University of Pittsburgh
September 26, 2002

Trial Lawyer and Pitt Alumnus John P. Gismondi Funds New Civil Litigation Certificate Program in Pitt's Law School

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September 27, 2002

PITTSBURGH—A gift from Pittsburgh trial attorney and University of Pittsburgh alumnus John P. Gismondi has enabled the University's School of Law to establish the John P. Gismondi Civil Litigation Certificate Program, one of only a few such programs in the U.S. created for law students who wish to become trial attorneys.

"Through an extremely generous gift from John, and with his active support and guidance, the School of Law has set out to build one of the richest educational programs in civil litigation," says David Herring, Pitt law school dean.

Gismondi, who has served as an adjunct faculty member in Pitt's law school since 1985, says that the program will address a genuine need in the law school education process and make Pitt graduates more attractive in the job market.

"Students are always interested in getting more practical experience, and if we can give them some basic training in trial work, that will make them more attractive to potential employers, and it will also give them a little head start on their career development," Gismondi says.

The gift also is an expression of the allegiance Gismondi has for his alma mater:

He earned the Bachelor of Arts degree in political science, magna cum laude, at Pitt's College of Arts and Sciences in 1975 and graduated from the Pitt School of Law in 1978.

It is anticipated that this program will draw positive attention to the law school as a whole.

"Everybody competes for good quality students, and we are hoping that this program, unique to a metropolitan university law school, will make Pitt 'stand out in the crowd,' at least for those law school applicants who want to be trial lawyers," Gismondi says.

According to Herring, there are two other law schools in the country, Michigan State University-Detroit College of Law in East Lansing and Stetson University College of Law in St. Petersburg, Fla., that offer a program similar to the Gismondi Civil Litigation Certificate Program, but both of them are located in smaller cities. Gismondi believes that Pitt's metropolitan-area setting will give its law school a built-in advantage compared to those of the other schools.

"A key to the success of this program is recruiting good faculty to teach the courses, and we have some top-flight trial attorneys in downtown Pittsburgh who are located only minutes away from the law school," Gismondi says.

In line with Gismondi's sentiments, the law school plans to sign on highly skilled litigators to join the Pitt law faculty as adjunct professors in the new certificate program. In addition, new courses will be designed in consultation with Herring, Associate Dean John Burkoff, Gismondi, and Pitt Associate Professor of Legal Writing Marvin Fein, who has been named director of the new Certificate Program.

The group will create three new courses for the 2003-04 academic year: Litigation Planning and Strategy, Discovery Practice, and Advanced Evidence. At least one other course will be added in 2004-05.

Fein earned the Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Pennsylvania (1960), the Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (1963), and the Master of Laws degree at New York University Law School (1969). He served as director of litigation for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources from 1971 to 1975 and was a trial attorney for the Internal Revenue Service from 1965 to 1970.

Gismondi is a member of the by-invitation-only Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County. He is a former president of the Allegheny County Bar Association (1996) and the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association, Western Pennsylvania Chapter (1988-89). He also served as chair of the Trial Advocacy Foundation of Pennsylvania (1987-90).