Our Featured Sponsor:
Our Featured Sponsor


It’s Free. It’s Quick.

Career and life game changing information delivered personally to you.

Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

May 19, 2020

A lawyer I barely know asked me to recommend him for a legal position at my company – and I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable about it. What’s the proper etiquette for this type of situation?

Julie Q. Brush

It is not appropriate for a lawyer (or any professional) to contact someone s/he barely knows in an organization and ask for an endorsement for a job. If the requesting professional hasn’t worked with his/her “contact” and/or has not built extensive relationship equity with this person, there is no solid or credible foundation to receive such an endorsement. This type of request also places the person receiving the request in a very awkward position. It’s a situation you never want to create for someone you value in your network. Ever.

Strong professional networks are invaluable and essential in today’s uber connected world. In this competitive landscape, people are using every means possible to get a foot in the door and gain a competitive advantage. The stakes are high – so contacting “people you know” in an organization when applying for a new position is common. In fact, this type of networking is at a fever pitch. And more candidates are exercising poorer judgment in these situations.

So what is the proper etiquette?

While doing everything you can to gain a competitive advantage is enticing, poor judgment can compromise your reputation and relationships with those in your network. So my recommendation is to be thoughtful and use common sense before tapping a contact for help.

Some dos and don’ts:

1. If no relationship, but contact of a contact in your network:

    • Not appropriate to contact for any request. Period.

2. If you have a weak relationship with individuals in your network:

Not Appropriate…

    • To ask them to endorse you for a position in their firm or company
    • To ask for special favors or to forward your resume to “the right person”
    • To continue to email or call them if they have not responded to your initial overtures


    • To inform them of the open position in their company and inquire if they know who the best person might be for you to submit your materials
    • To let them know them you have applied for a position at their company and inquire as to whether they would feel comfortable letting HR or the hiring manager know that they know you.

3. If you have a moderately associated relationship:

Not Appropriate…

    • To ask for an endorsement
    • To ask for special favors
    • To ask them to introduce you to other high level company executives
    • To continue to email or call them if they have not responded to your initial overtures


    • To ask whether they would feel comfortable forwarding your resume to the right person managing the search
    • If you receive an interview, to ask if your contact would be willing to provide some quick insights on the company culture or other thoughts about the company

If your contact says yes to any of the appropriate requests, be gracious, appreciative and say thank you. More importantly, do something now or in the near future to reciprocate the favor in some way (remember, it’s not all about “Me”).

If you find yourself on the receiving end of an inappropriate request from a person you don’t feel comfortable assisting, it is acceptable to decline. But, in order to avoid exacerbating an uncomfortable situation I recommend that you provide a gracious response.

Example: “Jane, thank you for reaching out. I would be happy to alert HR that you have applied for the position. However, since we haven’t worked closely together I won’t be able to add any value in that area for you or my employer. Best of luck – I hope there is a positive result for you!”

It’s a cutthroat professional world out there and aggressive jockeying for the best position has become the norm. Great networks can facilitate the effort, but if used crassly they can do more harm than good. But by adhering to principles of common sense and etiquette, you will not only build your reputation and strengthen those networks; you will do Emily Post proud.

Like this

Lass Evans, VP, Deputy General Counsel, Fortune 500 Company

Good article Julie. Situations like these are becoming more frequent and it isn't always easy to know how to deal with them tactfully. Responding honestly, but tactfully rather than blowing someone off is a much better way to go.

No Comments

Please login or join now to ask your question



New Jobs Feature!

Check it Out

Are you an Employer?

Post a job for free! Take advantage of this promotion and advertise your job for 30 days. Use promo code LWJOBS

Kudos From Our Fans

Julie has been a great partner and trusted advisor to me over many years. The Lawyer Whisperer is a terrific resource, whether you are new to the profession or a seasoned counsel.

Matt Fawcett Chief Strategy Officer and Former CLO, NetApp,
The Lawyer Whisperer is required reading for any lawyer who wants to be thoughtful about their career.

Sharon Zezima Former CLO, GoPro,
Great insights on career planning that help me talk with our associates and IH counsel who are thinking about a transition.

Ken King Partner, Skadden Arps,
The Lawyer Whisperer posts are always wise, thoughtful, well written and leave you with new ideas - I try not to miss a post.

Shanti Ariker General Counsel, Zendesk,
No one understands the changing profession better than Julie. She is a proven ally to those of us trying to forge new paths and push the boundaries of what is possible in a legal career.

Eric Lentell Deputy General Counsel, Archer,
Julie is the Dear Abby for lawyers. Her column is one of a kind.

Karineh Khachatourian Founding Partner, KXT Law,


Receive our newsletter for latest trends, compensation info and secrets to a winning career strategy.

This Week's Questions:

No new questions this week

Our Sponsors


The Lawyer Whisperer Sponsors :

Solutus Legal Logo