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Trio of URI graduates start Providence-based law firm

By Allison Farrelly
On March 6, 2013

Eight months ago, three University of Rhode Island graduates made the decision to become their own bosses and open a law firm upon graduation from Roger Williams University law school in May 2012.

Jonathan Whaley, Lisa Bowie, and James Bagley started Whaley, Bowie & Bagley Legal, a Providence based legal company, in hopes of jumping the corporate ladder by starting a small business and working for themselves.

"I think a lot of it had to do with the job market," Bowie said. "We were all near the top of our class in law school, and when we got to the last year and started looking for jobs there wasn't much around and it got frustrating."

The original idea for the firm was introduced by Whaley, who was close friends with Bagley from their work on RWU's mock trial team. Whaley added Bowie to the equation and after a few beers, WBB Legal was born.

"Here we are almost a year later and we're going strong," Whaley said. "It's stressful, challenging and scary, but its rewarding at the same time."

Despite the unanimous consent in their decision to start a small business, the partners will readily admit that this has been a learning experience.

"Its tough because you're learning how to be a lawyer and a business person at the same time, and none of us really had any experience with small business," Whaley said. "We're learning how to be our own bosses, partners in business, and how to talk to customers and conduct ourselves in a court room at the same time."

Though WBB Legal is equipped with the skills to deal with many different types of law, the main types of cases they've seen so far are family, criminal defense, DUI, and landlord/tenant.

Despite the challenges, the partners at WWB Legal are starting to see the "light at the end of the tunnel," Whaley said.

In addition to being business associates, Whaley, Bagley, and Bowie all have a deep amount of respect for the work the others are doing.

"We're all very intelligent in our own way," Whaley said. "Jim [Bagley] definitely brings a sense of humor and a personality to keep things light even when we go through stressful times. He's very passionate and a hard worker."

"John [Whaley] is the workhorse of the group," Bowie said. "He's the one who at the beginning, even when we only had one or two cases, came in every day at nine and stayed the whole day."

"Bowie is one of the smartest people I've ever met," Bagley said. "She has an ability to dissect problems and offer insightful analysis on how to deal with them."

The trio did not attend URI at the same time, with Bagley graduating in 2005, Bowie in 2008, and Whaley in 2009. However, the partners all feel that they use the skills they got from their undergraduate education on a daily basis.

Bowie and Whaley graduated with degrees in wildlife and conservation biology and business administration, respectively, while Bagley graduated with a degree in theatre.

"I think that my theatre background has definitely helped me with law," Bagley said. "From the start I was comfortable getting up and talking in front of people, which is something not many of my peers were able to do."

Despite the versatility their undergraduate majors have given them, law school was not where any of the partners saw themselves heading while at URI. "[If someone had told me while I was at URI that I was going to go to law school] I would have told them they drank too much," Bowie said.

Whaley has stayed involved with URI since graduation through his spot on Sigma Pi fraternity's housing corporation. Whaley is a brother of Sigma Pi from his time at URI.

"If anyone considers going to law school and wants to chit-chat and get some dos and don'ts, feel free to give us a call," Whaley said.

WBB Legal hopes to keep ties with URI and help students with their legal troubles in the future.

"We hope to relate to kids at URI a little more because we've been there and anything they can get themselves into, we hope to be able to get them out of it."

Their information can be found on their website

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