University of Pittsburgh

Pitt Law Works: Volume 5 Issue 17 - March 4, 2010


Equal Justice America is again offering Legal Services Fellowships for students this summer.  Applications are due on March 22nd.  Students can get the information they need to apply at

Equal Justice America will consider applications from law students who have arranged a placement with an organization that provides civil legal assistance to the poor.

Depending on the availability of funding, EJA Summer Fellowships pay up to $4,000.  EJA may also supplement funding students have received from the Law School or other sources.   For more information about our program, please visit our website at

 If you have any questions, please email Mary Thinium at or Dan Ruben, the EJW Executive Director at



Your suit is crisp -- you look impressive. Your résumé is flawless -- you seem great on paper. Now, for the last piece of the successful job search puzzle -- "wowing" them at the interview.

How do you do it? Try asking questions. Besides showing your interest in the position and the organization, asking questions gives you an active role in the interview and lets you highlight your strengths.  To make sure your next interview is as smooth as your freshly pressed suit, try these questions on for size:

1. "What type of growth is this organization planning?"
This tells the interviewer that you have a long-term vision for your professional future and that you're not just looking for a paycheck; you're looking to secure a career.

2. "How do you see me benefiting the organization?"
Finding out why you were selected out of possibly hundreds of other candidates gives you a chance to expand on the qualities that caught their eye, further making the case for your hire.

3. "What types of projects will summer clerks get to work on?"
This will give you a specific idea of what you can expect when you walk into the office that first day after being hired. It also can give you a heads up as to what will be expected of you, allowing you to build on those attributes during the interview.

4. "Why did you choose this organization?"
Hearing why a current employee opted to work at the organization can give you some insight into some of the strengths and opportunities within the organization.

5. "How do summer employees receive feedback?"
Ask this question, and you'll discern the structure under which you will be working. For instance, will you report directly to a partner or will there be a succession of associates between you?

6. "When will a decision be made on the successful candidate?"
Knowing this helps you determine the timing of your interview follow-up activities.

7. "May I contact you if I have other questions?"
It's always good to wrap up the interview with this question. It keeps the door open for further communication, giving you one last chance to make your case.



Often, when job seekers try to sell themselves to potential employers, they load their application materials with vague claims.  By contrast, the most successful job seekers avoid these phrases in favor of accomplishments.  In other words, show, don't tell.

Instead of... "Experience working in fast-paced environment"
Try... "Conducted 60+ intake interviews for clients seeking Protection from Abuse Orders”

Instead of... "Excellent written communication skills"
Try... "Drafted Bankruptcy Law Update for firm’s clients "

Instead of... "Team player with cross-functional awareness"
Try... "Collaborated with professional peers and supervisors to assess issues arising in litigation"

Instead of... "Demonstrated success in analyzing client needs"
Try... "Communicated legal issues and options in layman’s terms to increase client understanding"

The worst offenders
Aggressive                   Ambitious                    Competent                   Creative                       Detail-oriented

Determined                  Efficient                      Experienced                 Flexible                        Goal-oriented

Hard-working              Independent                 Innovative                   Knowledgeable               Logical

Motivated                    Meticulous                   Professional                 Reliable                       Resourceful

 The above words should be avoided on your resume because many of the attributes listed are expected of someone at this career stage.  It should go without saying that you are professional and reliable.  Additionally, resumes should be written with an eye towards selling your skills and work product.  Personality traits, such as persistence, creativity, and independence, are better suited for cover letters.  Again, cite examples of when you demonstrated character traits.  Compare these cover letter examples:

 Example 1:  “I understand you are seeking a candidate with creative problem-solving skills.  I acquired these skills through my undergraduate coursework.  As you can see from my resume, I was a political science major in my university’s honors program.  From this, I honed a solid work ethic and attention to detail.”

 Example 2:  “I understand you are seeking a candidate with creative problem-solving skills.  I acquired these skills through my undergraduate coursework.  Specifically, I fulfilled my senior thesis requirement by planning and implementing a moot court competition for high school students.  I faced the challenge of recruiting participants, many of whom did not have a formal moot court program or adequate funding.  I wrote a successful grant, which enabled students to attend at no cost.  I also conducted school site visits; I gave a demonstration and answered questions as a way of encouraging participation.  I am able to apply the skills I obtained through this experience to the practice of family law:  I am ready to assess challenges and research creative solutions to clients’ legal issues.”

 Example 3:  “I understand you are seeking a candidate with creative problem-solving skills.  My problem-solving skills predate law school:  As a clerk of a retail clothing store, I became aware of the store’s goal to increase sales in key departments.  I suggested, and the manager implemented, a reward system for clerks who met or exceeded sales goals. I am able to apply the skills I obtained through this experience to the practice of family law:  I am ready to listen to the challenges facing clients and brainstorm creative ways to help resolve their legal issues.”

 The first example recites skills without giving specific examples, while the other two paragraphs evidence problem-solving skills, arguably more advanced written communication, and a more complete understanding of a practice area.  Where possible, try to follow this model in your cover letters:  state a skill; provide an example of when you used that trait; articulate how you could put it to use to the organization’s benefit. 



Alternative Careers:  Getting to "There" (RSVP Required)

Thursday, March 18, 12:00-2:00pm, Room 111

Susan Gainen, principal of Pass the Baton, llc and former Career Services professional at the University of Minnesota (17 years), has been writing, speaking and counseling students and alumni about Alternative Careers since 1992.  Her Program Getting to "There" will help participants to:

  • Distinguish among traditional, non-traditional and alternative career paths.
  • Learn the roadblocks for lawyers seeking alternative careers.
  • Learn strategies and tactics for alternative career searches.
  • Understand why a "legal" resume won't work.
  • Learn how legal skills and experience transfer to other settings.
  • Understand the competition.

This will be a two part program.  Following the presentation by Susan Gainen, attorneys who have chosen to pursue alternative career paths will present a panel discussion on their experiences in a wide range of industries.  Panelists include:

  • Andrew McKinley, Transfer Pricing Staff, Ernst & Young
  • Jason Miller, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Claudine Orloski, Finance Department/Corporate Tax, Bank of New York Mellon
  • Melissa Protzek, Executive Director CASA of Allegheny County
  • John Walliser, Vice President, Legal and Governmental Affairs, Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC)
  • Lisa Sciullo, Charitable Relationship Manager for Pitt Law

If you would like to attend please RSVP to Danielle Schoch  with your name and class year ASAP but no later than Tuesday, March 16th.   If a conflict prevents you from attending the entire program students are welcome to attend a portion.  Food will be served.  

"Distinguishing Yourself" Through International Law Opportunities

Tuesday, March 16, 1-2:30 pm, Room 113

Find out more about Private International Law, What International Lawyers Do & Career Opportunities In International Law both in the U.S. and abroad from Professor Matthew J. Wilson, an experienced international attorney who: 

  • Has spoken about careers in international law at nearly 100 U.S. law schools
  • Has practiced private international law in the United States, Japan, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
  • Can give you insight into the fascinating practice of an "international" attorney.
  • Currently teaches international law courses at the University of Wyoming, College of Law, and previously served as Senior Associate Dean and General Counsel of Temple University's Japan Campus, where he also taught international law and oversaw Temple U. School of Law's spring semester abroad program.
  • Will provide you with tips on getting involved in transnational and international legal matters during your law school career.
  • Offers ideas and insight into finding conventional and unique career opportunities involving international law, particularly in a tough economy.
  • Provides examples of how to effectively use study abroad programs and overseas experiences.


2L & 3L Small/Midsize Firm Networking Event

Wednesday, March 24th, 6-8pm, Alcoa Room

This event will be an opportunity for 2L and 3L students to network and talk with local practitioners about small/midsize firm practice. Students will have the opportunity to speak with several attorneys throughout the evening and have their questions answered. This is an excellent opportunity for students interested in working in a small or midsize firm environment to network and gain information on what these firms are looking for in associates and what it is like to work as an attorney in such firms.

Registration to attend the roundtable event will begin after Spring Break and will be announced via email. Space is limited, so we encourage you to sign-up early for this special program! All students who register are committing to attend and stay for the entire 2-hour program. Dress is business attire.


Government Legal Careers Webinar

Law students and law graduates are invited to join attorney career counselor Richard Hermann for an informative session on Government Legal Careers.  The session is free and held in the Concord Law School online classroom. 

Tricks of the Federal Trade: Government Legal Careers 101 A Session on Federal Government Law Jobs 60 Minutes with Richard Hermann Wednesday, April 7th 8:30pm Eastern

Please go to and use name and email address to join: 

The online classroom will open 30 minutes prior to the start of the session.

Bring your questions and gain insight from Richard Hermann, a 30 year attorney career counselor.

For more discussion of legal career opportunities check out Prof. Hermann's weekly postings on, a Concord Law School career resource.  

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