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Two first-year associates at Philadelphia area firms had their “Race to the Altar” come to a screeching halt — and it’s all due to the simple fact that they are lawyers. Jessica Coughlin and Scott Milner, the legal community’s latest reality television contestants, had an exciting, albeit brief, adventure on Wednesday’s premiere episode of NBC’s “Race to the Altar.” The show has eight engaged couples compete in a series of mental and physical challenges designed to “test the strength of their relationship.” One couple is eliminated each week until a final pair is awarded the grand prize — a fantasy wedding aired on national television and planned by “renowned event designer” Colin Cowie. Unfortunately, Coughlin, 25, and Milner, 26, will have to do without the fantasy and just have a regular, old-fashioned wedding — scheduled for May 1 — without Cowie’s input, as they were unceremoniously voted off the show by their fellow couples at the end of the first episode. Coughlin and Milner met while playing on the same intramural basketball team during their first year at Villanova University School of Law. They began dating the following summer and became engaged this past November. Now an associate in the corporate department at Fox Rothschild’s Exton, Pa., office, Coughlin was checking the weather forecast on NBC-10′s Web site earlier this year when she saw a pop-up advertisement for “Race to the Altar,” which was seeking recently engaged couples in the Philadelphia area. After filling out a form, Coughlin and Milner, who is now doing contract work for a large Philadelphia firm, attended a local interview session with 23 other couples. “We thought it would be the experience of a lifetime,” Milner said. “We had to do it when we were ultimately selected because we thought it would really test us and help our relationship.” After passing that test, the couple then had to submit a two-minute video explaining why they would make good contestants. Milner said the video depicts them in business suits running up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum with “The Eye of the Tiger” blaring in the background. As they ascended the steps made famous by Rocky Balboa, they shedded their suits in favor of athletic gear to symbolize “that we were smart and tough,” Milner said. Coughlin and Milner then reached the final selection process in which they flew to Los Angeles in April and interviewed with the show’s producers along with 14 other couples from around the country. Coughlin then decided the time was right to seek permission to appear on the show from Fox Rothschild executive partner Stanley Cohen and Exton office managing partner Michael McBratnie. “I don’t watch much television, and I never watch reality television,” said Al Riviezzo, the Fox Rothschild partner with whom she works most frequently. “I was just concerned that Jess would get herself into a situation where she was eating rodents or vermin. Something like that might reflect poorly on Jess, and secondarily, the firm. But we were given assurance that none of that would be happening.” After signing what Coughlin said was “the longest contract I’ve ever seen,” taping started in early May in Las Vegas. Knowing nothing about the rules or what to expect in the days ahead, Milner and Coughlin checked into a lavish hotel suite and began to get to know their fellow contestants. The first contest called for the couples to hang on to each other while dangling 100 feet off the ground and being pried apart by bungee cords. Coughlin and Milner finished in fourth place. The second contest was a knock-off of the “Newlywed Game,” where the women had to guess their mate’s answers to a series of “pre-nup” questions. Coughlin and Milner reached the final round before being eliminated. The couples that won the two contests were then deemed “power couples,” possessing the power to vote the first pair off the show. And after some heated deliberations, Coughlin and Milner were sent packing. One of the power couples said the two were selected partly because they were lawyers — Coughlin and Milner posed a threat due to their ability to be “manipulative” of other people. “Initially we were both very upset, and I think you saw some of that come out on the show,” Milner said. “But now that I have had some time to take a step back as a player in the game, I don’t really blame them. They were just playing the game. “But I do think people have misconceptions about lawyers — that they’ll do whatever they have to do to win. If I could do it again, I’d be unemployed and [Coughlin] would be a teacher.” Riviezzo brought himself to watch his prot�g�’s television debut and thought she acquitted herself nicely. He didn’t have much nice to say about their competition or the show itself, though. “It should be called ‘Race to the Remote,’” Riviezzo said. “I sort of saw [Coughlin and Milner being voted out] coming. The more I watched the show, the more I thought it’s not the kind of thing I wanted to see Jess get involved with. All of those alliances being formed and broken and all of the arguing. Still, I think what happened is a backhanded compliment to them and to lawyers. Because of their training, they were seen as a notch above [the other competitors]. So they were a threat.” When asked if he would do it again, Milner replied with an emphatic yes, saying that the couple met some great new friends. “We wanted the wedding of our dreams, but we’ll have a great wedding anyway,” Milner said. “The whole idea of doing the show was not to get the wedding [but rather] to test ourselves. We did that, and we had a great time doing it.”

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