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The Long-Distance Job Search for Lawyers, Part Two

By Wendy Werner

You have been working on finding that job in your dream location—creating a timeline and sticking to it, and identifying the positions you want. Now you are ready to apply. How in the world can you—from hundreds of miles away—become an attractive candidate to a hiring manager who has lots of people to choose from within a 25-mile range?

Express Your Commitment and Enthusiasm

One of the aces you have in this job search is that you are trying to make a positive move to a new location because you love it there. You are learning all about the housing market, the economy and the job market—and you are still committed to the move. This kind of enthusiasm is infectious and attractive to others, and it can help you make a big impression. People want to hire someone who is upbeat and excited.

  • Show you are invested. For starters, every cover letter needs to open with something about your plans to relocate to the area and indicate that you will be doing so with or without this job. A relevant comment about a recent trip (for business purposes) may also be helpful. Of course, the best scenario is to be able to say you are applying for the position because it was forwarded to you, or recommended to you, by someone the hiring person knows locally. Obviously this can’t work for every position, but as your local network grows it should get easier.
  • Get recommended. When you hear of an interesting position, your first thought should be, “How can I get someone to recommend me?” If you have been spending your time exploring the local market and getting connected to people through local bar association and industry groups, you will be developing these opportunities. Volunteering to speak to associations or at local bar meetings may be financially costly up front, but it is the best way to get an actual audience in your new town.
  • Express empathy. You may want to let the hiring person know that you understand it can be more difficult to hire someone from out of town than to hire someone locally. Volunteer for a screening phone interview before an in-person interview. It signals that you understand the constraints of the hiring party—and it will give you a great opportunity to emphasize your intention to relocate.
  • Don’t give up. A friend trying to relocate found a job posting online that was a good match. He learned the position was filled with such speed that it seemed likely there was an internal or shoe-in local candidate. My friend has decided to call the new hire in two months, once he is settled into the job, to ask for a meeting. Instead of being deterred, he makes this assumption: “This is obviously a connected candidate whose background is similar to mine—why not get to know him?”

Understandably, some of these recommendations may cause the more introverted lawyer to quake. And, no matter how confident you are, the desire to move across country is bound to involve many steps that fall outside of your comfort zone. When that happens, remember your ace—and use it to your advantage.

Wendy L. Werner is a career coach and practice management consultant for lawyers and professional services firms, and an award-winning photographer.She is a member of the ABA Law Practice Today editorial board, has a master’s degree in Personnel Administration and Counseling from Indiana University, and served  as the Assistant Dean of Career Services at Saint Louis University School of Law.

Categories: Daily Dispatch, Legal Career Development
Originally published September 6, 2011
Last updated June 22, 2013
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Wendy Werner

Wendy Werner was an acclaimed photographer, a sought-after career strategist and social justice advocate. A longtime career coach and practice management consultant at Werner Associates, Wendy most recently served as ArchCity Defenders’ founding board chair, stewarding the organization for over 12 years as it became an established force for justice in the St. Louis region. She was a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and served on several ABA Law Practice Division boards, including as chair of the Publishing Board. Wendy died at her home in Saint Louis on January 3, 2022, after a long battle with cancer. She was 69.


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