Pitt Law Academy: Law Office Politics: How to Survive & Thrive Out There in the Real World
On Tuesday, February 26, at 4:30 p.m. in Room 107 (not the Courtroom), the law school will present its eighth Pitt Law Academy (PLA) program of the year: “Law Office Politics: How to Survive & Thrive Out There in the Real World.”
Let me tell you something candidly. I usually don’t have much of a problem getting the lawyers and judges and government and political figures I want to speak at Pitt Law Academy programs to come here and do it. They are usually pleased to come and talk to you. But this panel has been different.
I added this panel to the PLA series this year as the result of student requests from last year. Many of these students had heard the stories, as some of you have, about the things that can go on in law firms and law offices. And they just didn’t want to be (or appear to be) so naive when they joined our business, whether it was in the 1L summer or later. So I thought it was a good idea to add this program to the lineup, and I started to go after speakers. It was like pulling teeth. Everyone knows about law office politics. Everyone has stories. No one wants to tell them in public. (Of course, they told me the stories. So these turn-downs weren’t a complete wipeout for me. Gossip is my middle name.)
Anyway, after a lot of work (you’re welcome) I have managed to come up with five extraordinary panelists for you who have expressed their willingness to actually tell you the truth about what goes on below the surface in law offices. This really is a very, very special group of lawyers (and one judge), and not only for the reason that they are actually willing to talk to you about this touchy subject. Each of the panelists is smart, successful and – important for my purposes –savvy, knowledgeable, and interesting.
The five panelists are:
- Donald Bluedorn, Shareholder, Babst Calland
- Stephanie Sciullo, Associate General Counsel, Mine Safety Appliances Company
- Marla Presley, Associate, Babst Calland
- Hon. Christine Ward, Judge, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas
- Lyle Washowich, Member and Co-chair, Banking and Financial Services Litigation Practice Group, Burns White
You’ve got two law firm partners (mid-sized firms), one associate (mid-sized firm), one in-house counsel (formerly with a large firm), and one extremely well-regarded judge. Judge Ward has, by the way, talked with me at length about some of the things she’s going to tell you, and I think you’re going to discover that she took my request to be frank with you very seriously. As she intimated to me, hey, she’s a judge now, what can the people in the various law offices she’s going to talk about do to her now if she tells you the truth about what goes on?
So . . . once again, the PLA mantra: “The Pitt Law Academy program is designed to assist you in thinking about life after law school.” Let’s talk about the reality of the law office environment—what really goes on. Okay?
You might be saying to yourself right now, “What in the world is this man talking about here? What sort of reality?” Well, for example, maybe you might want to know something about law office secretaries. Did you know that a recent ABA study of 142 secretaries at large law firms showed that “35% of them preferred working for male partners, 15% preferred working for male associates, 3% preferred working for female associates, 0% – none, none! – preferred working for female partners, and 47% had no opinion.” Hmmm. That might be something that our female law students here should know and think about before they actually step into a law office, don’t you think?
These panelists may not talk about that point specifically (although I know they will talk about some gender and homophobia issues in law offices). Really the overarching question I’ve asked these panelists to address is: What should our law students know? I want them to try and help you to figure out what’s going on in the law offices many or most of you will be working in one day. What tips can they give you for figuring out what’s going on, and more important still, for figuring out how to respond (or not) to what’s going on? Should you react? Or should your reflexive response be to duck and cover?
Sorry to go on at length here, but I think this topic is really important. Anyway, our five panelists will talk about this sort of thing. They will, I hope, offer you some real insights about what goes on in law office environments. This program will be well worth the price of admission (free . . . oh, except for the hundred grand or so you’re paying us in tuition, but why quibble about that).
And, of course, there’s the reception afterwards!!! We’ve got our elves (including the elfish Dean Deasy, with his little green elf cap on) tucked away in tree trunks in Schenley Park, hard at work baking those yummy cookies for you. And, as you may know, Dean Infanti himself hand slices every last piece of that delicious, just-off-the-vine (within a month) fruit we prepare for you. Or so I’ve been told. I can’t swear to any of this. But I do know that there will be water and the kind of fruit punch that is not found in nature.
But most important, of course, our panelists will be there. And maybe – just maybe – when they’re talking to you “off stage,” one on one, they’ll give you even more gossip about what really goes on. Good gossip. Really, could you ask us for more than good gossip?
2Ls and 3Ls: Hey, you’re the ones who actually asked me for this program. Come on down! Come learn some truths, and then swill unnatural fruit punch like a 1L. Fun.