CARLISLE — Penn State Dickinson School of Law faces an all-encompassing shake-up in curriculum as it officially turns into Dickinson Law next school year.
The level of change is rare for higher education, but the staff in Carlisle didn’t want to pass up an opportunity for accreditation separate from the State College law school.
“The separate accreditation for the two law schools was an opportunity for us to step back,” said Gary Gildin, interim dean of the school. “It’s really cutting edge — that inward look and being responsive to change and what employers are looking for.”
Gildin said he has been with the school for 35 years and noted there have been incremental tweaks to the curriculum and program, but nothing on the level that is set for the 2015-16 school year for first-year students. He said such a change can be incredibly risky, but it was necessary to produce the types of lawyers needed in the country.
“What lawyers need to do is different in 2014, even from 2000,” Gildin said, explaining even small businesses have gone global, which requires just about every lawyer to have some basic knowledge in international law.
Previously, international law was an upper level elective. Under the new system, international law would be covered in the first year and is a requirement.
The new first-year program is designed around giving students the skills they need to work in the real world without additional training. That means students will have internships in the region, as well as participate in in-house clinics. The law school will reopen its Pitt Street Clinic Building from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at 45 N. Pitt St., Carlisle. The building will house all of its Carlisle-based clinics, including the school’s Children’s Advocacy and Community Law clinics. The school’s clinics are open to the public.
Other changes to the first-year program include electives designed to give students an education in a specific field, and introducing more critical competencies, such as project management and business development.
“It’s not enough to (just) have legal skills, argue case law, read statistics or be a good writer,” Gildin said. “Additional competencies would be part of day-to-day life.”
Gildin said the change is more to do with preparing students than it has to do with admission. Penn State Dickinson School of Law has a small maximum class size of 75 students for each incoming class, which will be continued when the name changes to Dickinson Law. Given the small size, there is no concern among staff about dwindling admissions, and the school already has close to that number in admissions for the next school year.