Heather Cooper said her law firm didn’t set out to buy local, but spotted a deal it couldn’t pass up.
Cooper is the managing partner of Facey, Goss & McPhee, which has taken on four new associates, all newly minted lawyers who grew up in the Rutland area and are returning having finished law school. Vanessa Robertson, Kylie Peterson, Toni Girardi and Tori Hone are the firm’s entire bench of associates - or will be once Robertson and Hone are sworn in as lawyers next month.
“We are always expanding, especially for talented, smart people,” Cooper said. “It wasn’t intentional for us to hire four at the same time — they were extremely talented candidates and they wanted to come back.”
Cooper noted that the hiring strongly shifted the gender balance at the firm — she had been the sole woman among seven partners.
“I think it’s really important and inspiring for me to work at a firm with a female managing partner,” Girardi said.
Robertson, 25, was youngest person ever recorded to serve on the Board of Aldermen when she was elected in 2016. She stepped down the following year to go to law school in New Hampshire, and said it was always her plan to come back home when she finished.
“Growing up here, it’s such a small, close-knit community,” she said.
Also, Robertson said she wanted to keep living the outdoorsy lifestyle that defines the area for many, with hiking and skiing.
“It’s just a really pleasant place to grow up, and that’s what I wanted when I finished law school,” she said.
Peterson, 27, went farther afield than Robertson, to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, which she attended as an undergraduate and for law school.
“I love this area,” she said. “I have family in this area, a close-knit church community. For me it was an easy decision to come back.”
Girardi said she never really left. The 27-year-old West Rutlander started college at UVM before transferring to Castleton University to be closer to her family because of her father’s medical issues. She went to Vermont Law School and interned at the Rutland County State’s Attorney’s office.
“I think I considered at some point going away to law school,” she said. “If you are going to practice in Vermont, there’s sometimes a geographical tie.”
Girardi said going to law school in the area you plan to practice makes it easier to develop contacts, which she did first in her internship and then more clerking for Judge Geoffrey Crawford. Experience in the area, she said, made it easier to get a job in the area.
Hone, 28, doesn’t have quite the same local ties as the other three — she came to Vermont to attend Killington Mountain School while her mother was living in Florida. Hone said she has long felt like a Vermonter.
“Since I was 16, the only driver’s license I’ve had is a Vermont driver’s license,” she said.
Hone did her undergraduate and law school work at Northeastern University in Boston, but said she wanted to come back to Vermont to practice.
“You experience a wider range of law because you’re not put into a niche like you are in Boston,” she said. “There are unique laws to the state of Vermont that make it a different place to practice, like Act 250.”
Hone also said the state has a more closely knit bar association.
“It has a small-town feel and you get to learn from the other members of your community,” she said.
The quartet is active in the community as well, serving on local and regional boards ranging from the Rutland Young Professionals and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to BROC.
All four said it was an especially good time to be in Vermont with the way the state was weathering the pandemic, and Robertson said she was particularly proud to be back in Rutland.
“Rutland’s always a fighter,” she said. “There’s nothing Rutland can’t face that it’s not going to come out better.”