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According to many firm managers, finding enough qualified associates to handle the workflow is hard. All the same, they grouse at the high salaries they’ve been forced to cough up to keep junior lawyers; they’re afraid to pass on the cost to clients. Enter project finance lawyer George P. Haley, a partner at San Francisco-based Pillsbury Madison & Sutro L.L.P. He says that there’s a way to ease the crunch, adding talented, experienced lawyers at lower than first-year costs and adding diversity to a group’s expertise at the same time. The trick, he says, is to find foreign lawyers, studying in the United States, whose visas allow them to get a year of practical experience. “The salary for young lawyers is going up,” he says. “One of the things we’ve been trying to do is see if foreign lawyers can do some of the work better.” Haley stumbled onto the arrangement a few years ago, through a client’s general counsel who was serving a stint as a law professor in the Czech Republic. A student of his was planning to get her L.L.M. at the University of San Francisco, and the client recommended that Pillsbury hire her. Haley did. “It happens that we do a fair amount of work in the Czech Republic,” he says. Not only was she helpful in the project finance area, but she also did due diligence on Czech documents for a deal being put together by lawyers in the corporate practice area. And even with work that wasn’t related to Czech matters, the student performed at a level between a legal assistant and first-year associate, Haley says. Since then, he says of foreign law students, “We’ve kind of made it a policy to have at least one all the time that is assigned to the project finance” group. “We think it’s an efficient way to find people to help out our practice.” It’s efficient because the firm pays these lawyers less than incoming associates, reflecting the learning curve they face, Haley says. Usually, it’s more than they’re making, or expect to make, in their own countries. And the firm can bill them out at lower rates than associates, even though clients are getting highly qualified lawyers. “The clients always like a good deal,” Haley says. Word has gotten out, and the firm doesn’t have to do much recruiting to find students, he says: “We get a flood of r�sum�s from people who are here and want to get some training.” Sometimes, foreign students’ backgrounds are as helpful as their legal training. The firm hired a French lawyer a few years back, just when lawyers on one project faced some complicated questions of French law, Haley says: “It was extremely beneficial to have her here because she could communicate with the French lawyers.” But students aren’t always hired for their linguistic and cultural knowledge. The group’s newest hire is a lawyer from Turkey, who practiced for nearly a decade in her country before coming here to earn her L.L.M. Haley’s second choice was a candidate from Japan, a country where the firm has much more work. But, he says, “this woman from Turkey looked so smart and experienced that I thought she was the one we should hire.” Her first project, he says, will be to help an international client consolidate a number of subsidiaries. All candidates must have a good command of English, Haley says. And a key to successful hiring is worrying about visa issues before they arise. So if a student is here on a visa that allows a year of experience and the firm wants to extend his or her stay, that has to be worked out ahead of time.

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