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It Had to be Hinckley Allen: A Conversation with Thomas J. Pagliarini

Tom Pagliarini started as an associate at Hinckley Allen in 2017, but his experience with the firm actually began over a decade ago. Here he shares his unique path with the firm, what influenced his decision to focus on labor and employment law, and what is unique about the firm’s approach to that practice.

Tell us about your first job at Hinckley Allen.

It’s kind of a funny story. Hinckley Allen was my first real office job the summer after my freshman year of college. I had no idea what a lawyer really did, but I always wanted to go to law school. I found a Super Lawyers® feature in the back of a Rhode Island monthly magazine and then hand delivered resumes at the top law firms in Rhode Island, even though there were not any openings posted. Hinckley Allen was the only firm that got back to me regarding a potential opportunity for an undergrad. I started off in the copier room of the Providence office. I then worked my way around covering for other office assistants in litigation, real estate, and corporate. Today, my boss from that job is now the assistant that I work with. I think it says a lot that the same people I worked with 13 years ago are still at the firm.

Why did you choose to focus on labor and employment law?

Before law school, I interned in human resources, so I think my interest in labor and employment is a natural offshoot of those experiences. In HR, you get a broad view of what the business does and how you can support the business. Human resources touches every part of a business. I like getting to know the inner workings of a company and then being able to holistically advise an organization.

Tell us about your work at Hinckley Allen.

I started my career as a general litigator and have experience handling a wide variety of matters which can be helpful in identifying different issues clients may have and putting them in touch with the right specialists at our firm. Now my practice focuses primarily on labor and employment, which rolls up into the litigation group. I work on all types of employment-related disputes such as discrimination and wage hour complaints by individual employees and similar complaints on a class action basis. We also handle trade secret and restrictive covenant disputes, and really any dispute that concerns the employment relationship. Additionally, a large part of our practice deals with advising management on compliance with various state, federal, and local laws relating to employment and drafting various employment-related documents. On those types of matters, we want to help companies comply with whatever requirements are out there to keep them from litigation.

How does your practice in labor and employment relations work with the corporate group?

I think something that is unique to Hinckley Allen’s employment practice is that we are situated in a general practice firm, so we do help the other practice groups frequently, especially the corporate team on the labor and employment aspects of corporate transactions and other corporate actions (including mergers, acquisitions, sales, and restructurings). In corporate transactions, we will often help with the compliance and due diligence aspects of those deals.

Many labor and employment firms are boutique firms that only work on litigation, so it’s a unique thing that we get to do here. It’s a nice compliment to have a practice that deals with both corporate and litigation work.

How has the pandemic affected your practice?

In a lot of ways, this time has been a blank slate because no one had ever dealt with some of these types of issues before. We certainly couldn’t ask lawyers from the early 1900s what they did during the Spanish flu. We would often have to advise clients quickly using our professional judgment trying to take into account constantly new and changing information.

The labor and employment team and members from our corporate group were also analyzing monumental pieces of legislation and accompanying regulations, like the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, all in real time and quickly collaborating to provide advice to clients.

The pandemic created an entirely new work environment, and I think that moving forward we’ll see organizations making changes because they learned some positive lessons from COVID-19 like allowing more remote work and more flexibility. Employers are also trying to navigate vaccination requirements, masking, and more.