University of Pittsburgh

Pitt Law Works: Volume 4 Issue 11 - November 7, 2008


If you're thinking of contacting an organization for future employment only when there is a posted "job opening," you may be eliminating a large part of the job market. Many, if not most, jobs are never listed in the newspapers or in the JOB. If you call the organization and ask about "vacancies," the person who answers the phone may tell you there are none when, in fact, you could well find employment in that organization.

Many small and mid-sized firms do not devote time to a full-out job search.   In other words, they do not post positions because they don't want to be bombarded with hundreds of boilerplate resumes.   Or they may not have considered taking on a summer associate to address an increase in business because they have been too busy actually tackling the increase in business.

Now imagine this scenario: You're a partner in a small firm and you get a letter, addressed specifically to you. You open it and discover that the writer obviously has researched your firm well enough to sense what it is that you need-specific qualities, experience, etc.-and is telling you what he could do for you. This claim is then followed a brief description of specific accomplishments-including quantifiable measures-that the writer has achieved. The cover letter concludes with the opportunity to contact the applicant for an interview.   It sounds perfect, doesn't it?

Let's face it: To get a job, you need to get an interview. Once in the door, you have an opportunity to sell yourself. If the interviewer likes what she sees, her mind clicks into thoughts of where you could fit in to the organization. It is even possible to sell a potential employer on a job that you basically create for yourself.

Don't just go for firms that you know have "openings" or you could be dealing yourself out of a terrific job.

RESOURCE OF THE WEEK: Regional print directories of Law Firms

The CSO has the 2008 Legal Times Directory of Metro DC Law Offices, the 2008 Law Firm Directory of the Philadelphia Metro area and the 2008 Legal Directory sponsored by the Philadelphia Bar Association.   These directories are divided alphabetically and by practice area.   They also list the firm's primary practice areas, number of attorneys, locations, contact information and hiring partner.   Stop by the office and check out these great resources!


... Let me start with a story that Rabbi Joseph Telushkin tells.   Joe Lapchick was a great basketball player before World War II.   When his 7-year-old son contracted polio, one of his neighbors, in the presence of the boy, asked if Joe's son would ever be able to play basketball again.   The next day at the hospital, Joe asked him if he wanted to play basketball.  The boy said that he did.   Joe told him that all he wanted was for him to have a happy and normal life, and to give something back to society.   Joe Lapchick's son eventually recovered fully.   But years later, he still remembered his father's words, which conveyed a love conditioned only on who he was, not what he did for a living.

So the first thing I want to get you thinking about is:   What do you want to do with your life?   Do you want to make a lot of money?   Do you want to be famous?   Do you want to give something back to society?  Do you just want to have a good time?   Do you just want to have a happy, normal life?   Do you want to be a professional basketball star?

I know that many of us went to law school precisely to avoid making these kinds of choices.   But if you don't watch out, that sort of thinking may just lead to your becoming a lawyer.   Remember what John Lennon wrote in his final album, Double Fantasy:   "Life is what happens while you are making other plans."

Many folks think about what they are going to do on the job as separate from what they do with their life.   Alas, with the hours that professionals work, many of you will not be able to maintain that distinction.   The average American works about 1,950 hours a year.   Many law firms would like you to bill about 2,100 hours a year.   With hours like that, you don't get a lot of time in the outside world to define yourself.   Thus one lesson may be one attributed to Confucius:   "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."

By that criterion, I have not shown up for work much in the last 20 years.   For the last 22 years, I've worked in public policy, mostly on Capitol Hill, a little at the White House and on a campaign.   It's the sort of thing that I wanted to do when I was in college.   And I am glad to be doing it.

When I graduated from Columbia, I went to work at the Cravath firm downtown, to learn how to be a lawyer.   In 1986, I saw a big election coming up for the Democrats, sort of like this year.   So that summer, I wrote to about 100 offices and told them that they were going to need a lawyer.   Three of those offices talked to me.   One of them made me an offer.   And I went to work for the Senate Budget Committee after the election.   The staff director of the Budget Committee recognized the Cravath firm.   He knew that folks there worked pretty hard.   And he wanted someone just like that.   In the first year that I came to the committee, I put in longer hours than I had at Cravath.   But I enjoyed the work more.

At the law firm, I was working for months on narrow disputes between large moneyed interests.   At the Budget Committee, I drafted the budget resolution that would implement the Federal budget.   Working hard is easier when you think you're doing something important.   The job of a committee counsel usually involves helping folks at the committee draft the legislation that the committee reports.   And the committee counsel usually also advises the committee on Senate procedures.   In the Senate, procedure can be very important.   For example, Ambrose Bierce once defined the term "quorum" to mean "A sufficient number of members of a deliberative body to have their own way and their own way of having it.   In the United States Senate a quorum consists of the chairman of the Committee on Finance and a messenger from the White House; in the House of Representatives, of the Speaker and the devil."   But of course, Bierce exaggerated.   A certain number of staff are necessary, as well, to implement the intent of the Member present, or the devil, as the case may be.

After 10 years as chief counsel to the Budget Committee, I went on to become, in chronological order, Democratic Staff Director for the Budget Committee, Democratic Chief of Staff for the Labor Committee, senior counsel at the Wellstone Presidential exploratory committee, Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, Legislative Director for Senator Russ Feingold, and for the last 5 ½ years Deputy Staff Director at the Finance Committee.   Most of those second 10 years of jobs were about running a staff.   The job of a staff director is pretty simple.   It's a lot like Woody Allen's advice to the graduates.   Woody Allen said:   "Summing up, it is clear the future holds great opportunities.   It also holds pitfalls.   The trick will be to avoid the pitfalls, seize the opportunities, and get back home by six o'clock."  

OK, so we rarely get home by six, but the rest is the job.   You try to see the opportunities and pitfalls for your boss, and you try to get the boss to act on them.

Working on Capitol Hill is a great way to get to affect public policy.   You get to try to do something to make the world a better place.   You get to come to work in the U.S. Capitol.   And you get to know some people who you see on the television.

Let me take a moment to compare working on Capitol Hill and working in the White House.   First, about 1,800 people work in the White House.   About 10 times as many work on Capitol Hill.   Right now, of those 17,000 Capitol Hill staff, about 5,000 of them are imagining that they will soon work in the White House.   In reality, maybe a couple hundred will.   There is a rule that wind picks up velocity when it has to move through narrower spaces.   The same way, the intensity of work gets kicked up a notch in the White House from the Hill.   The work pace is harder, the hours longer, and the duration of service is shorter.   Having said that, it is a prestigious job.   As one former Clinton White House staffer once said:   "Working in the White House is a great rear view mirror experience."

So by now, I've gotten to work for 8 Senators and one President.   I've helped to write or pass the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings budget law of 1987, the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990, President Clinton's first budget in 1993, the Children's Health Insurance So by now, I've gotten to work for 8 Senators and one President.   I've helped to write or pass the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings budget law of 1987, the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990, President Clinton's first budget in 1993, the Children's Health Insurance Program in 1997, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law in 2002, and the Medicare Prescription Drug Act of 2003.   It's been a great ride.

A question arises:   What do you do next?   The average time in a job on Capitol Hill is about 3 ½ years.   The average in a senior executive branch appointment is less than 2 years.     Some folks, particular folks at the top of the Congressional staff pyramid, become what are called "lifers."   Many go on to become lobbyists.   But lobbying always struck me as having the same problem as working in a law firm:   Who knows who the next client will be, and whether you will want to work for that client's cause. Unlike many organizations, the percentage of staffers who move all the way up the ladder is small.   Very, very few go on to become Senators.

... [S]ome of you might] consider whether you might want to be a Senator someday.   When I was in college, I did.   But if you want to be a Senator, working on Capitol Hill is not the best way to go.   You would do better to work in local politics in your hometown.   Or if you have a way to become a millionaire, that can work for you, as well.   Either way, I hope to see a few of you all in the Senate someday.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said:   "Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled with great ambitions."   So if you are not troubled by that great ambition to be the Senator, staffing one can be a great adventure.   And you might be able to pass some good laws.

My own story is a bit like Joe Lapchick's.   Shortly after I came down to D.C. I learned that my baby boy Matthew was autistic.   My now 21-year-old son has yet to say his first word.   But Matthew has also taught me a lot about what's important in life.   All I really want for Matthew is that he have a happy and as normal life as he can.   And if I can give something back to society, maybe something that will help the Matthews of this world, that would be great, too.

Apple Computer's Steve Jobs once used this line to lure John Sculley to become Apple's CEO.   He said:   "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?"  

So, what do you want to do with your life?   What E.B. White said may well apply to us all.   He said:   "I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time.   Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult."

Bill Dauster, Deputy Staff Director and General Counsel, U.S. Senate Finance Committee



The Fall OCI season has come to a close and there remains a large group of students still searching for employment.     All is not lost for job seekers:   many employers do not hire eight months in advance, as large firms do.   Additionally, the majority of attorneys work for medium and small employers, including firms, state and local government, and public interest organizations.   These employers are unable to anticipate their hiring needs many months in advance.

Targeting medium and small employers takes time and patience but once you find a job in this environment, the benefits include extensive experience, potentially more client contact and the opportunity to develop your own business earlier in your career.

The job search process for those seeking small and medium firm employment can seem overwhelming.   Here are some steps to make your search more manageable:

  1. Identify firms of interest to you:   Be sure to check out Martindale Hubbell at or our small/mid-size firm directory on the CSO website.  
  2. Market yourself effectively:   A mass mailing of several hundred resumes is the least effective job search method.   This is because you are submitting your materials directly to the attorney for whom you want to work and she does not have the time to screen hundreds of boilerplate resumes.   A targeted mailing, to partners in the practice area in which you are interested or to a person with whom you have had contact, might yield a different response.   Also, limiting the size of your mailing will make follow up easier.
  3. Follow up:   Approximately a week later, you should contact firms and briefly follow up on your mailing.   Confirm that your materials were received, reiterate your interest in the organization, and ask if any additional information is required.   Keep track of the organizations, contacts and the responses.   This process might take several months because small and medium firms don't have a single recruiting season and may need you to touch base with them several times after your initial contact.
  4. Network:   Networking includes attending events and striking up conversations with event attendees, sending letters to lecturers, becoming involved with local bar associations, participating in informational interviews and continuing legal education opportunities.
  5. Check in:   Make an appointment with the CSO staff.   Our Director of Employer Relations devotes time to firm outreach.   The staff can show you how to conduct a directed search and what resources to turn to when faced with a specific question; we can put you in touch with students who have gone through the same type of job search.   We can also accompany you to CLEs or bar events.   And finally, we can review resumes and cover letters, conduct mock interviews and help prepare informational interview questions.



Our LexisNexis and Westlaw representatives will train you next week in the many useful career resources available on their websites.   This required training will be held on Monday November 10th 2008 as follows:

12 - 12:50 Section A in Room 113 • 2:30 - 3:20 Section C in Room 111 • 3:30 - 4:20 Section B in Room 111.


Wednesday, November 12 • 3:00-4:30pm • William Pitt Union, Lower Lounge

What jobs are available for globally-minded students? How can you best prepare and compete for an international career?   Join the Study Abroad Office in welcoming these panelists for a discussion about international careers:

Angela Garcia - Global Links, Deputy Director • Schuyler Foerster - World Affairs Council, President

Alexandra Hendrickson - DHR Int'l, Executive VP • Taylor Seybolt - US Institute of Peace, Former Sr. Program Officer

There will be time for audience questions.   Don't miss this unique event!


Tuesday, November 11, 2008                     4:00       Kresge Theater             Carlow University

Speakers:               Linda Hernandez, Esq. Director of the Institute for Gender Equality, ACBA

Dr. Phyllis Kitzerow, Professor of Sociology, Westminster College

                                              M.J. Tocci, President of Fulcrum Advisors

In 2005, the ACBA commissioned a survey of its members regarding their career paths and income.   The survey results indicated considerable gender disparities with respect to salaries and career advancement and led to the formation of the Institute for Gender Equality.   The panelists will discuss the report; gender bias in performance evaluation and individuals can be proactive in responding to unintentional bias.  

To register for the following CLE classes, please visit the PBI website.  
  • One Year after eBay, MedImmune, KSR and Seagate from 9:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. 11/10
  • How to Prepare the Fiduciary Income and Decedent's Final Lifetime Income Tax Returns from 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 a.m. 8:00 a.m.), 11/11
  • 15th Annual Auto Law Update from 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. 11/12
  • Trials! Tips, Tactics & Practical Tales from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 11/13  
  • Legal Issues in Advertising from 9:00 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. 11/13
  • Clarence Darrow: Crimes, Causes & the Courtroom from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon OR from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. 11/14  
  • Piercing the Corporate Veil from 12:00 noon to 3:15 p.m. 11/14
  • Effective Advocacy in the Federal Appellate Courts from 9:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. 11/14.

These programs will be held at Professional Development Conference Center, Heinz 57 Center, 339 6th Ave., 7th Fl.

ATTORNEYS AGAINST HUNGER VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY: Allegheny County Bar Foundation Attorneys Against Hunger program will kick-off its 2008 campaign with a community event on Saturday, Nov. 22 at the Urban League of Pittsburgh Hunger Services, located downtown, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.   The event is open to anyone interested in helping distribute ingredients for a Thanksgiving dinner to low-income residents.   There will be two volunteer shifts: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The event is kid-friendly.     Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Erin Rhodes at 412-402-6641 or


The ACBA Young Lawyers Division is hosting its annual Children in Shelter holiday parties. This year, the parties will take place Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008. The YLD and its Public Service Committee need donations of wrapping paper,  tags, and cookies, so that gifts can be wrapped for the children and a party can be held at the shelters. If you would like to donate to this event, please contact Jennifer Andrade at    Wrapping will take place at 9:00 a.m. on December 6 in the ACBA Conference Center, 920 City-County Building. Also, anyone interested in traveling with Santa to the shelters to hand out gifts on Dec. 6 is welcome to do so.   Please RSVP to Jennifer at the email listed above.

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