From the Dean
photography by denmarsh
One of the highlights of the past few weeks here at Pitt Law was the annual PLISF auction, which brings together students, faculty, and alumni for an evening of fun to raise money for grants awarded by the Pitt Legal Income Sharing Foundation. This year the auction raised $24,000, with auction items ranging from Steelers tickets to meals with professors. PLISF grants provide financial support to Pitt Law students who are working for nonprofits or governmental agencies during the summer. Placements supported by grants in the past few years have ranged from Kidsvoice in Pittsburgh, to the Citizens’ Advocacy Center in Chicago, to the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights in Buenos Aires. It is inspiring to see how the energy and commitment of PLISF students combine with the generosity of individuals and organizations who donate items to the auction to generate support that is critical to students’ ability to gain experience in the public interest and governmental sectors.
Pitt Law students seeking to enter public service and public interest careers follow in a proud tradition, as this issue of Pitt Law Magazine illustrates. While former Chief Justice Ralph Cappy, ’68, worked from the highest level to advance the quality of the justice administered in Pennsylvania, Bob Racunas, ’71, has led the efforts of Neighborhood Legal Services here in Pittsburgh to provide legal services to those unable to afford them so that justice can be administered “on the ground.” Our other alumni feature shows how Cathleen Laporte is using her legal training in a non-legal setting to brighten the prospects of children through her work leading Athletes for Charity.
As compelling as these stories are, though, they only begin to suggest the variety of ways in which Pitt Law alums devote their energies and talents to serving the public, and we at the Law School are enormously proud of these contributions. But as the cost of legal education escalates, it becomes increasingly difficult for graduates burdened by educational debt to pursue lower-paying public interest and government jobs. if we are truly committed to supporting our graduates in pursuing a wide range of professional opportunities, it is incumbent on the Law School to find ways to support students desiring to enter these fields.
That is why I am delighted to be able to let you know that, because of the generosity of Rick Zomnir, ’73, Pitt Law is launching a pilot Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) this spring for graduates pursuing public interest work. Rick’s gift will support a small-scale LRAP for five years, and, during that time, raising funds for an endowment to make the LRAP sustainable will be an important development goal for the School. Just as I hope that you will find the stories in this issue inspiring, I hope that you also will be inspired to consider being part of this important effort.