Pitt Law’s practicum courses combine focused classroom instruction in a particular area of interest and fieldwork under supervising attorneys at various agencies and organizations. There is simply no better way to prepare for your career than to learn from and work directly with experts in the field in which you’re planning to practice law. Full-year or semester options are available in the following areas: criminal law, health law, legal services, disability law, unemployment compensation, and (new for spring 2016) education law and juvenile justice.
The EngagePitt website is the University of Pittsburgh’s crowdfunding platform, where donors can make online donations to special campaigns, service projects, and other experiential learning opportunities. Unlike other fundraising tools, EngagePitt keeps supporters up to date on both fundraising progress as well as the end results of these worthy projects.
Pitt Law’s Veterans Legal Practicum is the only pro bono provider of military discharge upgrade services in the region. Students, along with supervising attorneys, assist veterans in securing their entitled benefits and reversing less than fully honorable military discharges. The Practicum has a caseload of approximately 50 veterans, and is split roughly 50/50 between complex VA claims and discharge upgrades.
Criminal Prosecution Practicum
The Office of the District Attorney (DA) of Allegheny County administers the Criminal Prosecution Practicum. You’ll attend a two-hour class once a week in one of the criminal courtrooms of the Allegheny County Courthouse as well as work in the DA’s office. Instructors include a judge (and former prosecutor) as well as two current prosecutors. During the first term of this full-year course, you’ll rotate through various sections/units of the DA’s office to gain a broad overview of the inner workings of a prosecution office. During the second term, you’ll complete your required hours in a specific unit.
Education Law Practicum
The Education Law Practicum is designed to introduce students to the range of issues that arise when the education and juvenile justice systems intersect in the school-to-prison pipeline. The seminar component will equip students with a deep understanding of the school-to-prison pipeline and how it is shaped by both education and criminal law and policy. The experiential component of this course will provide students with the opportunity to work on local issues through partnership with the Education Law Center. Students will leave this course having developed critical insight into reform strategies and challenges to address the problem in both systems, and gained valuable skills in youth justice advocacy.
Health Law Practicum: Alternative Dispute Resolution
The Health Law Practicum offers the opportunity to work with lawyers in hospitals, health insurance companies, and a variety of other placements in health law, emphasizing legal representation of a nonprofit enterprise in the changing health law environment. The classroom sessions are devoted to a consideration of the application of alternative dispute resolution techniques to health law disputes. Through the fieldwork component, you’ll work under a supervising attorney in a health law environment.
Law, Entertainment, and Social Enterprise Practicum
The Law, Entertainment and Social Enterprise Practicum exposes students to the legal knowledge, skills, and roles involved in representing a social entertainment enterprise. You will gain a broad understanding of the operations of the entertainment industry and the intellectual, corporate, and securities matters that permeate the industry. You’ll learn about social enterprise, entertainment, intellectual property, corporate and securities law while working closely with practicing lawyers who represent or volunteer for the Steeltown Entertainment Works and other local social entertainment enterprises, such as WQED, Family Communications, and Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Finally, you will gain a broad understanding of the business operations and legal needs of various social enterprise entertainment clients, including those related to incorporation, strategic alliances, licensing, and venture capital.
Lawyering Process III Practicum
In the Lawyering Process III Practicum, students gain experience with live clients, performing such essential lawyering tasks as interviewing, counseling, negotiating, drafting documents and pleadings, and providing representation before the Court of Common Pleas. You’ll receive modeling, training, and supervision from experienced staff attorneys at Southeastern PA Legal Services in Washington, PA.
PA Practice Practicum
As part of this Practicum, you’ll help indigent clients and learn important lawyering skills under the close supervision of experienced attorneys at Neighborhood Legal Services Association. The Practicum runs the full school year, so those interested must devote both semesters to the program. The fall term will have a classroom component and field work, and the spring term offering is all field work. The seminar component will be held in the Pittsburgh offices of Neighborhood Legal Services. In the field component students will represent clients in the courtroom and in administrative hearing procedures on issues including landlord tenant, employment law, and consumer law.
Pennsylvania Innocence Project Practium
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project allows for students to examine and discuss the substantive law and remedies associated with wrongful convictions. Topics include mistaken eyewitness identification, “junk” forensic science, forensic DNA testing, and post-conviction remedies. In this practicum, students are given exposure to post-conviction collateral litigation, ethics in criminal law – both defense and prosecution – and factual analysis training. Learn more about the Pennsylvania Innocence Project online.
Medicare and Medicaid Practicum
The Medicare and Medicaid Practicum will provide you with an understanding of the Medicare and Medicaid programs and the practical skills for using this information to serve your clients. We will examine the purpose and design of Medicare and Medicaid; the Medicare and Medicaid vocabulary; and the criteria for eligibility and enrollment in these programs. You will also develop your client counseling skills in the fall. By the end of the fall semester, you will be prepared and should be confident to tackle the more complex and difficult cases that you will receive during the spring semester. You may enroll in this course for either the fall semester or the fall and spring semesters. Registration for both semesters is preferred, and preference in enrollment will be given to students who enroll in both semesters.
Social Security Disability Practicum
The Social Security Disability Practicum offers students the opportunity to develop lawyering skills by representing actual clients (under the supervision of a practicing attorney) at all stages of obtaining Social Security disability benefits. You will interview clients, gather and interpret medical evidence, develop a case theory, work with clients’ medical providers to obtain evidence, prepare a hearing memorandum, and represent clients at hearings and/or on appeal. In addition to attending class two hours per week, you will participate in mock interviews and mock hearings and learn how to conduct the various components of a hearing, including cross-examining a vocational or medical expert.
Unemployment Compensation Practicum
The Unemployment Compensation Practicum combines components of a traditional law school clinic and an externship at a legal services or public interest law firm. Representing claimants in unemployment compensation (UC) cases will provide you with a meaningful trial advocacy experience. In addition to representing claimants at hearings, you’ll file and draft briefs to the UC Board of Review and to Commonwealth Court as well as submit a weekly journal containing an analysis of your case preparation, the hearings themselves, and your progress. You will also assist with updating the Unemployment Compensation Manual, which is published by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute.
The Veterans Practicum explores the structure of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the role of the regional office, the structure and rules of the Board of Veterans Appeals and the Rules of Appellate Procedure for the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. In the first semester, you will focus on VA disability benefits. In the second semester, you will learn about other benefits available to veterans, including the veterans insurance programs, the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, VA aid and attendance benefits, VA education benefits, VA housing benefits, Unemployment Compensation for Ex-servicemembers (UCX), and Veterans’ Preference in hiring. Obtaining attorney fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) and contingent fees from retroactive awards will also be covered, along with how to read a VA claims file. Several classes may be devoted to special topics such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and military sexual trauma. In the field component, you will analyze case law and apply it to “real-world” situations to help those who have served our country obtain the benefits they deserve. More information about the Veterans Practicum is available here.
Workers’ Compensation Practicum
While the Workers’ Compensation course (taken concurrently) offers exposure to the history and theory of the law, the different state and federal systems, and the manner in which employers insure for workers’ compensation, the Workers’ Compensation Practicum provides you with first-hand exposure to and activity in the field. You will observe lawyers while they meet with clients to evaluate their cases and learn how lawyers communicate with physicians as well as how employers obtain and present rebuttal medical evidence. You will learn about the practice of taking trial depositions of medical and other experts, sit in on a deposition, and attend hearings to observe the procedures of opposing attorneys and judges. In addition, you will learn about petitions advanced by workers, employers, and/or insurance companies and prepare written legal arguments to the workers’ compensation authorities and briefs to the appeals courts. Finally, you will be exposed to current practices surrounding evaluation of workers’ compensation cases for possible lump sum settlement.