Two Saint Vincent College alumni with lifelong success in the legal profession are providing the leadership for a new organization they are confident will make Saint Vincent College a standout in providing support for students who want to become attorneys and for alumni in legal careers.
The Honorable William H. Baughman, Jr., a United States District Court Magistrate Judge, and Attorney Frank Pipak, a lawyer with the Pittsburgh law firm of Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick and Raspanti, both graduated from Saint Vincent in 1971 and are longtime friends. Because both credit the excellent foundation they received at the College with their success, they have taken the lead in creating the Saint Vincent College Law Society. The Society’s mission includes helping present day students understand the legal profession and supporting them in preparation for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) by providing funds to enroll in professional review courses. Additionally, the Society members work with students, faculty, and Career Services in providing mentoring, internships, and assistance with law school admissions. For alumni in law school and in practice, the Society offers mentoring, networking, and educational opportunities.
“Those of us who have had the benefit of going through Saint Vincent, graduating from law school and becoming successful by many peoples’ measurement are able to make a contribution to the success of current students and young alumni,” Mr. Pipak said. “I think it is valuable for the students, valuable for the college and rewarding for the volunteers.”
“We may not have recognized it at the time, but one of the most important lessons we learned at Saint Vincent was the concept of hospitality in the Benedictine tradition,” Mr. Pipak added. “That taught us to look at people who are different from us, who have arguments different from us, and give them their due in terms of listening and trying to respond in a positive way. This approach to education differs from most schools and makes a Saint Vincent degree highly valued.”
“We simply want to pay it forward,” Judge Baughman explained. “The idea for the Saint Vincent Law Society was born in the spring of 2007 when I was on campus for a program on constitutional interpretation sponsored by the McKenna School. I learned that, while many of our students were preparing for law school, not all of them were taking the LSAT prep course. One of the barriers was the cost since the course is rather expensive. So, we first decided to raise funds to enable any student to enroll in the course. That led to the importance of providing mentoring and arranging internships to bring our pre-law students into contact with those who are in the practice of law so that they have a better understanding of what practicing attorneys do and what to expect when they join the profession.”
“Out of that original plan came the concept of initially forming an alumni group that would provide assistance to the pre-law students here on campus,” Judge Baughman continued. “We subsequently expanded the concept to include friends of the College in legal careers, administrators and faculty on campus involved in the pre-law program, and the pre-law students themselves. Saint Vincent alumni currently in law school have a different set of needs. They need the support and assistance of those of us in the practice. We have included these alumni in the Society’s membership and mission.”
“We believe that the Society is unique nationally,” Judge Baughman added. “Many colleges and universities have clubs for pre-law students with alumni participation. Some have pre-law advisory committees with attorney alumni members. But our Society is the only one that includes as full members the pre-law students, faculty and administrators, lawyer alumni, and alumni in law school. Our Council has representatives from each of these constituent groups. Our goal is to give our students and alumni a substantial asset in pursuing legal careers and to have law schools and legal employers take notice of this strength.”
In October of 2009, the Saint Vincent Law Society was officially formed, and ever since, the pair and the Society’s Executive Council have been working to advance the mission set forth in its by-laws – to help the pre-law students, to help alumni in law school, and to help our alumni and friends help each other. The Society has sponsored a series of events including a mock trial showcase, a law school send-off reception for seniors headed to law school, and several career planning sessions featuring law school professors who talked about what to expect in law school for a successful transition.
“Now, we are continuing to work to put the LSAT prep grant in effect to help our students take the test and get the assistance they need to be successful,” Judge Baughman added. “We are also working with our pre-law students on mentoring and internships and we are working with our alumni in law school with internships and mentoring opportunities. In April, we are cooperating with the Saint Vincent College Threshold Series in presenting a lecture by Arthur T. Downey about the role of attorneys during the Civil War for our lawyer members who are interested in hearing about the research of one of our alumni and also obtaining credit for continuing legal education.”
Judge Baughman said he thought the society was an important project. “Saint Vincent was a significant factor and continues to be a significant factor in my career. The educational foundation and personal formation I received here have been keys to my success. Law is basically problem solving and to be an effective problem solver, you need the kind of liberal arts educational background that Saint Vincent provides. In addition, the spiritual foundation is very important from my perspective. To capably solve problems one must have dedication to service of others, humility, and an understanding that wisdom needs to come from a higher source – an openness to the direction that the Holy Spirit can give. Saint Vincent provides an excellent foundation for the practice of law. We need more people who have that formation going into the profession.”
Judge Baughman plans to remain actively involved with the Law Society but will be turning over the chairmanship to Mr. Pipak later this year as specified in the by-laws.