The entering class typically consists of approximately 250 students, and admission is highly competitive. Penn Law's 2020 weighted first-time bar passage rate was 98.5 percent. The school has consistently ranked among top 14 ("T14") law schools identified by U.S. News & World Report, since it began publishing its rankings. For the class of 2024, 49 percent of students were women, 40 percent identified as persons of color, and 12 percent of students enrolled with an advanced degree.
The school offers an extensive curriculum and hosts various student groups, research centers, and activities. Students publish the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the oldest law journal in the United States. Students also publish The Regulatory Review, a regulatory news, analysis, and commentary that publishes daily. Penn Law students have the option to earn certificates of specialization in fields such as East Asian Studies or Gender and Sexuality Studies. Prior to graduation, each student must complete at least 70 hours of pro bono service.
Among the school's alumni are a US Supreme Court Justice, at least 76 judges of United States court system, nine state Supreme Court Justices, and three supreme court justices of foreign countries, at least 46 members of United States Congress as well as nine olympians, five of whom won thirteen medals, several founders of law firms, university presidents and deans, business entrepreneurs, leaders in the public sector, and government officials.
Based on student survey responses, ABA and NALP data; 99.6 percent of the Class of 2020 obtained full-time employment after graduation. The median salary for the Class of 2019 was $190,000, as 75.2 percent of students joined law firms and 11.6 percent obtained judicial clerkships. The law school was ranked #2 of all law schools nationwide by the National Law Journal, for sending the highest percentage of 2019 graduates to join the 100 largest law firms in the U.S., constituting 58.4 percent.
Wilson gave these "lectures on law" to President George Washington and Vice President John Adams and rest of the cabinet including Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson as a Penn Professor and during Wilson's time as one of the original five Associate Justices nominated by George Washington (and approved by United States Senate via unanimous voice vote on September 26, 1789, with Wilson's term commencing October 5, 1789 and the terms of the other four at various dates in 1790) to the initial panel of United States Supreme Court. In 1792, Associate Justice of United States Supreme Court of the United States, James Wilson, was appointed as Penn's first "full professor of law".
In 1817, Penn Trustees appointed Charles Wilson Hare as the second Professor of Law. Hare apparently only taught for one year as he then became "afflicted with loss of reason".
Portrait of Charles Willing Hare (1787-1827) painted by Thomas Sully in 1814. Hare was second Professor of Law at University of Pennsylvania where he taught in 1817 and 1818.
In 1852, Penn was the first law school in the nation to publish a law journal. Then called The American Law Register, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review is the nation's oldest law review and one of the most-cited law journals in the world.
In 1900, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania approved his and others' request to move the law school to the core of campus and to its current location at the intersection of 34th and Chestnut Streets. Under Lewis' deanship, the law school was one of the first schools to emphasize legal teaching by full-time professors instead of practitioners, a system that is still followed today.
Except for the period of time during which Penn Law's policy prohibited military recruiters from recruiting on the law school campus, when the military openly refused to hire gays, bisexuals and lesbians, Penn Law has actively supported the armed forces. The Harold Cramer Memorial Scholarship Program was established in June 2021 to ensure that all veterans admitted to Penn Law will be able to afford to attend Penn Law.
U.S. Navy men taking examination for commission, grouped in front of Penn Law School main building in photo taken on August 6, 1918
In November 2019, Penn Law received a $125 million donation from the W.P. Carey Foundation, the largest single donation to any law school to date; the school was renamed University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, in honor of the foundation's first president, Penn Law alumnus Francis J. Carey (1926-2014), who was the brother of William Polk Carey (1930 - 2012), founder of the W. P. Carey Inc.REIT, and of the charitable foundation. The change was met by some controversy, and a petition to quash the abbreviated "Carey Law", in favor of the traditional "Penn Law", was circulated and it was agreed that the official short form name for the next few years could remain "Penn Law" and/or "Penn Carey Law".
Osagie O. Imasogie, a 1985 graduate of Penn Law, is the current Chair of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School Board of Overseers, having replaced Perry Golkin on January 1, 2021.
Imasogie has been a member of Penn Law School Board of Overseers since 2006 and more recently a Trustee on the Board of Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. Imasogie, a graduate of two law schools in Nigeria and London School of Economics and Political Science, has held senior positions with a diverse group of professional services and bio-tech companies such as GSK, DuPont, Merck, Price Waterhouse, Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis and is presently an Adjunct Professor at Penn Law, where he teaches a seminar on “Intellectual Property and National Economic Value Creation”. He is the first African-born chair of an American law school.
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 Tanenbaum Hall, home to the Biddle Law Library several law journals, administrative offices, and student spaces. The law library houses 1,053,824 volumes and volume equivalents making it the 4th-largest law library in the country. Gittis Hall sits on the north side and has new classrooms (renovated in 2006) and new and expanded faculty offices. Opposite is Golkin Hall, which contains 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2) and includes a state-of-the-art court room, 350-seat auditorium, seminar rooms, faculty and administrative offices, a two-story entry hall, and a roof-top garden.
A small row of restaurants and shops faces the law school on Sansom Street. Nearby are the Penn Bookstore, the Pottruck Center (a 115,000-square-foot (10,700 m2) multi-purpose sports activity area), the Institute of Contemporary Art, a performing arts center, and area shops.
For the J.D. class entering in the fall of 2023, 14.6 percent out of 6,146 applicants were offered admission, with 249 matriculating. The class boasted 25th and 75th LSAT percentiles of 164 and 171, respectively, with a median of 170. The 25th and 75th undergraduate GPA percentiles were 3.57 and 3.95, respectively, with a median of 3.89. 13 percent of matriculating students identified as first-generation college students, and 29 percent identified as first-generation professional school students.
Over 1,250 students from 70 countries applied to Penn's LLM program for the fall of 2019. The incoming class consisted of 126 students from more than 30 countries.
The entering class typically consists of approximately 250 students, and admission is highly competitive. Penn Law's July 2018 weighted first-time bar passage rate was 92.09%. The law school is one of the "T14" law schools, that is, schools that have consistently ranked within the top 14 law schools since U.S. News & World Report began publishing rankings. In the class entering in 2018, over half of students were women, over a third identified as persons of color, and 10% of students enrolled with an advanced degree.
Various certificate programs that can be completed within the three-year JD program, e.g. in Business and Public Policy, in conjunction with the Wharton School), in Cross-Sector Innovation with the School of Social Policy & Practice, in International Business and Law with the Themis Joint Certificate with ESADE Law School in Barcelona, Spain, and in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (SCAN). 19 percent of the Class of 2007 earned a certificate. 57 percent of the Class of 2020 and 52 percent of the Class of 2021 pursued a Certifiate.
Penn Law also offers joint degrees with international affiliates, such as Sciences Po (France), ESADE (Spain), and the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law. The School has further expanded its international programs with the addition of the International Internship Program, the International Summer Human Rights Program, and the Global Research Seminar, all under the umbrella of the Penn Law Global Initiative. Penn Law takes part in a number of international annual events, such as the Monroe E. Price Media Law Moot Court Competition at the University of Oxford and the Waseda Transnational Program at the Waseda Law School in Tokyo.
For more than 40 years, students in Penn Law’s Gittis Center for Clinical Legal Studies have had the opportunity to learn valuable practical legal skills and put theory into practice while helping many clients in the community. The Law School offers in-house clinics, including: civil practice, criminal defense, the Detkin intellectual property and technology legal clinic, entrepreneurship, interdisciplinary child advocacy, legislative, mediation, and transnational. Students can also receive credit for completing externships with non-profit and government institutes such as the ACLU of Pennsylvania or the City of Philadelphia Law Department.
Toll Public Interest Center and related activities
Penn 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. The public interest center was founded in 1989 and was renamed the Toll Public Interest Center in 2006 in acknowledgement of a $10 million gift from Robert Toll (Executive Chairman of the Board of Toll Brothers) and Jane Toll. In 2011, the Tolls donated an additional $2.5 million. In October 2020, The Robert and Jane Toll Foundation announced that it was donating fifty million dollars ($50,000,000) to Penn Law, which is the largest gift in history to be devoted entirely to the training and support of public interest lawyers, and among the ten (10) largest gifts ever to a law school in the United States of America. The gift expands the Toll Public Interest Scholars and Fellows Program by doubling the number of public interest graduates in the coming decade through a combination of full and partial tuition scholarships. The Toll Public Interest Center has supported many students who have pursued public interest fellowships and work following graduation.
Students complete 70 hours of pro bono service as a condition of graduation. More than half of the Class of 2021 substantially exceeded the requirement. Students can create their own placements, or work through over 30 student-led organizations that focus their pro bono service in a variety of substantive areas.
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.
Penn Law hosts eleven different academic centers, institutes, programs, and research groups wherein students and faculty work together on interdisciplinary scholarship. Notable among them are the Penn Program on Regulation, directed by Professor of Law and Political Science Cary Coglianese; the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice, directed by Faculty Director Paul Heaton. Other Centers and Institutes include: Center for Asian Law; Center for Technology, Innovation, and Competition; Institute for Law and Economics; Institute for Law and Philosophy; Criminal Law Research Group; Legal History Consortium; Center for Tax Law and Policy; and Penn Program on Documentaries and the Law.
Penn’s Law library holds over one million volumes, mostly consisting of American primary and secondary materials. Approximately one-third of the Library’s collection is composed of foreign, international, and comparative legal texts. The Library also holds subscriptions for digital resources such as LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law, which provide students and faculty with access to wide breadth of journal articles, treatises, and case texts.
Biddle is also home to archives from both the American Law Institute and the American College of Bankruptcy. Biddle also holds Penn Law’s own archival collection, which consists of manuscripts, rare books, oral histories, and certain Penn Law school records.
Students at the law school publish several legal journals. The flagship publication is the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the oldest law review in the United States. The University of Pennsylvania Law Review started in 1852 as the American Law Register, and was renamed to its current title in 1908. It is one of the most frequently cited law journals in the world, and one of the four journals that are responsible for The Bluebook, along with the Harvard, Yale, and Columbia law journals. Penn Law Review articles have captured seminal historical moments in the 19th and 20th centuries, such as the passage of the 19th Amendment; the lawlessness of the first and second World Wars; the rise of the civil rights movement; and the war in Vietnam.
Since 2000, Penn has had seven alumni serve as judicial clerks at the United States Supreme Court. This record gives Penn a ranking of 10th among all law schools for supplying such law clerks for the period 2000-2019. Penn has placed 48 clerks at the U.S. Supreme Court in its history, ranked 11th among law schools; this group includes Curtis R. Reitz, who is the Algernon Sydney Biddle Professor of Law, Emeritus at Penn.
According to ABA and NALP data, 99.6 percent of the Class of 2020 obtained full-time employment after graduation. The median salary for the Class of 2019 was $190,000, as 75.2 percent of students joined law firms and 11.6 percent obtained a judicial clerkship. Penn combines a strong tradition in public service with being one of the top feeders of law students to the most prestigious law firms. Penn Law was the first top-ranked law school to establish a mandatory pro bono requirement, and the first law school to win American Bar Association's Pro Bono Publico Award. Many students pursue public interest careers with the support of fellowship grants such as the Skadden Fellowship, called by The Los Angeles Times "a legal Peace Corps."
About 75 percent of each graduating class enters private practice, bringing with them the ethos of pro bono service. In 2020, the Law School placed more than 70 percent of its graduates into the United States' top law firms, maintaining Penn's rank as the number one law school in the nation for the percentage of students securing employment at these top law firms. The Law School was ranked #4 of all law schools nationwide by Law.com in terms of sending the highest percentage of 2021 graduates to the largest 100 law firms in the U.S. (55 percent).
Based on student survey responses, ABA, and NALP data, 99.2% of the Class of 2018 obtained full-time employment after graduation, with a median salary of $180,000, as 76% of students joined law firms and 11% obtained judicial clerkships. The law school was ranked # 2 of all law schools nationwide by the National Law Journal in terms of sending the highest percentage of 2018 graduates to the 100 largest law firms in the US (60%).
Regina Austin, William A. Schnader Professor of Law at Penn Law
Robert Butkin, Dean of the University of Tulsa College of Law
Kimberly Kessler Ferzan, Earle Hepburn Professor of Law; Co-Director, Institute of Law & Philosophy, Penn Law
Douglas Frenkel, Morris Shuster Practice Professor of Law, Director of Mediation Clinic, Penn Law
Jennifer Herbst, Professor of Law and Medical Sciences at Quinnipiac University School of Law
Kit Kinports, Professor of Law, Polisher Family Distinguished Faculty Scholar at Penn State Law
Nancy J. Knauer, Professor of Law, Director of the Law and Public Policy Program at Temple University Beasley School of Law
Gerald Korngold, Professor of Law, Program Chair Center for Real Estate Studies at New York Law School
Roberta Rosenthal Kwall, Raymond P. Niro Professor of Intellectual Property Law, Founding Director of the Center for Intellectual Property Law & Information Technology at DePaul University College of Law
Timothy F. Malloy, Director of UCLA Sustainable Technology and Policy Program at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law
Carrie Menkel-Meadow, Chancellor’s Professor of Law at UC Irvine School of Law
Beverly I. Moran, Professor of Law, Vanderbilt Law School
Brian K. Price, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Transactional Law Clinics at Harvard University Law School
Jennifer Rosato Perea, Class of 1987, Dean, DePaul University College of LawDePaul University College of Law
Nadia Sawicki, Professor of Law, Academic Director of the Beazley Institute for Health Law & Policy at Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Sidney A. Shapiro, Frank U. Fletcher Chair of Administrative Law at Wake Forest School of Law
Omari Scott Simmons, Howard L. Oleck Professor of Business Law, Director of Business law Program at Wake Forest School of Law
Amy Sinden, James E. Beasley Professor of Law at Temple University Beasley School of Law
Cynthia Soohoo, Director of Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic at CUNY School of Law
Karen Tani, Seaman Family University Professor, Penn Law
Tess Wilkinson-Ryan, professor of Law and Psychology at Penn Law
Kamille N. Wolff Dean, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at St. John’s University School of Law
Michael J. Yelnosky, Dean and Professor of Law at Roger Williams University School of Law
John Frederick Zeller III, President of Bucknell University
Irving Baxter (1876 - 1957) Penn Law Class of 1901 competed in the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, France where he won three silver and two gold medals, winning both the high jump and pole vault competitions and placing second in the standing high jump, the standing triple jump, and the standing long jump; retired from competitive track and field without ever having lost a high jumping contest; admitted to the State Bar of New York, worked at the firm of Nash and Jones on Wall Street, appointed special judge for City of Utica, NY and U.S. Commissioner of the Northern District of New York
Anita DeFrantz, 1976 Olympic bronze medalist in the women's eight-oared shell; first woman and first African-American to represent the United States on the International Olympic Committee (IOC); first female vice president of the IOC; two-time vice president of the International Rowing Federation
Sarah Elizabeth Hughes, Class of 2018, (born May 2, 1985) a former American competitive figure skater who is the 2002 Winter Olympics Gold Medalist Champion and the 2001 World bronze medalist in ladies' singles
The law school's faculty is selected to match its inter-disciplinary orientation. Seventy percent of the standing faculty hold advanced degrees beyond the JD, and more than a third hold secondary appointments in other departments at the university. The law school is well known for its corporate law group, with professors Jill Fisch, Elizabeth Pollman, and David Skeel being regularly included among the best corporate and securities law scholars in the country. The School has also built a strong reputation for its law and economics group (professors Tom Baker, Jon Klick, and Natasha Sarin), its criminal law group (professors Stephanos Bibas, Kim Ferzan, Leo Katz, Stephen J. Morse, Shaun Ossei-Owusu, Paul H. Robinson, and David Rudovsky) and its legal history group (professors Sally Gordon, Sophia Lee, Serena Mayeri, Karen Tani). Some notable Penn Law faculty members include:
Christopher Yoo, John H. Chestnut Professor of Law, Communication, and Computer & Information Science; Director, Center for Technology, Innovation & Competition
David Hoffman, William A. Schnader Professor of Law
Kimberly Kessler Ferzan, Earle Hepburn Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy; Co-Director, Institute of Law & Philosophy.
The School's faculty is complemented by renowned international visitors in the frames of the Bok Visiting International Professors Program. Past and present Bok professors include Helena Alviar (Dead of Faculty of Law, University of the Andes), Pratap Bhanu Mehta (President of the Centre for Policy Research in India), Armin von Bogdandy (Director at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law), Radhika Coomaraswamy (Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Special Rapporteur for Children and Armed Conflict 2006-2012, Member of the UN Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar), Juan Guzmán Tapia (the first judge who prosecuted former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet), Indira Jaising (Former Additional Solicitor General of India), Maina Kiai (UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association 2011-2017), Akua Kuenyehia (Former Judge of the International Criminal Court; Former Law Dean of University of Ghana), Pratap Bhanu Mehta (President of the Centre for Policy Research in India), and Michael Trebilcock (Distinguished University Professor at the University of Toronto).
^Margaret Center Klingelsmith, "History of the Department of Law of the University of Pennsylvania," The Proceedings at the Dedication of the New Building of the Department of Law, February 21st and 22nd, 1900, 16-18 (George Erasmus Nitzsche, comp. 1901).
^Government Research Corporation; Center for Political Research; Government Research Company (1971). "National Journal". National Journal (1975). Government Research Corporation. 3. ISSN0360-4217. Retrieved February 17, 2017.
^Note: Before 1936, College Football national champions have been determined by historical research and retroactive ratings and polls, which are not universally agreed upon or recognized.
1894 Poll Results recognizing Penn as National Champion was created by Parke H. Davis.
1895 Poll Results recognizing Penn as National Champion was created by Billingsley, Helms, Houlgate, National Championship Foundation.
1897 Poll Results recognizing Penn as National Champion was created by Billingsley, Helms, Houlgate, National Championship Foundation