Law School Discussion

Dickinson / Penn State. What to think?!

Dickinson / Penn State. What to think?!
« on: October 25, 2014, 12:01:53 AM »
So recently Penn State Law and Dickinson have decided to become two separate law schools all operating under Penn State's name. The question here is what happens to both Dickinson and Penn State Law's ranking? In 2014 Penn State Dickinson was ranked pretty well at 51. However, what happens now? The rankings aren't going to be out in time for me have before I have to make a decision. I know rankings aren't everything, but I just want to know what in the hell happens now?! Do they both go down in rankings? If so, by how much? Does one go down and the other stay around 51? Really, I'm deciding between Temple and Dickinson...and it's tough. Please answer my question about the rankings then you can rant about choosing Temple over Dickinson or vice versa. I really appreciate your answers!

Re: Dickinson / Penn State. What to think?!
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2014, 09:20:09 AM »
I'm not sure what will happen to each school's ranking, but I don't think it will matter anyway.

Firms and government agencies that currently hire from Penn State/Dickinson will continue to do so even if the school's ranking drops. Once you get away from the handful of elite schools near the top of the rankings scheme, a school's reputation is pretty much local. Local reputations are based more on alumni networks and the school's profile within the immediate region, and less on rankings.

My guess is that Penn State/Dickinson probably has a good local reputation, and that it probably won't change because of USNWR. Honestly, who cares if a school is ranked, say, #64 instead of #51? Most lawyers know that this is a meaningless distinction.

Geography, however, does matter. It matters especially when you are talking about non-elite, local schools. If you want to live and work in Philly, Temple might be a better choice. You'd have much better access to the local market. If western/central PA is your goal, Dickinson might be a better choice.

I would think more about that aspect and less about rankings.

BTW, didn't Dickinson used to be a separate law school which merged with Penn State? I guess they decided to get a divorce.

Re: Dickinson / Penn State. What to think?!
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2014, 09:30:43 AM »
First and foremost realize that any anonymous internet poster on this board or others myself included knows anything about you, and for all you know I am a crackhead in a public library or I could be a partner at Cravath. So with that take any anonymous internet poster advice with a major grain of salt my post included.

With that said I think you are making one of the most common 0L mistakes, one I made myself, which is putting way to much thought into what a for profit unregulated magazine thinks. U.S. News is not regulated by anyone, and they are offering an opinion for entertainment and to make money. If you want to make a life altering decision based on that it is your choice, but I do not recommend it.   Also realize rankings change drastically year by year, because U.S. News has no real formula, just look at the two schools you are considering. 

Temple Ranking U.S. News 2009-2014
Present 61* 2013   56*   2012 58* 2011   61*   2010 72*   2009 65*    

Penn State Ranking
Present 51*   2013 64*   2012 76*   2011 60   2010 72*   2009 65*

Both schools were tied for the same rank in 65th along with a number of schools, then both fell to a tie for 72nd with a bunch of other schools. In 2011 Penn State was one rank higher, In 2012 Temple was 18 spots hight, in 2013 Temple was 8 spots higher, and now Penn State is 10 spots higher.

So to sum it up if you choose Temple based on rank over Penn State in 2011 the school that you graduated from would be significantly lower ranked even though it was 18 spots higher. So DO NOT CHOOSE a law school based on ranking.

Here is a link to show the drastic changes in law school rankings year by year. The top 10-20 schools are basically the same, but outside of that they change drastically and odds are if you choose Penn State based on rank today, Temple will be ranked higher by the time you graduate or vice versa, and it doesn't matter.

With that said I think any 0L should consider the following factors in this order when choosing a law school: (1) Location; (2) Cost; (3) Personal Feelings about school; (4) Understanding the Reality of legal education; (5) Last and certainly least U.S. News Ranking.  I will analyze each of these factors to your current decision between Penn & Temple, but I also encourage you to apply to other schools in the area to obtain scholarship offers and more leverage when negotiating with schools you really want to attend.

 (1) Location:
It looks like you want to be in Pennsylvania, which is good you narrowed it down to a state, but do you want to live in Philly or University Park. No right or wrong answer, but if you want to be in a big-city go to Temple if you want the college feel go to University Park. It will make a big difference, and whatever is more your style is the right choice there.

(2) Cost
Temple offers in-state tuition at $19,000 per year x 3= 57,000 in Tuition which is a great deal.

Penn-State does not offer in state tuition and is $40,000 per year x 3= 120,000 in tuition;

On that factor Temple certainly wins you will save $63,000 on tuition, which is something to consider.
(3) Personal Feelings About School
Aside from location and cost each school has a culture to it, and whether the school's culture fits you is something only you can determine. When I was visiting schools there were some I liked others I didn't, which is entirely subjective to my personality.

The only way to know if a school is a fit is to visit personally, talk to professors, walk around campus, walk around the surrounding neighborhood, talk to students, alumni, etc and you will feel better about one over the other, and listen to your gut it will guide you in the right direction.

(4) Reality of Legal Education:
Finally I know there are law school rankings, but the reality is at any ABA law school you will learn the same thing. You will receive a great education at Penn State or Temple or any other ABA school. In law school you read Supreme Court Cases, and the Supreme Court does not write separate opinions for different law schools, nor does the law change whether you attend Temple or Penn State.

Your first year will consist of Torts, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Property, and a LRW class. Schools differ on whether they offer Crim Pro/Crim Law/Con Law 1L or 2L, but you will take those courses in law school as well. In Torts you will read the Palsgraff case, Civ Pro Pennoyer v. Neff, Contracts Hadley v. Baxendale, Property the fox-hound case.

Conclusion:
I cannot possibly tell you what the right answer is, but really analyze the factors above to your personal situation. Good luck whatever you decide.

Julie Fern

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Re: Dickinson / Penn State. What to think?!
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2014, 07:11:59 PM »
I'm not sure what will happen to each school's ranking, but I don't think it will matter anyway.

Firms and government agencies that currently hire from Penn State/Dickinson will continue to do so even if the school's ranking drops. Once you get away from the handful of elite schools near the top of the rankings scheme, a school's reputation is pretty much local. Local reputations are based more on alumni networks and the school's profile within the immediate region, and less on rankings.

My guess is that Penn State/Dickinson probably has a good local reputation, and that it probably won't change because of USNWR. Honestly, who cares if a school is ranked, say, #64 instead of #51? Most lawyers know that this is a meaningless distinction.

Geography, however, does matter. It matters especially when you are talking about non-elite, local schools. If you want to live and work in Philly, Temple might be a better choice. You'd have much better access to the local market. If western/central PA is your goal, Dickinson might be a better choice.

I would think more about that aspect and less about rankings.

BTW, didn't Dickinson used to be a separate law school which merged with Penn State? I guess they decided to get a divorce.

both still penn state, silly person.