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Rhode Island is holding its own when it comes to recruiting top law talent against big city competition from other states. Joseph DeAngelis, managing partner of Tillinghast Licht Perkins Smith & Cohen in Providence, R.I., asserts that he interviewed a candidate recently from a major national law firm with great credentials who refused to work in Boston because he preferred Providence. Many people choose to come to Providence because they have Rhode Island connections. Their spouse or relatives may be from the area or they may have gained a fondness for the city when they attended school there, according to hiring partners and managing partners at some of Rhode Island’s larger law firms. Law firms across Rhode Island offer new associates salaries ranging from $70,000 to $80,000, a much lower starting base than the $100,000 to $140,000 they could earn in Boston or New York firms. Lawyers who choose to practice in Rhode Island, however, do benefit from a lower cost of living, they said. DeAngelis said he will be hiring eight new associates in the coming year and has no problem attracting candidates. The approximately three interns the firm hires per summer often return as full-time employees. Associates receive bonuses at the end of the year for their productivity and are eligible to get a percentage of fees for generating new clients for the firm. With those incentives, DeAngelis asserts that associates can easily look at earning six-figure incomes. David J. Rubin, hiring partner at Providence’s Hinckley, Allen & Snyder, said his firm has also had a steady flow of applicants. The firm will be hiring two first-year associates in September. ECONOMY A FACTOR Rubin said the economy has changed some of the old ways of doing business. Lawyers aren’t staying at one firm for their entire career any longer. Just like other industries, the legal profession has seen its employees become free agents. This trend has benefited many firms who have hired lawyers with a few years of experience. “Sometimes, [lawyers] have an interest in moving from one city to another. Also, they have the perception that they can make more money elsewhere. Moving from job to job has become more frequent,” Rubin said. James R. McGuirk, hiring partner at Edwards & Angell in Providence, said he hates to see those associates leave. “We invest a lot of time and money training these people,” McGuirk said. “We try to have them stay around.” McGuirk said the inevitable has happened at his firm. Over the past 18 months, four associates left the Providence firm for better offers in Boston. Many were lured to provide counsel for high-tech companies who would give the lawyers $30,000 raises as well as stock options. Edwards & Angell tries to sell associates on the cost of living in Providence being substantially less than in Boston. The $80,000 a year new associates receive can go a lot further in Rhode Island, he said. To keep new associates from going elsewhere, his firm has tried to reach out to them, McGuirk said. “We try to keep them involved in the social aspects of the firm. We try to provide a more collegial environment and we try to make the firm fit in more with their lifestyle,” McGuirk said. SUPPORT FOR LAW STUDENTS Harvey Rishikof, dean of the Roger Williams University School of Law, said Rhode Island firms have been supporting the law students by offering scholarships and internship opportunities. Roger Williams’ law graduates have done well finding employment — especially in the areas of intellectual property and health care law, he said. Although Rhode Island will attract and employ many of the school’s alumni, Rishikof said the students are prepared to enter the national marketplace. Some Roger Williams students might have gotten turned on to working in the public area from their law school experience. Students must complete 20 hours of mandatory public service before they graduate. There, the glamour of stock options does not exist. Robert M. Barge, executive director of Rhode Island Legal Services, said new public sector lawyers could expect to receive $30,000 a year. Most of these lawyers want to be working in legal services and some come from private practices, he said. Barge’s office hired two new lawyers at the end of last year, receiving about 50 resumes per job opening. Deputy Rhode Island Attorney General Gerald J. Coyne said his office can only hire to fill vacancies but has added about 10 new employees (including support staff) in the past couple of years. New lawyers who work for the attorney general’s office can expect to earn about $39,000 a year. Coyne said when lawyers are working doing something they enjoy, the lack of money becomes something they can deal with. According to Coyne, 27 members of the department (or 12 percent) previously served as interns. Also, throughout the last two Rhode Island attorney general transitions, 86 percent of the staff stayed on. As the attorney general’s office has become less political and more professional, employees have felt that their needs were met and they were treated with respect, Coyne said. Although the economy is said to be cooling down, managing and hiring partners note it’s too early to tell how it will affect the job market for lawyers. Many firms are expecting to hire the same number of lawyers this year that they did last year. McGuirk said it’s still a seller’s market, with new lawyers holding all the cards, but the cycle could reverse. “Job markets go in cycles. There was an overabundance of lawyers in the early ’90s,” McGuirk said.

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