University of Pittsburgh

Pitt Law Works: Volume 4 Issue 20 - April 8, 2010


 If ever there was a winning career-development strategy for students, volunteering is it.  Even if you have only a few hours a month to spare, you can make a significant difference for a person or even an entire organization by offering your time and energy to causes that need help but can't pay for it. And best of all, you can boost your career at the same time.

 Learn new skills
Want to become more comfortable with public speaking? Check out the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force’s Prevention and Education/outreach groups:  Does art law intrigue you? Contact Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council Volunteer Lawyers in the Arts, which is geared towards providing pro bono assistance to lower-income artists and arts organizations.

 Polish existing skills in a real-world setting
Are you proficient in a foreign language? Volunteer opportunities abound. For example, émigré services at Jewish Family & Children’s Service needs people to help émigrés with resume building, lease application completion etc.

 Explore career options without a long-term commitment
“Litigation” sounds good, but what is it really?  Volunteering for a judge will give you a glimpse of dozens of practice areas that fall into the broad category of “litigation.”  This experience will also help you understand the litigation process and judicial decision making.

 Make key professional contacts
The woman who teaches you the ropes when you volunteer to lead custody education classes for children might someday hire you for a paid position at her agency. At a minimum, she'll become an outstanding professional reference as you look at other internship and job possibilities.  Many local bar associations have pro bono centers to help you generate ideas for legal volunteer opportunities.  For Pittsburgh’s pro bono center, please check out:

 Finding an opportunity
Here are some simple ways you can find the volunteer job that benefits you as much as the organization you serve:

  • Ask around campus., or the Pitt Student Volunteer Outreach office is Pitt’s service-learning office set up specifically to help students connect with local volunteer opportunities.
  • Use Web-based search tools. Several Web sites, such as VolunteerMatch, the national United Way, and, list volunteer opportunities online. These sites provide detailed listings of openings in your immediate geographic area. Some cities have volunteer organizations specifically for singles.  What a great way to “connect while helping others:”  
  • Approach a specific organization of interest. The animal shelter two blocks from your apartment could undoubtedly use your help with dog walking, cat cuddling, humane education, and animal cruelty prevention services. Call around to ask about the possibilities.


Starting work is an exciting and challenging experience.  Here are a few tips to help you survive the transition from school to work.

1. Get a makeover.
Student fashion is "out" in the office. Low-rise jeans and hoodies were practically your uniform for attending class, but a professional image is crucial while you're establishing yourself at work. Get acquainted with your company dress code and buy a few basic pieces to get you started. Then, continue to build your work wardrobe a few pieces at a time, buying the highest quality clothing you can afford.

2. First impressions make lasting impressions.
When you first walk into the office, you will be silently evaluated by everyone you meet. Looking sloppy, inappropriate, disorganized or excessively nervous will give the impression you are incapable or apathetic. So dress to impress, carry yourself well and be friendly and courteous to everyone you meet.

3. Get rid of the chewing gum.
Chewing gum is unprofessional and unappealing whether you're in a meeting or helping a peer. While you're at it, avoid nervous fidgeting, don't pick your nose and stop tapping your pen on the desk.

4. Ask questions.
Don't assume anything. Hiring managers say not asking questions is one of the top mistakes new law clerks make early on at their jobs.  Whether you're confused about an assignment, the dress code or holiday party etiquette, just ask – you might avoid an embarrassing mistake.

5. Be willing to make the coffee.
Even if housekeeping chores aren't listed in your job description, you will be expected to do them from time to time. If you use the last sheet of paper in the copy machine, refill the tray, and if you drink the last drop of coffee, make another pot. These tasks are not demeaning – and if you refuse to do them, others may resent you for your refusal to pitch in around the office.

6. Timing is everything.
Be on time. If a meeting starts at 10 a.m., be there and ready to start at 10 sharp. Traffic delays and bad weather are no excuse – you should always plan ahead, even if it means arriving a little earlier. Likewise, if you promise to get back to someone by the end of the day, do it.

7. Don't procrastinate.
It's common to want to push back starting a difficult or unpleasant task. But procrastinating can mean you run out of time to finish a project or do a careless job. When faced with a large project, block off a chunk of time to work on it, ensuring you have time to get it done. Then, break it down into smaller, more manageable tasks.

8. Under-promise and over-deliver.
If you tell your boss you'll have a project done Friday when you're already overextended, you could wind up doing a poor job on your assignment or missing your deadline. Instead, over-deliver – or set a more reasonable deadline and working hard to finish ahead of schedule.

9. Proofread every document.
Proofread all your e-mails, memos and letters before sending them, checking your work for accuracy, spelling and errors. Carelessness can cost you time and embarrassment later on.

 10. The company party is not a party.
Office happy hours and parties are a far cry from bar review. Think of company social functions as an extension of your office – your behavior is still being closely watched. Always dress professionally, be on time, be friendly and think before you drink.

11. Show up for events.
Your presence matters. Show you care about your co-workers by celebrating with them and grieving with them. Make an effort to attend weddings, baby showers, and retirement and birthday parties. And if a co-worker experiences a tragedy, offer your condolences.

12. Go to work every day as if it were the first day.
On your first day of work, you're excited, impeccably dressed, friendly and eager to take on any challenge. But sooner or later that excitement will fade. This is normal, but never forget how hard you worked to get where you are, and try and adjust your attitude to give your all every day.

13. Just say NO.
Turning someone down can be tough – and even tougher when it's your boss or co-worker. But saying no can be crucial, especially in situations where your boundaries are being tested.  Consult your supervisor, consider your options, get the facts, make a decision and then stand by it!

14. Always have your game face on.
You never know where you might meet your next client, contact or employer.  Be prepared to meet someone important in line at the supermarket:  ask for a business card and then make the effort to reach out to them.

15. Don't take rejection personally.
Every successful person has been rejected, and some more than once. When it happens to you, remember to put things in perspective. Rejection hurts but it happens, and setbacks can provide some of life's most valuable lessons.



On Wednesday, April 14th at 3:00pm EDT, NALP and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) are presenting “Top Ten Tips for a Successful Summer Internship in a Public Interest Office…and What to Avoid.”  This free webinar will help law students make the most of their summer experiences in civil legal services organizations and public defenders’ offices by offering concrete tips from both public interest attorneys with extensive experience in supervising law students and law school public interest advisors who counsel students on maximizing professional development opportunities.  The webinar will be led by Jennifer Thomas, Director of Legal Recruiting for the D.C. Public Defender Service, and Phyllis Holmen, Executive Director of the Georgia Legal Services Program.   

To Register: The webinar will be offered live on April 14th and archived for later viewing.  All students and law school career professionals who are interested in participating on April 14th should e-mail Kevin Mills, Director of Membership at NLADA at, and provide your full name, e-mail address, and a phone number.  Please type "Student Webinar" in the email subject line.



 Whether it's a formal office party your boss hosts or a casual barbecue at a coworker's house, a work-related social gathering isn't strictly social. The impression you make at the event will impact your job -- for better or, potentially, for worse.  We can’t stress enough that your fellow party-goers aren’t your friends; they are your colleagues.  So how do you balance having fun with the fact you're technically still at work? Follow these tips.

 Know the Difference Between Mandatory and Optional Attendance:  If your firm's president is having a company-wide gathering at her lakeside cabin on the outskirts of town, blowing it off is not an option. If you value your job, you need to attend such an event. In that situation, no-shows are noticeable.

 On the other hand, if you're invited to a coworker's wedding and you don't consider her a friend, feel free to respectfully decline, saving some of your precious free time and avoiding the possibility of a major faux pas that might impact your job.

 Easy Does It:  Overeating at a work-related social event will earn you a less-than-complimentary nickname and a reputation for greediness. And over-imbibing is even more deadly to your office reputation, because your true feelings about your coworkers, boss and job are more likely to come flying out of your mouth when you've had too much to drink. So if you choose to imbibe, limit yourself to one drink.

 Dress Appropriately:  While you don't necessarily have to dress business professional, the company social event is not the place to try out your new, over-the-top outfit.  Don’t show too much skin; rethink outfits featuring flip-flops…

 Don't Be a Stalker:  Sure, it's nice to have the chance to get to know your firm’s hiring partner better. It’s also polite to say “hello.”  But don't chase executives or higher-ups around the venue trying to impress them.

 If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say… No organization is perfect, and we all have at least a few work-related frustrations to vent. However, the company social event is not the place to do it. Remember, the person behind you in the buffet line or in the next bathroom stall can hear you!

 Expand Your Horizons:  What you view as hanging out with your normal group of coworkers might seem immature, cliquish behavior to others. So while it may not be much fun, especially if you are a bit shy, do your best to talk, if only briefly, to many different people at the event.  Try to approach people on the fringes of the room or at the buffet line.  Whatever you do, don’t monopolize one person.  Not only is it rude; it can be damaging to your career.

 Thank Your Host:  In a world where gratitude is often in short supply, expressing your appreciation to those who put the event together is not only a smart career move, but it will also make you stand out as one of the relatively few employees who hasn't forgotten how to say thanks.



Since summer is drawing near, LexisNexis wants to make you aware of ASPIRE, a program for students who pursue public interest work during the summer or after they graduate from law school. LexisNexis, your partner in legal education, provides qualified law students and recent law school graduates with free access to some of the most popular sources available within our research system.

Students face a heightened challenge securing internships and launching their legal careers in a tough economy. For this reason, LexisNexis has expanded the ASPIRE program to include non-profit summer positions for current students, as well as graduates who pursue public interest legal work as a career. Learn details of the program on the ASPIRE information page.

The ASPIRE program is available to help them be more effective in their work. Students can access information at the LexisNexis law student homepage:

We realize students need every advantage possible, especially when their hard work is benefiting others.


The LexisNexis Law School Team




  •  Taxation Section - "HEALTHCARE REFORM: Tax Impact." 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. When: Friday, April 30, 2010. Cost: $60. 
  •  Construction Law - "Two Important Topics in Construction Cases: Dealing with Experts and the Best Practices in Electronic Document Review and Construction." 1:15 p.m.-5:00 p.m. Reception: 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. When: Thursday, April 29, 2010.  Cost: $50.
  •  YLD Public Service Committee - "Practicing Green: Sustainable Real Estate and the Growth of Green Building."  11:15 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Cost: $20. When: Tuesday, April 20, 2010
  •  Family Law Section - "Ethics and Procedures for PFA, PRO SE, AND PRO BONO Litigants."  1:30- 5:15 p.m. Cost: $50. When: Wednesday, April 28, 2010.
  •  Women in the Law Division - "Document Retention and E-Discovery: Current Perspectives from the Federal and State Courts, Litigators, Consultants and In-House Counsel." 12:30 p.m.-5:15 p.m. Cost: $50. When: Wednesday, April 21, 2010
  • Civil Litigation Section - "Annual Spring CLE Smorgasbord."  8:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Cost: $50.  When: Thursday, April 15, 2010
  • Probate & Trust Law Section - "How to Document and Implement Client/Patient Health Care Decisions."  3:30 p.m.-6:00 p.m. Cost: $20. When: Thursday, April 22, 2010

All programs will be held at: ACBA Conference Center Auditorium, 9th floor, City-County Building, 414 Grant Street, Pittsburgh, PA. 15219. To register, visit



To register for the following PBI CLE classes, please contact PBI customer service at 1-800-932-4637 or visit the PBI website. 

  • "Internet Law Update" from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.; check-in begins at 8:00 a.m., April 12.
  • "Finding Hidden Assets" Simulcast - from 1:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.; check-in begins at 1:00 p.m., April 12.
  • "Civil Rights: How Lawyers Protect the Constitution through Section 1983 Civil Litigation" from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; check-in begins at 8:00 a.m., April 13.
  • "Pension Plan Investments 2010" Simulcast - from 9:00 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.; check-in begins at 8:30 a.m., April 13.
  • "Facebook, Twitter & Blogging...Oh MySpace!" Simulcast - from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; check-in begins at 8:00 a.m., April 14.
  • "Banking and Consumer Financial Services Law Update" Simulcast - from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; check-in begins at 8:00 a.m., April 14.
  • "Developing and Trying the Case: A Case Study of 'A Few Good Men'" from 12:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; check-in and lunch begin at 11:45 a.m., April 15.
  • "Commercial Documents Series 2010: Loan Workouts and Forbearance Documents" from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.; check-in and lunch begin at 12:00 p.m., April 16.
  • "From File to Trial: 8 Keys to Success in Court & Beyond" Video - from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; check-in begins at 8:30 a.m., April 16.

All programs held at PBI Professional Development Conference Center, Heinz 57 Center, 339 Sixth Ave., 7th Fl.



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