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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

July 13, 2017

Why Employers Prefer To Hire Local Candidates.

Julie Q. Brush

Whether you’re a law firm partner, associate, in house counsel, law student or any other type of professional seeking greener pastures…where you live is a material factor for employers when assessing a candidacy. And given their druthers, employers would prefer to hire “local” candidates for their open positions.


Below are a few common reasons/held beliefs behind an employer’s local bias:

Employer’s Geographic Region Has Many High Quality Candidates.

There are certain geographic regions that are littered with great lawyers – with high quality (and relevant) experience and credentials. For employers in these regions, there is no shortage of paper-qualified candidates. So they don’t feel the need to look outside the area for The One and almost always turn to the local pool first…even if a strong non-local candidate has expressed interest.

Fear Non-Locals Will Not Acclimate To The Culture.

Cities/Regions are like people: Each has its own distinct pace, personality, formality, language and way of behaving. This includes employers that are part of the local landscape. So corporate “culture” is extremely important to employers – and employees who fit in with their culture are a necessity. If a candidate is from a different land, there can be a fear among employers that the lawyer will have difficulty learning the new ways of the local area, have difficulty acclimating to the new environment…and won’t fit in. In some markets, that fear can be, and often is a strong driver in rejecting non-local candidates.

Employer Does Not Want to Incur Relocation Expenses.

It costs money to move a new employee (and his/her family) to a new area. So some employers strive to avoid the expense altogether. Even if a candidate will shoulder the cost of a move (an offer that is rarely persuasive to an employer by the way), it may still not tip the scales in favor of an interview if other concerns associated with geography are present.

Interview Scheduling is Problematic.

It’s a lot easier…and cheaper to schedule in person interviews with candidates who live close by. There is also a perception that local candidates can be more flexible if need be, adjust schedules more easily and return for multiple interview rounds without much maintenance. Flying in a candidate for an interview costs money in airfare, hotel bills and other related expenses. In addition, employers know they need to take advantage of the time the candidate is in town and squeeze in as many interviews as they can. Not an ideal situation given peoples’ frenetic schedules.

Non-Locals May Get Cold Feet.

Relocating one’s life is easier in theory than it is in reality. And when a candidate receives an offer, the prospect of leaving becomes very real. It’s at this stage that candidates reassess everything that’s emotionally, physically and logistically involved in moving…and many (including significant others) get cold feet. Employers know this and don’t want to sink the time and energy chasing candidates who have a higher likelihood of changing their minds and hearts.

Non-Locals Pose A Higher Flight Risk.

Candidates who don’t live “in the area” often pose a greater “flight risk” (i.e. there is a greater chance they will leave the employer sooner). When this happens, it creates disruption – as it costs the employer money, and time to replace and onboard a new attorney. Reasons that might cause a relocated attorney to flee? They miss home, they become disillusioned, they miss friends and family, the weather is too difficult, the area is too expensive, the culture doesn’t fit, they don’t have any other connection to the area, their family is unhappy.

Not Bar Admitted in Local State.

For most if not all employers, lawyers must be qualified and in good standing to practice law in at least one jurisdiction. Some employers require bar admission in the state where the position resides (this is most common for the law firms). So if this dynamic is at play and you don’t meet the bar requirements, your candidacy will be DOA.

While the reasons above may seem like your relocation desires are a foolish pipe dream, there are several factors that can mitigate the challenges:

  • Your background is in a niche practice area – not found in your desired geographic market
  • You used to live/work/attended school in the area
  • You have family in the area
  • You’re admitted to the local state/regional bar
  • The local area does not have an abundance of qualified candidates
  • You quit your job and move to your desired city – taking the geography objection off the table
  • You have strong contacts in the local area who can make introductions and “get you in” to an opportunity

Finding a job in today’s legal market is not easy – whether you live here…or there. But reaching your goal is doable with the right attitude, perseverance, plan…and information. Understanding an employer’s complete mindset around geographic preferences is essential if you are to overcome the challenges tethered with your non-local candidacy. Now that you’ve gained more insight, those of you seeking to cross state lines can use this information to craft the right approach and increase your chances at relocation success.

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