Home > Andrea Clark Smith is the Vice President, Employment and Labor Group and Senior Associate Counsel for UPMC

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PUM Black History Salutes: Andrea Clark Smith is the Vice President, Employment and Labor Group and Senior Associate Counsel for UPMC


Andrea Clark Smith is the Vice President, Employment and Labor Group and Senior Associate Counsel for UPMC.  At UPMC, Andrea leads a team of immigration, employment and labor law specialists on all legal matters that govern the employer/employee relationship, including equal employment law, wage and hour law and union related labor law.  Andrea began her career as a labor and employment attorney in Pittsburgh, first with the law firm Reed Smith, then with the labor and employment boutique law firm Jackson Lewis.  Later she became in house employment law counsel to Rockwell International before joining American Airlines in Fort Worth, TX as the Managing Director, Employment Law Counselor. A Pittsburgh native, Andrea graduated from Spelman College with a BA in English and earned her Juris Doctorate at Emory Law School in Atlanta, GA. Public service is important to Andrea.  In addition to recently finishing a stint as Board Member and Chair of the Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Committee on the Board of Trustees for Dance USA, a national trade association addressing issues affecting the professional dance community, Andrea is also on the Board of Directors for the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh.  She and her husband, Demetrius, have two daughters. Andrea’s hobbies are sports, cooking, and travel.


PUM: Tell us more about your position at UPMC and what do you enjoy most about your career?


Andrea: I’m a senior associate counsel and vice president of the employment and labor group at UPMC. In my position, I lead a team of labor, employment and immigration attorneys and paralegals, in support of all the UPMC businesses.


We provide advice, counsel and litigation support for any issue that involves an employee, with the exception of workers compensation and employee benefits.


In-house lawyers, are in a unique position to help their organizations work through any questions or concerns and essentially help build employee-friendly, comprehensive, and responsive policies, programs, and procedures that are consistent with the law.


What I love most about my role is that it’s more preventative than reactive- helping to build and correct issues long before they come up or go into any type of dispute. Also, we get an opportunity to educate our managers on laws and policies, so they are better equipped to perform their jobs.


PUM: What really made a difference in your life to help you become successful? Your formula for success?


Andrea: The overwhelming support I received from my family, teachers, and inner-city Pittsburgh community contributed to my success in a major way.


My teachers within Pittsburgh Public Schools advocated for me and assisted my parents with finding gifted courses, scholars programs, and advanced studies to ensure I remained challenged and engaged.


As for a formula for success, I’d have to say that I’m intentional about managing my fears such as failure, the unknown, and new challenges. It’s natural to have these kinds of fears, but I work hard to not let them not stop me from achieving my goal or a task- regardless of whether I know exactly what I’m doing or not.


You need that kind of fearlessness to really go after what you want in life.


PUM: What sort of advice do you have for people interested in pursuing careers like yours?


Andrea: My advice would be to focus on what you want and put in the time necessary to learn your trade. Operate like a sponge, soaking up all the information you can- constantly observing and listening.


In the legal field, there are a lot of long hours and late nights, especially early career, so be prepared to work hard and work smart.


One must also be willing to move for the right opportunity and not let geography become a barrier.


As a lawyer, we interact with people often. It’s important to be able to develop relationships with others- instructors, clients, peers, supervisors, and those who report to you.


Listen and pay attention. Being aware of yourself and your surroundings helps develop your intuition, which is key for when you’re uncertain about the best next step.


Finally, I’d advise one to exercise good judgement and make wise decisions. At times, you’ll be asked to offer a recommendation based on your expertise and provide direction on what options should be considered.


PUM: What sort of challenges do you face and how do you overcome some of your obstacles?


Andrea: As a Black female lawyer, some of the challenges I face are managing the initial reactions and low expectations of people who don’t expect to see me in a senior level role within the legal field.


There are also challenges in figuring out how to present myself as someone who should be where I am and should be listened to. It’s especially important to make sure others understand how I view an issue because I’m sitting at a table with colleagues who are very confident in their own voices.


Early in my career, I dealt with the challenge of finding ways to establish myself as an authority on a topic without being condescending, arrogant or combative.


To combat all of these obstacles, I hone in on my craft by putting in the time to understand the topic of discussion, the issues, paying attention, and learning how to read a room.   I also make an effort to engage new people on non-work related topics, first, as an ice breaker.


Another lesson I learned when starting out in my career, is that there may be times when you find your job isn’t as challenging as it used to be. Instead of focusing solely on your career and waiting for what’s next, why not use that period as a time to take advantage of the other things you want in life? Channel your energy in other ways that will make you a well-rounded person like volunteering, traveling, spending more time with family/friends, or discovering a hobby.


PUM: How do you celebrate Black History month and what are some significant events and milestones in U.S. Black history that you reflect on during this time?


Andrea: I attended a historically Black college and university where we learned that every month is Black History Month, so I’m constantly reflecting on our history and the milestones we’ve achieved and how far we have to go.


Lately, I’ve been focusing heavily on the Voting Rights Act, Thurgood Marshall and the work done by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (the legal arm of the NAACP), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Congressman John Lewis. Remembering their work reinforces my personal obligation to exercise the civil rights that so many peopled worked so hard for (and sometimes died for).


Voting, in particular, is exceptionally important to me.  Given the current political climate and desire for dramatic change in our country, I’m concerned with making sure that all citizens get an opportunity to exercise their right to have their voices heard and their best interests represented. 


PUM: Who are some of the African Americans that you feel have positively helped to contribute to Black history? How have they influenced and motivated you to make a difference in our world?


Andrea: Besides those already mentioned, I am also drawn to people who highlight their frustrations and bring light to issues through their artistry, including storytelling and music. James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Marvin Gaye, Mahalia Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, India.Arie, Public Enemy, and Tupac Shakur – all used their talents to reflect what was going in the world and how everyday people felt about it.


Messages delivered through avenues where one is best at can’t be missed. This motivates me to research issues I find concerning, articulate what I’m thinking, and use my own platform and talents to bring about change.


Diversity is a word often used in corporate America. What are your thoughts about diversity in the workplace, and how it is implemented in your particular field?


Andrea: My entire career is dedicated to supporting and advocating for equal treatment, equal opportunity, and equal access. It’s what we as employment lawyers do- make sure laws that govern this space are applied and adhered to.


Equality is an element of inclusion and to be successful in inclusion, we must be diverse.  I believe that successful companies who have the best ideas are able to understand all angles of a particular issue because they have a variety of people at the table who bring their unique experiences, backgrounds, and influences into the discussion.  Our experiences influence the way we identify, analyze and ultimately resolve issues because those experiences cause us to see problems differently.


We can’t implement diversity if we don’t treat all people the same way, give them the same opportunities, or allow them the same benefits and access to resources (products, tools, information). 




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