University of Pittsburgh

Pitt Law Works: Volume 4 Issue 16 - February 13, 2009


One way to prepare to face increasingly complex legal issues is to concentrate your studies in a particular field of law.   Pitt Law students who choose this route can take one of five certificate programs, each of which offers the opportunity to take sharply-focused courses in a specific course of study. The certificates are:

  •                     Civil Litigation Certificate Program
  •                     Environmental Law, Science and Policy
  •                     Health Law
  •                     Intellectual Property and Technology Law
  •                     International and Comparative Law

For more on certificate requirements, please see:


Pitt Law also has several clinics and a concentration in family law.   More information  can be  found at:




Austin, the capital of Texas, was ranked as one of the best cities in America for business and careers and America's Coolest City by Forbes magazine. A diverse blend of cultures and lifestyles, along with a creative environment and reputation for being an open, tolerant city contribute greatly to Austin's overall quality of life. Situated on the banks of the Colorado River, Austin is an eclectic town noted for its politics, scholars, rolling hills, live music, boutiques and movie stars. Austin's biggest employers include the State of Texas, the University of Texas, Dell and IBM. Home of several major technology corporations, Austin is the center of a high-technology region known as Silicon Hills with employers such as Apple Computer, AMD, Intel, Cirrus Logic, Samsung and Sun Microsystems. Famous Austin residents include cyclist Lance Armstrong, businessman Michael Dell, tennis player Andy Roddick, actors Sandra Bullock and Matthew McConaughey and musician Willie Nelson.


More than 3,700 local attorneys in 21 different legal specialties contribute to the Austin Bar Association's ( by organizing CLE opportunities, attending social functions,volunteering legal services, and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for local charities all year long.



1. Arrive on time.

2. Establish rapport.

3. Demonstrate by word and deed your fit for the position.   In other words, reflect on ways you could contribute. Be concrete and use examples based on past experiences

4. Project a professional image. Dress appropriately. (Wear a suit).

5. Be prepared. Do your research, including internet, newspaper, etc. about the organization and your interviewer.

6. Be engaging. Let your enthusiasm and interest for the job shine through.

7. Use action verbs and appeal to the senses.

8. If you were part of a team effort, acknowledge the team's contribution. If you worked independently, let the interviewer know (without bragging).

9. Try to relax.  Breathe deeply before you start the interview and center yourself.

10. Send a thank you letter within 48 hours.


11. Be a role model for your profession.

1. Oversell yourself. Balance talking about your experience and discussing the job opening and its challenges/opportunities.

2. Undersell yourself. This is not the place to be modest. Instead, draw attention to specific, quantifiable accomplishments.

3. Go to an interview hungry. You will not be as alert. Make sure you eat beforehand. Likewise, eat "lite" You don't want to appear sluggish.

4. Joke about your potential employer's organization or employees. The interviewer is an extension of the organization. He/she is proud to work for the organization.  In addition, don't swear or tell off-color jokes. You want to rise to the top, not stoop to the lowest denominator.

5. Be arrogant or haughty.

6. Talk badly of previous employers, employees or organizations. It will come back to haunt you.

7. Tell lies. Be honest. It's the best policy. If you have something to hide, the future employer will find out.  

8. Interview in a monotone voice. It's boring and puts people to sleep. Modulate your voice, use inflection. Smiling helps too.  Practice in front of a mirror. Would you want interview yourself?

9. Take anything for granted or make assumptions. You have to earn the trust of the interviewer to be asked back.




1. An effective thank-you letter after a job interview can leave a positive impression with an employer.

2. You should send the letter within 48 hours following the interview. If time is of the essence, you can email thank you notes; otherwise, snail mail is best.

3. Always address a thank-you letter to a specific individual, not just the "Director of Personnel." Be sure the name  is spelled  correctly.

4. Make sure your thank-you letter is business-like in appearance. It should be printed on resume paper. Always have someone proofread your letter before sending it.

5. Write a separate thank-you letter to each person with whom you met, even if you follow a similar form for each letter. The letter should highlight points from your interview and reiterate your qualifications and continuing interest.

6. Once you receive and accept a job offer, send your new employer a thank-you letter in order to start forming a positive relationship with your new employer.

7. Thank-you letters in response to telephone conversations and informational interviews should be short. Restate the major points of the conversation and express your appreciation for assistance.

8. If you withdraw from consideration for a position or turn down an offer, send a polite and positive thank-you letter which leaves the door open for future consideration.

9. In response to a rejection, follow a similar format.  Express your gratitude for being considered, as well as your continuing interest in working for the organization.

10. If you terminate employment for any reason, send a thank-you letter to your former employer. Be positive--this letter  can "clear  the air," if necessary, and generate positive references.




Your Address



(Use specific individual's name)

Employer's Address




FIRST PARAGRAPH.  Thank the interviewer for meeting with you. Express your enthusiasm about gaining employment with the organization. Add a highlight about the interview discussion.


SECOND PARAGRAPH.  Reiterate your qualifications for and continuing interest in the position.   Include any personal skills you forgot to mention during your interview.   Emphasize a particular skill or accomplishment that would make you an asset as an employee.


CLOSING PARAGRAPH(S).  Briefly thank the interviewer again for consideration.   State that you look forward to hearing from the interviewer and give a specific date if you plan to follow up with a phone call.






  Your name (typed)




What is family law and what do family lawyers do?


Family lawyers handle a wide range of matters: divorce;child custody; support; visitation; prenuptial and  post-nuptial  agreements;guardianships; adoptions; termination of parental rights; and the  establishment of  paternity.   As our society's definition of family continues to expand, so does the range of issues faced by attorneys specializing in family law.  Our society's changing notion of what constitutes a family means that family lawyers have the opportunity to make creative arguments and "think outside the box."   In addition, a family lawyer needs a working knowledge of tax law, real estate law, employee benefits law, and estate planning.


Most family law attorneys practice in small firms or on their own.   Government attorneys may work on issues such as guardianship while courts may appoint private attorneys to work on guardianship and parental rights cases.   Most family law attorneys divide their time between client counseling, court appearances, and legal work related to their current caseload, such as drafting pleadings and briefs, taking depositions, and handling phone calls related to the case.   Clients may be at the most distraught point they will ever be in during their lifetime and may call their attorney 12 times in one day.   Handling a family law case is as much about listening and counseling as it is about substantive legal issues.   However, the opportunity to work closely with their clients makes this area of practice extremely rewarding.   Family lawyers also gain satisfaction from working in an area of law in which  every case  is different and in which every case comes to a unique resolution.


What skills are most important to family lawyers?


â–                    The ability to empathize with the problems of others is critical to success in the family law field


â–                    The ability to remain objective about highly sensitive matters is important, even when the client is facing a life crisis


â–                    Counseling skills and being a good listener are key


â–           Patience is  an important factor in developing a successful family law practice


â–                    Excellent negotiation skills are necessary


â–                    A family lawyer must have the ability to think on his or her feet


What classes and law school experiences do family lawyers recommend?


â–                    Take family law and business law classes, such as tax, employee benefits, corporations and partnerships.  Also take a class in mediation/ADR, which will help creatively solve problems; classes in pleadings drafting and interviewing will help you hone necessary skills


â–                    Work to develop strong writing skills


â–                    Take advantage of any class or moot court activity that helps you get comfortable in the courtroom


â–                    Gain experience by working as a law clerk for a family lawyer, family law judge, or law school clinic


â–                    Since family law is a specialized field, family lawyers in a particular geographic area know each other well. Developing good relationship within the community of family lawyers can be very helpful when you begin your search for an attorney job after graduation.


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