The Pitt Law Investment
Rankings, lists, and dollar signs obscure two fundamental truths. First, when choosing a law school, it is most important that the student make the right personal choice. This has nothing to do with U.S. News rankings, and everything to do with what each school offers and what each student needs. Second, like many life decisions, the choice of a law school is not right or wrong when it is made, but is made right or wrong by the way in which the student carries out that choice.
At Pitt Law’s Center for International Legal Education (CILE), while we focus on preparing students for a global application of their legal education, our approach is relevant for all students. We emphasize that law school is a complete–three-year experience. Its value depends, not only on what students do in class and on exams, but also on choices made regarding time spent outside of class and time spent during summers and breaks. Classes make the transcript; the three year experience makes the resume.
Too often, the student who complains most about the high cost of tuition is also the student who is getting the least out of that investment. No one, we assume, would walk into an auto dealership and pay for a BMW, but be satisfied driving out in a Volkswagen. Yet this is exactly what happens when a student focuses entirely on classes as a law school education and ignores the plethora of opportunities available outside of the formal curriculum. For most students, it is not the transcript, but the resume, that will get them their jobs.
This is precisely where Pitt Law has huge advantages for most all of our students. The opportunity to interact with professors of outstanding caliber, who not only are great scholars but are eager to engage in good teaching (both inside and outside the classroom), is exactly the type of “consumer” experience that makes Pitt tuition an incredibly attractive investment. But the student must properly manage that investment in order to get the most out of it.
At CILE, we encourage students to extend themselves beyond the classroom — and they do. A recent example is Patrick Yingling (JD ’11), who spent a summer as a Nordenberg Fellow at the prestigious Max Planck Institute in Hamburg, Germany, studied abroad for two other semesters, engaged in summer work with federal district judges and at Reed Smith, published several renowned articles and was senior articles editor on the Law Review. This fall he is teaching international commercial law in Kenya. A position at Reed Smith and a Third Circuit federal judicial clerkship will follow.
In the summer of 2011, Yingling’s fellow students engaged in internships at the U.S. embassies in Nicaragua and New Zealand; the Center for Legal Assistance in Malawi; the International Foundation for Electoral Systems in Kosovo and Albania; the Human Rights Resource Centre in Malawi; the Kosovo Parliament; the Refugee and Migrant Rights Project of the Lawyers for Human Rights in South Africa; the Environmental Conservation Project in Peru; the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg; the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; the Kosovo Ministry of Justice; the Planck Institute; and law firms in Brazil, Italy, and Serbia.
These global opportunities have become regular experiences for Pitt Law students. They not only stretch students’ legal abilities, but test them in new cultural settings, administrative environments, and opportunities for personal and professional growth. It is that rich experience that makes Pitt Law an investment worth making, even in times of economic uncertainty and a changing legal marketplace. For the student willing to make that investment, the returns, at a minimum, include lifelong memories of three years well-spent.