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I’m an associate at a small firm with a very specialized practice area. My firm shares a client with a Biglaw firm that handles most of the client’s litigation and other work. As such, there are a couple of partners at the Biglaw firm that I work with fairly frequently, when my little niche overlaps with matters they’re handling for our mutual client.
I like these partners – they seem like nice guys – and I think they like me too; at any rate, we have a good working relationship and they seem to respect my work. One of their associates recently left and I’d love to jump into his place. I haven’t seen a posted opening anywhere, so I don’t feel like I can just send them my resume out of the blue, saying “in case you need someone to fill Departed Associate’s position…” – or can I? What’s the best way to go about this?
Also: Departed Associate left without having another job lined up, saying it just “wasn’t the right fit” for him. I know: huge red flag that possibly these partners aren’t the nice guys they appear to be. But not necessarily – right? It would be different for me, right??
– I Want That Job
Dear I Want That Job,
When someone leaves a law firm job without something lined up in this still-shitty economy, there are only three possibilities…
Here’s what happened to the associate whose job you want to take:
- He got fired.
- He’d rather spend the near future living in a refrigerator box and eating Arby’s than work another minute with those partners.
- He saw that a popular legal gossip blog was hosting a contest to be the new editor in chief and he took it as a sign both that he should quit and that he would win, because God wouldn’t do something cruel like make him the third place winner, thereby forcing him to be unemployed for a year and a half and live off savings.
You can deduce what happened based on how the partners phrase it. If they describe him as a corpse (“he’s no longer with us”), he was canned; if “he left to pursue other opportunities,” including unemployment, he worked for jerkhats. And finally, if he left to try his hand at ATL Idol, they’ll just wish him the best and tell him he’s two years late to the party. At this point, even *I* wouldn’t leave my firm without something lined up or at least until ING raised their savings account interest rate. Sorry to say, but the odds are Departed Associate was fired or left for mental health reasons, and you’d be coming in as the new whipping boy. Now do you want his job?
If you do, I’m sure the partners would be delighted to hear it. But I don’t know a single associate who would take that job without doing some reconnaissance on those partners first. That’s like getting into a car driven by Mr. Magoo and hoping it all works out. You have to dig around first, ask friends, classmates, recruiters, colleagues, etc. – what the real deal is with these partners. And chatting with them about your mutual client doesn’t count; they’re paid handsomely to act professionally on the phone, but it’s the associate they punch once they hang up that counts.
If, after your research, you’re still interested in this job, just call up one of them up after hours and leave a voicemail asking if has a few minutes to chat about a matter unrelated to the client. And when he does, just give him the old lateral move pitch: you’re looking for great work,
more money high-profile clients, more money and a firm with a stellar reputation more money. The worst he could do is say that the firm isn’t looking to fill Departed Associate’s spot and then write “you got pwned!!!” on your supervising partner’s wall.
Since this entire question reads like a single woman writing into Cosmo asking for relationship advice, I’m just going to tell you what I tell my single female friends when my wife is not around. Like watching the Wizard of Oz while listening to Dark Side of the Moon, it’ll link up — as long as you are really high while you are reading this:
“[W]hen my little niche overlaps with matters they’re handling for our mutual client.” — Yeah, you’re going to need to expand your pool a little bit. If you really want to meet a different kind of guy, you need to start going to different kinds of places. Otherwise, you’re just going to end up trading your current boyfriend for someone who turns out to be the same guy.
“I like these partners — they seem like nice guys — and I think they like me too.” — We all seem like nice guys when we are trying to f**k you.
“We have a good working relationship and they seem to respect my work.” — Your decision to put out was wise.
“One of their associates recently left and I’d love to jump into his place. I haven’t seen a posted opening anywhere…” — He’s probably not ready to commit to anything serious right now. You shouldn’t try to pressure him; you should focus on destroying the competition. That involves putting in “good work,” subtly backstabbing other bitches he’s interested in, and, most importantly, adding no extra drama to his life.
“I don’t feel like I can just send them my resume out of the blue, saying “in case you need someone to fill Departed Associate’s position…” – or can I?” — Trust me, he already has your resume on file. Everything that has already happened in your relationship has been one long interview. If you were his first choice to fill the spot, he would have already made his move by now. So he probably has somebody else in mind. But you can change his mind (see above), and anyway, his first choice might not work out. If there’s anything you can do to make your “credentials” a little more obvious, you should do that. Dress for success, you know. But there’s no need to have “the conversation.”
“Departed Associate left without having another job lined up, saying it just “wasn’t the right fit” for him. I know: huge red flag… It would be different for me, right??” — This is why you’re still single/unhappy in your current relationship. This guy either just got dumped or just dumped his girlfriend. But you think you’re so freaking special that everything will be different when it comes to you. I know you think you have a Superman cape hanging out of your vagina, but why don’t you do some more research into why his previous relationships have failed before you start picking out new drapes?
Okay, enough about your relationship, let’s talk about mine.
Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org.