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Connecticut firms undoubtedly lost recruits when they trailed well behind their Boston and New York competitors in ratcheting up first-year associate salaries two years ago. But with a slew of those top-paying firms now cutting back entry-level wages or laying off hordes of their rank-and-file lawyers, earning under $100,000 in smaller markets, like Connecticut, suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. At least, that’s what early indications from this fall’s recruiting season suggest. “Clearly, we are seeing extraordinary resumes and an increased number of candidates interested in Connecticut,” said William H. Prout, hiring attorney at New Haven-based Wiggin & Dana. “What’s going on in Boston is something that law students clearly are aware of.” LOOKING GOOD BY COMPARISON Many firms — such as Boston-based Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo — that made national headlines a few years ago when they upped the ante for new J.D.s to $130,000 or more, are now in a financial pinch, unable to shoulder those costs in an economic downturn. Earlier this month, Mintz Levin took the unusual step of extending $20,000 cash payments to more than a dozen first-year associates to walk away from job offers the firm made a year ago. Connecticut’s largest legal employers, meanwhile, kept their first-year base salaries under six figures during the recent boom years, and have thus far avoided wholesale layoffs. Though many of those firms have since trimmed the size of their summer programs a bit, this year’s crop of summer associates generally are faring fairly well in terms of being offered jobs. All seven second-year law students who interned in Day, Berry & Howard’s Hartford, Conn., office this summer were invited to come work at the firm next fall, according to hiring partner Paula Lacey Herman. (The firm doesn’t extend offers to first-year students.) Two of three second-year students in its Boston and Stamford, Conn., offices also made the cut, Herman said. As for other firms polled for this article, Shipman & Goodwin was a perfect eight for eight in extending job offers to its summer class; Murtha Cullina was seven for eight; and Robinson & Cole was five for seven, according to the Hartford-based firms’ hiring partners. Some firms, such as Wiggin & Dana, said they are still in the process of making their hiring decisions. HIGHER-CALIBER CANDIDATES Connecticut firms now seem in line to benefit from their salary decisions and the tight hiring market for incoming associates. For the first time, Harvard Law School is requesting Day Berry to send a second interviewer to its campus this fall to accommodate a surge in students seeking interviews with the firm for next year’s summer program, Herman said. “I don’t know if they are all interested” in interning at DBH’s Boston office, she noted. But even then, it would be a coup for the firm. Usually, Harvard law students looking to stay in Boston want to summer with the city’s top firms, she said. Wiggin & Dana also is receiving more interest this year from law students outside the state, according to Prout. One Washington, D.C., law school, whom Prout didn’t want to name, stands out in his mind. In the past, the firm has been lucky to get one or two promising candidates a year from the school to sign up for on-campus interviews. This year, however, its on-campus interviews at the school have produced five candidates whom the firm has invited to come to New Haven for a follow-up screening, he said.

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