University of Pittsburgh
August 24, 2015

Pitt Legal Services Incubator

Pitt’s School of Law to launch new program that offers affordable legal services to underrepresented communities throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh School of Law is preparing to launch an innovative new program that will provide office space, technology support, and training and mentoring programs to a small group of recent Pitt law graduates who will be developing solo or small-firm practices providing legal services to underserved communities of the region.

Opening in January 2016, the Pitt Legal Services Incubator will select each year six to eight recent law graduates to participate in the program. At full occupancy, this two-year program will provide a professional home for 12-16 young lawyers. The incubator attorneys will benefit from one-on-one mentoring relationships with experienced practitioners. The program will also provide training programs in the relevant substantive areas of law and in the business aspects of developing and growing a successful solo or small-firm legal practice.

Pitt’s incubator program will be the first such initiative established by a law school in Southwestern Pennsylvania and just the second of its kind within the Commonwealth. William M. Carter Jr., dean and a professor in Pitt’s School of Law, said “This exciting and innovative initiative will aid our community by helping to fill gaps in access to legal services and will also aid recent graduates by providing them with mentoring and support as they launch their legal careers.”

Pitt Law’s incubator was one of only three programs nationwide to receive an ABA Catalyst Grant this year. Pitt will use the grant to fund the hiring of an “Innovation Fellow.” In partnership with the School of Law’s Innovation Practice Institute, the Innovation Fellow will identify and develop innovations in outreach and delivery of legal services to clients whose incomes are above the cutoff for free legal assistance from legal-services agencies but who also cannot afford conventional lawyers’ hourly rates. Pitt will share this best-practices portfolio not only with its incubator attorneys but also with other legal incubators and the practicing bar locally and nationally.

Thomas Ross, a professor in Pitt’s School of Law, will serve as the program’s inaugural faculty director. Ross sees the benefits of Pitt’s incubator program as significant and multifaceted. “This program will increase access to justice in our region and help recent grads develop financially sustainable practices,” said Ross. “The presence of the incubator within the building will also provide a big boost in the school’s ongoing program of developing practice-ready graduates.”

Pitt’s incubator program is open to recent School of Law alumni who aspire to develop solo or small-firm practices that target the needs of underserved client communities. The application process will commence this year in late October after the bar-exam results are published.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Law’s efforts to establish the Pitt Legal Services Incubator have been widely acclaimed in the regional legal community. “It’s not only Pitt Law graduates who will benefit from the incubator program but also the entire region, including those in need of legal assistance,” said Mark Martini, president of the Allegheny County Bar Association. “Incubator programs are an emerging trend in the legal industry, and having such a program here in Allegheny County is a tremendous asset for the legal community in Pittsburgh and beyond.”
The Legal Services Incubator will also partner with other community agencies, including the regional legal-aid organizations. Catherine Martin of Neighborhood Legal Services Association praised Pitt’s initiative, saying, “We strongly support Pitt Law’s new Legal Services Incubator because it will increase access to justice for low-income clients. This is an important and exciting step in the right direction.”

Formally established in 1895, the University of Pittsburgh School of Law is the oldest and largest law-school program in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Pitt’s law-school program prepares its students for real-world practice through traditional legal coursework as well as experiential learning opportunities in one of its seven law clinics. With nearly 10,000 alumni, Pitt’s School of Law emphasizes practical skills training and helping its students enter the field of law as practice-ready legal professionals.