The first time Washington lawyer Abbe D. Lowell worked for the city of Alexandria, he represented the city against a fundamentalist church fighting a city law that blocked it from opening a private school.

The lawsuit lasted nearly two years, but Alexandria won. And when Lowell decided to start his own law firm in the middle of the legal battle, he took the city along as a major client.

Yesterday, Alexandria turned to Lowell again, choosing him to investigate charges that the city's public safety director had squelched a police drug investigation after two city officials were mentioned in taped conversations.

Reached at his home in Potomac yesterday afternoon, Lowell said he had not yet heard the news of his selection officially but said he was confident he would accept the council's offer.

"If the City Council wants us, we want to do it," said Lowell, who recently served as a special counsel to the House of Representatives in an investigation of former Idaho congressman George Hansen. Hansen was convicted this year of violating financial disclosure laws.

Lowell, 32, is a transplanted New Yorker who graduated from Columbia law school, where he was an editor of the law review. He served as a special assistant to former attorney general Benjamin Civiletti, whose law firm Lowell joined after leaving the government.

Although details of the investigation in Alexandria have not been completed, Lowell said that he expects to do a thorough investigation. "I know the mayor and the City Council well enough to know they're not going to put any impediments in the way of anyone to do a thorough and complete investigation," he said.

Lowell, a former federal prosecutor, is a Democrat who worked in a presidential campaign of President Carter during law school and waged an unsuccessful campaign for the Maryland House of Delegates in 1982.

In October 1983, Lowell and Stanley Brand, former counsel to the House, joined forces with Gregory Dole, a Republican and former minority counsel to the House Appropriations Committee, to form the law firm of Brand, Lowell & Dole.

Since then the firm has represented, in addition to Alexandria and the House, clients ranging from the county's seven largest beer manufacturers to the Center for Auto Safety to the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority.