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The plaintiffs’ bar has never wooed top law students the way big defense firms have. The wealthiest plaintiffs’ firms have traditionally hired burned-out associates away from the Lathams and LeBoeufs. And the smaller shops have never exactly had the budgets to fly to Cambridge, Mass., or Charlottesville, Va., every hiring season. But an enterprising tandem of third-year Harvard law students is using technology to bring students and the plaintiffs’ bar closer together. The duo, Danny Grooms and Clare Connors, have set up a Web site, www.justadvocates.com, that lets plaintiffs’ firms post job listings suitable for entry-level attorneys. The site also gives students a forum to swap tips on how to land jobs representing plaintiffs. The site was rolled out in January. In its current form, the site doesn’t feature the latest and greatest in Web site technology. But the site is enormously functional. Students can search the list of more than 500 firms by location or by type of practice. In seconds, an aspiring Melvin Belli can find the handful of firms that, say, handle medical malpractice work in Detroit and are at least willing to think about hiring law students, like Charfoos & Christensen. Take the Deans. Jud Dean graduated from Duke University’s law school in 2000. Michele Dean, Jud’s wife, finishes this spring. Both are looking for jobs at Philadelphia-area plaintiffs’ firms. “When we started looking last year, it was hard,” says Jud. “We were literally doing blind Web searches and cold calling.” Then, in January, Duke’s placement office told Jud about the Web site. “Within weeks, we had interviews lined up,” he says. Plaintiffs’ firms are also catching on. Melvyn Weiss of New York’s Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach calls the site “a wonderful thing to happen to Harvard.” And Elizabeth Cabraser of the San Francisco-based plaintiffs’ firm Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein says her firm is getting more resumes than ever. “In part that’s due to [justadvocates],” she says. Grooms and Connors dreamed up the idea as students in Professor Jon Hanson’s corporations class. Each year, Hanson asks his students to come up with business ideas that would be useful to the school. The class votes for the idea it deems the best. “Danny and Clare’s won [in 2000] because their idea services a dire need,” says Hanson. “And that is giving our students a broader range of options.” After the contest, Hanson got in touch with some bankers from Goldman Sachs and some lawyers from New York’s Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. Before long, Grooms and Connors were co-CEOs of an incorporated company, Punctilio Inc. (Yes, legal history buffs, the name comes from Justice Cardozo’s famous quote on the fiduciary duty of corporations.) Incorporation wasn’t a totally academic exercise. “We think we can make money with this,” says Grooms. Punctilio has already received sponsorships from Lieff Cabraser and Milberg Weiss. The company will also charge law firms a fee to view students’ resumes (which likely will vary from $100 to more than $1,000, says Grooms). And Punctilio hopes to make more by coordinating plaintiffs’ bar-related events at law schools. For now, Grooms says that “all the money is going back into the company.” Both Grooms and Connors are clerking for federal judges next year — Grooms in Florida and Connors in Hawaii. Both will continue to help run the company and the site. But Grooms concedes he’d like the soul of the company to stay at Harvard. “Ideally, we’d like to see justadvocates societies crop up at law schools everywhere.” And so would trial lawyers.

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