Pitt seminars prepare students for marrying career and real world

March 5, 2012 12:00 am
  • Alyssa Buonagura, a first-year law student at Pitt, appreciated the chance to network during a recent session held by the Pitt Law Academy.
    Alyssa Buonagura, a first-year law student at Pitt, appreciated the chance to network during a recent session held by the Pitt Law Academy.
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It wasn't your typical sales pitch.

Speaking to a room full of University of Pittsburgh law students last month, Laura Ellsworth chose to speak about one of her least favorite workdays.

It was a Friday afternoon several years ago when, after traveling weeks on end for a case, she realized she would be stuck in Rhode Island for a weekend that she had planned to spend in Pittsburgh with her then-9-year-old son.

As partner-in-charge of the Pittsburgh office of the Jones Day law firm, Ms. Ellsworth is accustomed to tough negotiations in multimillion-dollar cases. But that phone call to her son telling him that she couldn't come home left them both in tears.

Ms. Ellsworth's speech was part of a new required program for first-year students at Pitt's law school called the Pitt Law Academy. It might as well be called The Real World 101.

"Most of what you're learning in law school is the substance of law," said John Burkoff, a Pitt law professor who organized the academy. "This gets them thinking about what comes after."

The session that Ms. Ellsworth participated in was called "The Litigators' Life: Is It For Me? Can I Try Cases For a Living & Still Recognize My Family Members?"

Other past and future sessions include "Public Interest & Pro Bono Practice: How to Do It and Still Be Able to Pay Your Rent & Buy Food," "If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now" and "Handling Job Stress Without Becoming a Drug Addict or an Alcoholic."

The idea behind the program is to encourage students to start thinking about their professional development early on in their law school careers.

"As we encourage our 1Ls to be aware of the diverse roles that attorneys play, we also encourage them to start thinking early about what kind of path is most attractive to them," said Mary Crossley, dean of the law school. "In that way, we hope to better prepare them both to take upper-level courses relating to their area of interest and to begin exploring job opportunities in that area."


First Published 2012-03-04 23:10:03

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