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What References Can I Safely Give a New Law Firm Before a Lateral Move?

published May 04, 2015

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Summary: A law firm told me today that they plan to extend me an offer. They asked for references and would prefer someone from my current firm. What should I do?

A law firm called me today and told me that they plan to extend me an offer. They asked for references and would prefer someone from my current firm. However, my firm doesn't know I'm looking and I am uncomfortable about giving them a reference from here at this point, but I don't want to say "no" and look like I have something to hide. What do you think?

What references can you safely give a law firm before a lateral move?


First, congratulations on your upcoming offer! Second, trust your gut feeling. Nothing is a "done deal" until you physically receive the offer in the mail, conflicts and background have cleared, and you decided that you want to accept this firm's offer of employment. The last step in this process (which only some firms require) is that you provide a reference from your current firm. They typically want a partner for whom you've worked.

This is a very precarious situation because if your "new" firm calls your present employer too early (before everything else has been sorted), it endangers your current employment and is a cause for dismissal. Offers can fall through for a variety of reasons: there's a conflict, the firm does not get final approval from the firm's central executive committee, or perhaps you are not happy with the offer and decide not to accept it after all. Essentially, it is not safe or recommended to offer a reference from a current employer prior to the offer being set in stone.
 

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