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Practicing and Job Hunting in a Small City

QUESTION: I am working in a very small city this summer. Last fall I met a lawyer who suggested that I apply to her firm in the Spring. In late December, I accepted a position with another firm in this city. While I like my current firm, and would accept a position if it were offered, there is no guarantee – nor has there been any discussion – of a job for me after graduation. Can I send a resume to the lawyer I met last year?

ANSWER: There is good news and bad news here. Yes, you are working in a very small city, and, in all likelihood, everyone you meet is working with or closely related to everyone else. Without knowing how the lawyers for whom you work would react to your application to another firm, I would strongly advise against sending an a letter out of the blue. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that because the legal market is so small, you are very likely to run into lawyers from the other firm, including the woman you met last year. As a law student, you may very reasonably call the woman you met and ask her to lunch -- as a networking activity to learn about practicing in your city.

When meeting other lawyers from the firm at a bar association event, CLE or other gathering, you could inquire about their hiring plans in general or “on behalf of some of your classmates,? to find out (a) if they are thinking about hiring, and if so, for which practice, and (b) then, decide whether you want to apply. As you work through the summer, you will get a better idea about the culture of your firm and how the partners might react to your “defection.? You should also be able to lead them through conversations about your future.

You should, in any event, keep lines of communication open with the lawyers throughout the city because you will be practicing with them and adverse to them for the foreseeable future.