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Barry Mills has the New York power-lawyer profile down cold. Deputy managing partner of Debevoise & Plimpton. A high-profile real estate practice with clients like J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. A luxurious Park Avenue apartment. And a wife with a job in a similar orbit. But there’s something distinctly un-Manhattanlike about Mills’ demeanor, and now he’ll find that useful in the job he starts this summer as president of his undergraduate alma mater, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. It’s the kind of career change that stressed-out lawyers everywhere dream of. Bowdoin, tucked into a pine grove in the small coastal community of 22,000, has an elite reputation as large as its 1,700-member student body is small. Debevoise colleagues say their plainspoken partner will fit in just fine. “He’s direct, practical, and informal,” says Martin “Rick” Evans, managing partner at Debevoise. “I think that all goes together to make him entirely approachable.” Don’t be too envious, cautions Mills, who insists that his Bowdoin job won’t just be witty intellectual banter and short workdays. “I’m a high-energy person, and I plan to bring that energy to Bowdoin,” he says, insisting that in effect he’s trading one full-throttle job for another. But Mills admits that he looks forward to Brunswick’s proximity to some of the best skiing in the East. And he concedes that the pace of decision making may be slower when Bowdoin replaces Debevoise and real estate dealmakers. The pay almost certainly will be different. Mills won’t give details, but Debevoise’s average profits per partner in last year’s Am Law 100[July 2000] of $1.25 million is about triple what Bowdoin paid Mills’ predecessor, Robert Edwards, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Bowdoin has not broken any new ground by appointing a big-firm lawyer as president. In 1946 one of Debevoise’s founding partners, William Stevenson, became the president of Oberlin College in Ohio, and in 1999 Thomas Schwarz, a partner at New York’s Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, was appointed acting president of Hamilton College in upstate New York. Both colleges join Bowdoin on a list of the most respected small liberal arts colleges. This time around, Bowdoin has chosen a lawyer who already had an academic bent. Debevoise was Mills’ first and only law job, for 22 years, but he started out on a different track. The Rhode Island native earned a Ph.D. in biology from Syracuse University and had first planned on a teaching career. “In grad school, I met people in big firms,” Mills says. “That life seemed to suit me.” So he went to Columbia Law School, on the way to Debevoise and New York real estate law. And now it’s time to gaze at a very different sort of real estate. The closest Mills may ordinarily come to his past life is knowing that now he’s in charge of Maine’s tallest building: a 16-story Bowdoin dormitory.

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