. Students learn key elements of civil and criminal litigation, practice them in a logical progression, receive weekly feedback, and ultimately take a case from inception to trial. Students and faculty even gather in the courtrooms of the county courthouse for their small group section meetings. Advanced Pre-Trial Advocacy — taught by an experienced civil litigator — is also available to third-year students for a specific focus on the pre-trial phase that often dominates and concludes litigation.
In combination, these courses provide students with the skills they will need to walk into any courtroom upon graduation and responsibly represent clients involved in civil and criminal litigation. Upper-level students also may gain valuable experience through participation in the intraschool trial competition which can lead to representation of Penn State Dickinson in the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Gourley and National Trial competitions. Qualified students also may be chosen to represent Penn State Dickinson on other moot court teams.
You must have had a pretty impressive application, because $20,000 a year is a very high scholarship amount for PSU (at least compared with what people got last year). Congrats!
I don't happen to know the average salary off the top of my head. I'm sure it's listed on US News or a similar rankings web site.
So I just typed a very detailed reply to your post, and then something weird happened with my computer and it all disappeared...grrr...
DSL has a great mentor program. It's not limited to gov't or to PA, but there are a lot of mentors who happen to be in Harrisburg and who happen to work either in the judiciary or in state or gov't. I just got matched up with a judge in Harrisburg, actually - he's a great guy, very helpful. DSL also has a field placement program that includes a lot of gov't positions. I'll see if I can get you a list (it's on the website, but I think it's on the secured portion, so you probably can't access it). I plan to do a field placement next year. They're similar to internships you might do over the summer, but you get credit for them, and they're positions that are reserved for DSL students. I imagine they're a great way to make connections and get a foot in the door.
Aside from those programs (and I'm sure there are more that I don't know about), I think the greatest assets here are the alumni network and the Career Services Office. This area is really dominated by DSL alums, and they're very willing to help DSL students. The CSO is also quite helpful - they've got a lot of connections in state government and in the judiciary.
Again, I'm only a 1L, so I have limited experience with the legal job search. From what I've heard though, if you want to work in central PA, a JD from Dickinson will help A LOT.
Yes, the scholarship is over 3 years - $18,000 per year.
I largely chose PSU because of the location. I was already living in South Central PA - my husband and I own a home here and we didn't want to move and make him give up his job. We will likely remain in this area after I'm done with law school. So my decision was largely based on personal reasons. That being said, I'm very happy with DSL. The school has a great sense of community. The faculty are impressive and very accessible. And despite what many people on here would have you believe, my fellow students are actually quite intelligent and hard-working.
It is very easy to take classes at the other campus (although as a 1L, you have to take all your classes at one place). We have a pretty sophisticated video-conferencing system, and prof's frequently travel from campus to campus (so even if you're in a videoconferenced course, you'll likely be taught in person for at least some of the class sessions). The campus "specialties" are largely based on location - for instance, it makes a lot of sense to study sports law at the PSU main campus, and Carlisle is generally a better option for people interested in gov't work because of its proximity to the state capital.