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Philadelphia City Solicitor Nelson Diaz has hired 14 recent law school graduates to help staff the law department for one year. The new city employees are part of the inaugural year of the Mayor John F. Street Honors Program, which places fledgling lawyers with successful academic careers into the city’s law offices. In part, Diaz said, the program arose out of the need to keep local law school graduates in Philadelphia. Diaz developed the program in response to the high number of professionals who leave Philadelphia for other cities, such as New York and Washington — an occurrence dubbed the “brain drain effect.” “The fact is that we have a real lack of young talent within the law department, meaning recent graduates,” said Diaz, who began working on the program as soon as he became city solicitor late last year. “The only way to build the law department is to get people here early, within their first five years.” A number of attorneys currently employed by the law department, he said, spend the majority of their legal careers in the city solicitor’s office. So, retaining top-notch law school graduates is imperative in staffing the law department, he said. Diaz said that the current state of the economy has led to large firms hiring fewer associates — which has also allowed the law department to attract top-notch law students. “The fact that law firms are not hiring in the same scope that they were hiring in the ’90s gives me an opportunity to hire some of the individuals who have incredible GPAs and who have demonstrated a public service interest,” Diaz said. “I don’t have to compete as much with the $150,000 salaries.” Having the new lawyers start their positions at the same time could also aid in retaining them, Diaz said. “This gives a cohesiveness among the class. They all come in together. They are all trained together. In the past, people just got hired as vacancies occurred,” he said. This year’s participants, selected from a pool of more than 130 applicants, are Joseph P. Bradica, Temple University Beasley School of Law; Mia V. Carpiniello, Georgetown University Law Center; Gabriel Joseph Chorno, Dickinson School of Law of Pennsylvania State University; Michele L.P. Dean, Duke University School of Law; Christopher Durso, Temple; Karlene Edwards, Villanova University School of Law; Hercules W. Grigos, Widener School of Law; Gregory O’Neal Girdy, Widener; Douglas Kubinski, May Mon Post, Leonard F. Reuter, Ryan Andrew Silverman, Joshua M. Stein and Elijah J. Waterman, all of Temple, were chosen for the honor. Each applicant was interviewed by various members of the law department, who then narrowed the field to 21. Diaz then selected the 14 individuals he felt would be the best match for the office. The law department gave each hire only a one-year commitment, Diaz said, because next year’s budget is not yet certain. The department was able to hire 14 lawyers this year, he said, because of the past year’s attrition rate. While he said that the program would exist next year, he was not certain how many lawyers the law department would be able to hire. The recipients were honored last week by Street and Diaz at a news conference announcing the creation of the program. More than 155 lawyers work in the law department. The city solicitor’s office also offers summer internships to law school students, and, after graduation, several of these interns are hired by the office for full-time employment.

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