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Dickinson School of Law

Carlisle, Pennsylvania



HathiTrust has early issues of The Forum, published by Dickinson School of Law students.  In addition to the Moot Court results, these contain news of the school.  The 1900 Dickinson College catalogue has a section on the Law Department as does the 1918 Microcosm, the Dickinson College yearbook.  The Harrisburg Patriot carried some news of the school.


The Law Department of Dickinson College was founded in 1834 by John Reed, President Judge of Cumberland County Courts.  Reed and his successor James H. Graham operated the department until 1882, when “the science of law ceased to be represented in the courses of the college.”


In 1890 Dickinson School of law was chartered (or rechartered) with William Tricknell as Dean.  The three-year course led to a LL.B. degree.  The curriculum began with Blackstone, proceeding through constitution law to Medical jurisprudence. But the catalogue emphasized that the curriculum and methods of instruction meant that students were “above all trained to think.”


By 1897 the school boasted of seven professors and 10 lecturers.   Enrollment stood at 95.  Admission was either by diploma from a recognized college or by certification of test results.  These standards have kept D.S.L. a relatively small school.  Wiki lists present enrollment as fewer than 200.



The crown jewel of the Dickinson program was its moot court.  Three nights each week the court was in session to argue and decide a case of law.  All students were assigned court positions—bailiff, clerk, etc.—and five students were assigned to prosecute and defend each case. Middle students had to argue at least one case each month, while Seniors did even more.  As students gained practice in sifting facts and applying the law, it is no wonder that the school could argue that they enjoyed “unsurpassed court privileges.”


D.S.L. had two literary societies—the Dickinson Society and the Allison Society—to assist students in developing the public speaking skills essential to the profession.   The Forum shows chapters of two legal fraternities—Delta Chi and Sigma Chi.  The Microcosm  adds Phi Epsilon Pi.  D.C.L. students were also members of the Dickinson College glee club and orchestra.


“The Dickinson Story” states that Dickinson School of Law “since 1917 has been independent of the college.”  Independence ended in 1997 when D.S.L. merged with Penn State University.  Penn State Dickinson Law now operates with two campuses.  

Bricks and Mortar

Emory Chapel was the home for Dickinson College of Law from 1890 until 1918.  Built in 1858 the two-story brick structure was originally the Methodist church and later was home to Emory Female College.  Acquired by Dickinson College in 1877, it housed the grammar school until 1886.  


The main recitation hall and the library occupied the first floor.  Audience Hall on the second floor became a lecture hall and Dean Trickett’s office.  The building was razed in 1919.


In 1916 D.C.L. purchased land for a new building, which opened for classes in  December 1918.  Named for Dean William Trickett, it was built “along colonial lines.”  It measured 132 by 70 feet with “six massive pillars.”  It featured a belfry with a “special commemorative bell.”


In 2003 Penn State proposed to move the school to State College, abandoning Trickett Hall.  As a result of alumni protests, the building was renovated in 2006 and the school is to remain in Carlisle through at least 2025.


        Colors and Team name: The Patriot refers to the team as the Red

                      and White, the same as the College.


The 1897 Forum points with pride to the contributions of D.S.L. students—including two starters—to the Dickinson College football team.  However, the November 4, 1915 Fulton County News shows that a team representing Dickinson Law School defeated the team from Cumberland Valley State Normal School (now Shippensburg University) 16-12.


Dickinson Law School attracted a number of former athletes from area colleges, allowing it to field strong independent basketball teams 1904-1912 and again shortly after World War I.  The 1908 team compiled a 15-5 record.

(Left) The 1917-18 Dickinson School of Law basketball team.  Image from the Harrisburg Telegraph.  Accessed 7-20-2018

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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