By MARTY LEVINE
Every legal drama, on big screen or little, seems to end up in the courtroom. But attorneys in Pitt’s Office of University Counsel — and, really, attorneys everywhere — mostly spend their working days making sure they don’t end up having to shout, “Your Honor!”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, in the University’s Office of University Counsel, Associate Legal Counsel Todd Brownfield and Assistant Legal Counsel Jason Jasko are still piling up the documents from home, often electronically, aiming for just the right words to ensure the University is protected.
Brownfield is a 14-year Pitt veteran, while Jasko just started in February and has now spent many more months working from home than he ever did in his Cathedral of Learning office.
“It hasn’t slowed down — if anything, it’s gotten worse in the amount of work,” says Brownfield, who says he has retreated to his basement, ceding the rest of his house to his wife and three kids, who are in high school and college. Jasko is sheltering with his fiancée and new Lakeland terrier puppy, who is a pain in the ankles, he says.
Their focus is the University’s business and operations side, with Brownfield concentrating on real estate and construction agreements, such as the roadway and utility improvements for Bigelow Boulevard, purchasing the Twentieth Century Club, and leasing property throughout Oakland. Jasko assists with this and has his own focus on the University’s taxes, affiliation agreements and more academic work.
“The biggest change for me as a new employee,” Jasko says, “is how to get questions answered as to policies and procedures for how we’re doing things at the office. Now we have to make a concerted effort … to make sure you’re on the right path in the way you handle things.”
The Office of University Counsel also has been involved in advising the University about how to handle the pandemic as well as on its plans to open back up.
The basic job, Brownfield says, is “trying to make sure that the document fits the situation … to protect the University with contractual language that is beneficial to it.”
He recalls the very complicated transactions in Shadyside last year for renovations to create the Innovation Hub, housing the Immune Transplant and Therapy Center, at 5051 Centre Ave., which involved multiple leases and “feet-thick” closing documents, he says. “It can get pretty mind-numbing at times.”
But working from home and juggling multiple projects, he says “is just another challenge that has to be thought about and managed.”
“It’s been a great experience, even in this odd and trying time,” Jasko says.
Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-758-4859.
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