Legal Career Exploration Program
For three days in July 2022, the PLDIC held its inaugural Legal Career Exploration Program. This program, which was planned with and hosted by PLDIC members Dickie McCamey and Wabtec, brought together 12 high school students from nine area schools to participate in the three-day event. Each day was focused on a different aspect of the legal profession.
The students spent the first day learning about careers in law firms. They heard from a diverse panel of a partner, an associate, a paralegal, a law librarian, and legal marketers. Barb Strnad, working group member and Dickie McCamey shareholder, moderated the panel discussion and students had the opportunity to ask the practitioners their questions.
Then, Barb led the students on a tour of the Dickie McCamey offices.
They returned for lunch and Devon Ferris, working group member and Dickie McCamey associate, led the students in an activity designed to get them thinking on their feet and responding to arguments posed by others. Devon followed that up by introducing them to a fact pattern which she developed to use throughout the program regarding a corporate client considering legal action against an employee. Then she asked the students to put themselves in the shoes of outside counsel and brainstorm questions they would want to ask if interviewing the client’s management and the employee.
They spent the second day at Wabtec Corporation. Michael Watson, working group member and Wabtec’s Chief Compliance Officer, gathered a diverse panel of Wabtec attorneys and UPMC attorneys to talk with the students about their experiences and provide valuable advice.
Afterwards, Devon provided the students with responses to the questions they had brainstormed the previous day and we worked with them in small groups to plan an opening statement, cross examination, and closing statement.
The third day involved a field trip to the county courthouse where the students observed a sentencing hearing in front of Judge Beth Lazzara. Afterwards, they split into small groups and participated in “speed networking” with several U.S. Attorneys and staff, attorneys and staff from the Public Defender’s office, a county prosecutor, judicial staff, and Judge Lisa Middleman.
Public Defender Lena Henderson was extremely influential in organizing this day’s events and in getting student participation in the program.
After this amazing networking session, the group returned to Dickie McCamey where the students had lunch with their law clerks and then presented their opening statements, cross-examination, and closing statements.
At the end of the program, the students each received a certificate to show their engagement in the program, practical information about how to include the program on a resume and school/job applications, and contact information for the attorneys and others they connected with throughout the program so that they can maintain those contacts if they choose to continue on a legal career path. The PLDIC also provided each student with a monetary stipend and a seven-day bus pass.
The feedback from the students and the practitioners has been tremendous. All of the students who completed the post-program evaluation said they are interested in pursuing a career in the legal profession.
A huge thank you goes to the working group who helped plan every detail of this program: Barb Strnad, Devon Ferris, Michael Watson, and Joanna Rodriguez.
The PLDIC hopes to do a second iteration of the Legal Career Exploration Program and more programing with high school students in the coming year. If you’d like to get involved in the planning of these events, please contact Ena Lebel.