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Allegheny Bar program offers help to lawyers returning to the practice

Tuesday, October 22, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Dan Kittay
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Alysia Keating knows first hand how hard it can be to return to the practice of law after taking extensive time off. She left an equity shareholder position at a large Florida firm to take care of her children. In the process, she and her family relocated to Pittsburgh, where seven years removed from her last work as an attorney, she decided to try to get back into the profession.

"Arguably, I should have been at the top of my game. But the seven years out of the practice really affected my confidence about being able to come back into the marketplace."

It was that experience that led Keating, now the Allegheny County (PA) Bar Association's director of diversity and gender equality to suggest that ACBA establish a program to help other attorneys navigate the way back into active legal work.

"It's hard to come back in, even if you were at a high point before," she said. In addition to catching up on substantive law changes, basic tasks such as how to put together a resume, using new electronic research and filing tools, and polishing writing skills all need to be dealt with to help land a job.

Once ACBA decided to start a program to help returning attorneys, also known as "onrampers," they looked for examples on which to model a program. They were able to locate a few law schools with programs, but could not find any bar associations.

A committee comprised of law school representatives, ACBA staff, people who had made the career transition and prospective onrampers created the outline of a program that became "Back to the Bar," a six-session class that covered what participants would need to know to have a good chance of landing a job.

"We were quite clear that this was not a job placement program. This is designed to position you to come back into the market, and refresh your skills," Keating said,

Participants paid $395, which included a one-year ACBA membership. Teachers all volunteered their time, which allowed the bar to break even on the program cost, she said. Class members got 11 hours of CLE credit, as well.

Of the 40 people who applied to take the class, 25 were accepted. There were 20 women and five men in the class. While the program was not tailored to women, Keating had assumed beforehand that there would be more women than men who would apply, as they were more likely to have left the profession for reasons such as child care, or caring for a sick relative.

Since the program ended in mid-October, ACBA has received a lot of positive feedback from those who attended, she said. That is one measure the bar will use to decide whether to repeat the program next year.

Other bars have begun to express interest in the program, and Keating says ACBA welcomes inquiries.


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