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In his federal courts and the federal system class last Monday, Harvard Law School Professor Richard H. Fallon lectured on two landmark Supreme Court rulings arising from Pennsylvania cases — 1938′s Erie v. Tompkins and 1961′s U.S. v. Clearfield. But as the students in the class — most of them third-years, many of them members of the prestigious Harvard Law Review — furiously scribbled in their notebooks or clicked away on their laptops, few, if any, gave a thought to actually practicing law in the Keystone State. Founded in 1817, Harvard Law School is the oldest of its kind in the nation. With 1,900 students, it is among the largest in the country, and along with Yale, Stanford and the University of Chicago, one of the most prestigious. But only a scant few of its graduates come to practice law in Philadelphia, the nation’s fifth-largest city and one of its most active legal communities. “Philadelphia has always had a reputation as an inferior city,” said Emily Pollack, a first-year student at HLS who attended the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate. “You have New York and D.C., and Philadelphia is sandwiched between the two. It’s like ‘Why did you go to Philadelphia if you’re so close to these major cities?’ “ That question is not always so easily answered for students at Harvard Law, who can boast about having their pick of jobs at firms in New York, Washington and San Francisco. While starting salaries at the top Philadelphia firms are $10,000 to $30,000 below those at their New York counterparts, the cost of living in the Delaware Valley is also significantly lower. Local firms also tout lower billable-hour requirements and a better quality of life. Nevertheless, those arguments do not seem to resonate very well. Only six of the current crop of 550 third-years at Harvard Law signed on to work in Philadelphia’s biggest firms after graduation, according to a Legal Intelligencer survey published in February. That figure is up from two in 2000 but down from seven in 1999. Fewer than 10 second-years will come to Philadelphia as summer associates this year, according to the survey. This situation is not particular to Harvard either. Yale and Stanford are not sending any students to this fall’s associate class, while Columbia, NYU, Virginia and Michigan are contributing only one each to Philadelphia. Most students at Harvard Law see other locations, particularly New York, as more exciting and filled with greater opportunities. It’s a common perception, they say, that is not easily dispelled. “At this school, there’s a push to go to the major legal markets,” said Andrew Gurman, a third-year student from southern New Jersey who will practice employment law at New York’s Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett after clerking next year. “People have the sense that there are only five cities in the world. It’s really prestige-driven.” Added 1996 Harvard Law grad Jennifer Lowman, a Pennsylvania native who spent a year at Dechert before moving into public interest work: “I don’t think people have the understanding that there are a lot of great law firms in Philadelphia. … What people know about Philadelphia is Rocky running up the steps and the MOVE bombing.” Where hiring partners at local firms say they have the greatest success overcoming those stereotypes is with students who have spent significant time in Philadelphia, either from having grown up or gone to college in the area. “One of the things all these firms struggle with is getting people who don’t have any previous connection with Philadelphia to come to Philadelphia,” Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll hiring partner Mark Stewart said. “It’s fair to say New York does not have that problem.” According to Mark Weber, the director of career services at Harvard Law School, most of the students who practice in secondary markets like Philadelphia do so because they grew up in the area. Many, too, will begin by practicing in New York or San Francisco and then return home when they feel it is time to settle down and begin thinking of things like buying a home and starting a family. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius hiring partner Joseph Costello has noticed that in his own recruiting efforts. “It’s our job to just convince people you can have an exciting, vibrant practice in Philadelphia and that Philadelphia is a better place to live,” he said. “Some students aren’t responsive to that pitch until they’ve spent a couple years in New York. … I think the Philadelphia lifestyle advantage resonates more with those candidates than with those kids coming out of school.” According to Pollack, the Harvard Law first-year, part of the appeal of New York is exactly that — the ability to lateral to a Philadelphia firm after a few years because going in the opposite direction, from a small market to a large one, is much more difficult. Pollack herself turned down offers from three large Philadelphia firms to spend her summer at New York’s Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. And even while Pollack, who graduated from Penn last year, may be very familiar with Philadelphia’s unique charms, she cautioned that others may be skeptical of arguments concerning Philadelphia’s superior quality of life. “There’s a sense you’d be trading off the quality of work for those other things,” she said. “People are apprehensive about that.”

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