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The University of Pennsylvania Law School, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker, is the law school of the University of Pennsylvaniamarker, a member of the Ivy League. It is currently ranked 8th overall by U.S. News & World Report, and it offers the degrees of Juris Doctor (J.D.), Master of Laws (LL.M.), and Doctor of the Science of Law (S.J.D.).

Penn Law is one of the most selective law schools in the country, with the entering class of 2012 having a median LSAT score of 170 and a median GPA of 3.82. Over a third of students identify as persons of color, and 10% of students enrolled with an advanced degree. The school prides itself on its collegiality and the importance it places on diversity.

Penn Law emphasizes cross-disciplinary education, both within the law school and through courses, certificates, and joint/dual degree programs with the other graduate and professional schools on the Penn campus, such as the Wharton School.


The University of Pennsylvania Law School officially traces its origins to a series of lectures delivered in 1790 by James Wilson, a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution.

Following this early beginning, Penn began offering a full-time program in law in 1850, under the leadership of George Sharswood, an innovator in legal education. Under Sharswood's leadership, Penn Law created what has become the template for modern legal education: a combination of lectures in law with practical experience for students. In 1897, Penn Law once again reformed legal education by initiating a three-year curriculum and instituting stringent admissions requirements.

In 1900, the new Law School building (now Silverman Hall) opened in its present site on the Penn campus with its massive Georgian structure of brick and limestone with ornamental details throughout. It was at the time considered the largest structure devoted solely to legal education in the country.


The University of Pennsylvania campus covers over 269 acres (~1 km²) in a contiguous area of West Philadelphia's University Citymarker district. All of Penn's schools, including the Law School, and most of its research institutes are located on this campus. Recent improvements to the surrounding neighborhood include the opening of several restaurants, a large upscale grocery store, and a movie theater on the western edge of campus. Much of Penn's architecture was designed by the architecture firm of Cope & Stewardson, whose principal architects combined the Gothic architecture of the University of Oxfordmarker and the University of Cambridgemarker with the local landscape to establish the Collegiate Gothic style.

The Law School consists of four interconnecting buildings around a central courtyard. At the east end of the courtyard is Silverman Hall built in 1900, housing the Levy Conference Center, classrooms, faculty offices, the Gittis Center for Clinical Legal Studies, and administrative and student offices. Directly opposite is Tannenbaum Hall, which opened in 1993, home to the Biddle Law Library, several law journals, administrative offices, and comfortable student spaces. Gittis Hall sits on the north side and has new state-of-the-art classrooms (renovated in 2006) and new and expanded faculty offices. Opposite is Pepper Hall, which houses administrative offices, a seminar room, and a large classroom. The 11,000 square foot Pepper Hall is to be demolished and replaced with a $33 million, 45,000 square foot building completed by 2012.

A small row of restaurants and shops faces the Law School on Sansom Street. North of Penn Law, on Chestnut Street, is a new deluxe apartment complex with retail outlets. Nearby are the Penn Bookstore, the Pottruck Center (a new multi-purpose sports activity area), the Institute of Contemporary Art, a performing arts center, and area shops.

Cross-disciplinary studies

Over 70% of the Law School faculty hold advanced degrees other than a J.D., and a third hold secondary appointments in other departments at the University. As a result, many of the law courses have an interdisciplinary perspective. Students are allowed to take four courses outside the Law School as part of their J.D. degree, and many students earn joint/dual degrees or certificates. The Law School is located on the University of Pennsylvania campus, in close proximity to the Wharton School of Business, the Fels Institute of Governmentmarker, the Medical School, the Annenberg School for Communication and the other graduate and professional programs at Penn.

Certificate programs
Students can earn a Certificate of Study within the three year J.D. program.

  • Certificate in Business and Public Policy, The Wharton School
  • Environmental Policy, Environmental Studies Institute
  • Environmental Science, Environmental Studies Institute
  • Gender and Sexuality Studies, Women’s Studies/College of Arts and Sciences

Other certificate programs, such as the Certificate in Non-Profit Management at the Fels Institute of Government and the Certificate in Islamic Studies, may be available to students on an ad hoc basis.

Nineteen percent of the Class of 2007 earned a Certificate.

Notable faculty

Notable alumni

Demonstrating Penn Law's commitment to cross-disciplinary education, graduates of the law school include judges, politicians, diplomats, business leaders, activists, and academics.

Toll Public Interest Center

Penn Law was the first national law school to establish a mandatory pro bono program and the first law school to win the American Bar Association’s Pro Bono Publico Award. Students complete 70 hours of pro bono service as a condition of graduation. More than 73% of the Class of 2007 exceeded the requirement. Students can create their own placements or select from 1,200 slots in close to 400 public interest organizations in Philadelphia and nationwide.

The Law School awards Toll Public Interest Scholarships to accomplished public interest matriculants and has a generous Public Interest Loan Repayment Program for graduates pursuing careers in public interest.

Students interested in public interest work receive funding for summer positions through money from the student-run Equal Justice Foundation or via funding from Penn Law. Additionally, the Law School funds students interested in working internationally through the International Human Rights Fellowship.

Gittis Center for Clinical Legal Studies

Students have a wide variety of opportunities to use their legal training in Penn Law’s client-centered clinics that focus around the distinct roles that lawyers play in various parts of our society. The Clinic provides the opportunity for students to explore the intersection of the legal system with a broad array of societal issues while developing skills common to any practice setting. Students may enroll in clinical courses in their second and third years of law school.

Civil Practice Clinic
Students serve clients in civil litigation in housing, consumer, family law, employment discrimination, and government benefits disputes.

Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic
Students provide representation to an entrepreneurial client base, from emerging businesses and non profit organizations to larger organizations involved in community economic development activities.

Mediation Clinic
In this unique clinic, students are trained in dispute resolution skills and serve as front-line appointed mediators in civil litigation, criminal and family disputes, employment discrimination, and on-campus disciplinary matters.

Legislative Clinic
Students combine classroom study of legislative lawyering and public policy with firsthand experience in legislative and federal placements in Washington, D.C. and Harrisburg, PA.

Inter-Disciplinary Child Advocacy Clinic
Taught by a Penn Law clinical professor and a pediatrician, and a social work supervisor, Penn Law students team with medical, nursing, and social policy & practice students to represent children.

Transnational Clinic
Students work with clients across cultures, languages, borders and legal systems. Cases may include immigration-related matters, human rights claims and international transactions and development projects.

Criminal Defense Clinic
Students get first-hand experience trying cases in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and the Philadelphia Municipal Court under the close supervision of a senior trial attorney from the Defender Association of Philadelphia.

Lawyering in the Public Interest
Students examine lawyering themes that arise in the representation of low-income and disadvantaged clients.

Penn Law externs can elect from a diverse and rich mix of experiences in a range of unique Philadelphia organizations.


Students at the Law School publish several legal journals.

Institutes, programs, and centers

Penn Law’s institutes, programs and centers address many legal issues from a cross-disciplinary perspective. The Law School's partnerships extend across the University.
  • Institute for Law and Economics Under the sponsorship of the Law School, the Wharton School, and the Department of Economics, ILE contributes to scholarship, policy, and practice on relevant issues of law and economics that affect our country’s businesses and financial institutions.
  • Institute for Law and Philosophy The Institute brings together scholars to discuss the application of legal theory to contemporary legal, moral, and political issues.
  • Center for Tax Law and Policy Using an eclectic methodological approach, the Center focuses on pressing issues of fiscal policy with close attention paid to the implications for economic growth and efficiency, socioeconomic inequality, and the cost effective administration of programs and rules.
  • Penn Program on Documentaries and the Law Addressing the critical use of law-genre documentaries, the role of lawyering in the creative process, and the film as legal advocacy, the Program creates instructional models for the legal profession and others in nonfiction filmmaking to better use and understand advocacy on film.
  • Penn Program on Regulation This Program emphasizes issues relevant to multiple domains of regulatory policy, such as issues of administrative law and procedure, economic analysis of regulation, and the political economy of regulation, and focuses on a variety of areas of social and economic regulation, such as e-rulemaking, employment, environmental, financial, health care, and transportation, among others.
  • Program Law, the Environment and the Economy PLEE’s encourages research and teaching that explores the positive and normative foundations of environmental law and policy, seeking both to explain the existing system and to provide a rigorous theoretical and empirical basis for a better way forward.
  • Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition CTIC promotes basic research on technology-related issues to create foundational frameworks that will shape the way policymakers think about the issues the scholarly study of technology policy from a full range of perspectives, particularly those relating to competition policy and economic welfare.


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