Letters to the Business Editor

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Teens need to work

Kudos to Ann Belser for her March 13 article, “Pittsburgh teens looking for jobs face competition from all generations,” which echoes what many have known for some time — employment opportunities for young people are quickly eroding. In the last decade, youth employment in Allegheny County has decreased by more than 50 percent, the number of summer jobs by 63 percent. Without opportunities to learn to work by working, young people will lack the skills they need to successfully enter and stay in the workforce.

It’s only in the workplace that young people learn the responsibility and accountability that will help set them on the path to a successful career. Equally critical is that the region’s workforce is getting older, and when these workers retire, they will take with them a lifetime of skills, knowledge and experience that employers will struggle to replace.

Understanding and bridging that disconnect has been the focus of numerous youth-focused collaborations throughout Pittsburgh and Allegheny County and is at the core of 3 Rivers Workforce Investment Board’s WorkReady® Pittsburgh summer internship program. Through WorkReady, young people are placed into six-week, paid corporate internships with regional employers in key industries such as energy, finance and health care. The interns bring creativity, fresh ideas and a hunger to learn. Employers invest in their talent pipeline and support regional economic vitality. It’s a winning combination for our children, our employers and our region.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, in a recent address to the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce, challenged employers to offer real-world work opportunities to the youngest of workers and ensure our region’s continued economic strength.

We couldn’t agree more, Mr. Fitzgerald. We owe it to our region and our children to ensure they are well prepared to enter the workforce.

Stefani Pashman

CEO, Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board

Pretrial costs high

In lamenting that there are fewer opportunities to be in the courtroom because more cases are being settled, (“Alternative dispute resolutions leave fewer courtroom opportunities for lawyers” March 25) many trial lawyers seem to ignore a primary reason why so few cases go to trial — the exorbitant cost of preparing a case for trial, especially a case in which the amount in controversy is less than the cost of pretrial discovery. As a mediator in federal and state courts, I frequently use the high cost of preparing for trial as incentive for parties to settle, by observing that a guaranteed outcome from paying an opponent the fees and expenses that would otherwise be spent in preparing for trial is preferable to absorbing those costs without knowing what a jury will eventually decide.

If the high cost of pretrial discovery is a primary reason why parties avoid going to trial, perhaps lawyers should be looking for ways to reduce those costs, instead of ways to make pre-trial discovery more expansive and in turn more expensive. Instead of developing procedural rules that permit more invasive discovery in lawsuits where the amount in dispute cannot justify the expense, the judicial system should be considering ways to streamline pre-trial preparations and to reduce the cost of discovery in cases that do not involve a king’s ransom. If procedures allowing production of extensive documents, oppressive written interrogatories, and relentless depositions were limited to litigation where the disputed amount justified them, parties to lawsuits involving smaller stakes would be more willing to allow a judge or jury decide their fate, rather than rationalizing settlements as ways to avoid the disproportionate cost of pretrial discovery.

While our judicial system has trended away from trials where parties walk into a courtroom without first having reviewed every conceivable document and without first having deposed every possible witness, that approach to lawsuits was once prevalent in this county and no one complained of it being unjust or unreasonably expensive. Our current system of settling cases because of the disproportionate cost of pretrial discovery does not necessarily yield results that are any more just or fair and does not give trial lawyers a chance to develop or to demonstrate their courtroom skills.

Arthur H. Stroyd Jr.

Former president of the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County and of the Allegheny County Bar Association and a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers.

 


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