The University of Pittsburgh School of Law (Pitt Law) traces its roots back to the university law department founded in 1843, one of the 17 departments that made up the original university. Between 1843 and 1976, the law school changed both names and locations until it formally moved into its current home in the six story Barco Law building which houses its modern campus on the main university site. Today, the law school offers four different degree programs and houses several legal centers including a center dedicated to international legal education. Pitt Law is also home to JURIST, an internationally renowned online legal news service maintained by law students. In its long history, Pitt Law has graduated numerous governors, justices of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and the former long-time U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch.
In the first year of the Juris Doctor program, students take 30 hours of coursework, over 30% of the total hours required for completion of the degree. In the first semester, students take three core courses: contracts, criminal law, and torts. Students also take an introductory course to the regulatory and legislative process as well as their first semester in the practices of legal research and writing. In their second semester, students study three additional core courses: civil procedure, constitutional law, and property. Students also take a second semester of legal research and writing. During their first year, students are also required to take a non-credit course that covers an introduction to the study of the law. This course prepares students to understand the methodology and practice of succeeding at law school. Students are also able to participate in the year-long Pitt Law Academy, another non-credit program that prepares students for success during their entire academic career.
Upper-level students have very few required courses. Students must take a course in professional responsibility, a class in comparative law, and a course covering the foundations of legal research. Students must complete two major writing assignments as well as complete six hours of experiential learning. For upper-class students, Pitt Law offers four curricular pathways and seven certification programs. The pathways cover broad areas of the legal field and suggest core courses to ensure a student is prepared for their future career. Certification programs are more discrete, demonstrating a student’s mastery of a narrow practice area such as health or tax law.
For lawyers educated in a school outside the United States, Pitt Law offers both a Master of Laws (LL.M) and a Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) degree. The LL.M program introduces international lawyers to the foundations of American jurisprudence and common law systems. Beyond the classroom, the LL.M programs seeks to integrate international students in the Pitt Law community as well as the broader legal practice. Students receive one year of instruction alongside J.D. candidates as well as support from the school’s career office once they graduate.
The S.J.D. program is a highly selective program for students who have already completed their LL.M degree from a U.S. law school. Along with additional coursework, the S.J.D. requires extensive independent research and writing on an area of academic significance. Students write and defend a dissertation while working in close contact with faculty advisors.
Pitt Law also offers its Juris Doctor candidates the opportunity to pursue a joint degree with another professional program. Students may pair their J.D. with a Master’s degree from one of eight other programs. By combining programs, students are able to credit coursework to both programs, therefore shortening the time to complete both programs. Joint degree programs include combining the J.D. with a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) or a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.).
Career and Career Placement
Within 10 months of graduation, almost 94% of all graduates of Pitt Law are employed with nearly 90% employed in careers either requiring a law license or preferring a law degree. Over 60% of graduates pursued traditional law firm work with small firms (1 to 10 attorneys) being the most popular choice followed by large firms (500+ attorneys). A quarter of graduates pursued either careers in the public interest sector or in a government office. Careers in the business sector were also a popular choice for graduates, representing just under 10% of all career choices. Pitt Law graduates most often remained in Pittsburgh to begin their careers although a substantial portion of graduates did begin careers in nearby New York.
The Pitt Law Professional and Development Office (PDO) staffs three former attorneys plus additional professionals who work with the entire student body to provide a range of career and professional services. The staff of the PDO operate as intermediaries between students and the legal field. For students, the PDO provides individual counseling, arranges on-campus interviews, and integrates students into Pitt Law’s vast alumni network. The PDO also maintains a library of resources as well as an extensive database of job postings.
Experiential Learning/Distance Education
Through clinics, externships in actual legal offices, and practical courses, students at Pitt Law learn the actual skills of lawyering to complement and enhance their classroom studies. Pitt Law’s seven legal clinics provide students the opportunity to apply their academic lessons in the field while working with real clients under the supervision of faculty experts. Clinical experiences range from family law practice to working in the environmental law clinic. Externships function similarly to legal clinics–students work in an actual legal office–although externships take place off the campus in offices around the greater Pittsburgh area or as far away as Washington, D.C.
Practicums at Pitt Law cover a broad range of practice areas especially focusing on the law school’s seven concentrations. Practicums allows students to work on complex, advanced legal problems in the safety of the classroom under the tutelage of expert practitioners.
Although Pitt Law requires all degree coursework to take place in residence, the law school does offer two online programs for non-attorneys hoping to expand their skill set in legal-related fields. These online programs cover health care compliance and human resource law. Students complete online learning modules to gain a solid foundation in the legal underpinnings of these fields.
In a single word, Pitt Law’s student body is active. Outside the classroom, students at Pitt Law are engaged in the life of the university and the city beyond. The law school offers a range of organizations and the law school recognizes all students who donate more than 50 hours of their time to serving the surrounding community through pro bono organizations. Each year, over 60 students volunteer to run the school’s JURIST news service that provides worldwide access to law related news and journalism.
Law students are also a part of the greater university. Set in downtown Pittsburgh, students are part of the historic, working-class epicenter of America. Famous for its industrial past and football teams, Pittsburgh also houses a bevy of museums and excellent cuisine. The surrounding area is exceptionally rural and dotted with national forest land and state parks. Housing is affordable making Pitt Law one of the best values for any law school in the country.