Preparing for OCI (Part 3 of 3): Suspend All Disbelief

Editor’s Note: I’m a recently graduated, proud alumnus of Boston College Law School, a community I love with all my heart. This is the third and final post in a series aimed at helping rising 2Ls prepare for the on-campus interview process. The topic(s) of this post, specifically, address short term OCI alternatives and long term career planning-best practices. It is my sincere hope that you will find this both helpful and comforting as you move through this process. Most importantly it’s my wish that you never forget that you’re not alone. We’re Eagles. We fly together.

My story:

“Is this a sick joke?” I stared at the screen in disbelief, laughed uncomfortably, and then excused myself from his Honor’s chambers to prevent myself from awkwardly crying in front of Alicia, the Courtroom Deputy.

Convinced I’d read it wrong, I put on a smile, tightened my tie, grabbed my jacket, and scurried down the hall to the John R. Bartels Library, my frequent third floor escape that summer when I just couldn’t even. “Mr. Quattrochi, 26(f) conference on my docket this morning, you said you’d wanted to see one. I trust I’ll see you there?” I looked up, reflexively. “Yes, Judge. Just going to grab a coffee before we start. Can I get you anything?”  With that aside, I entered the library and pulled out my cell phone.

Nope. I hadn’t read it wrong. Out of the more than fifty bids I’d submitted, I’d only been selected for one screener in Boston, and two screeners in New York. I walked out of the library, turned, went directly into the bathroom, and ugly-cried for a good ten minutes straight. Then my phone vibrated.

An e-mail from the Courtroom Deputy. “Q, it’s Alicia. Conference in 15. Judge nearly ready.” I took a beat and looked in the mirror. To this day, I’m not entirely sure what it was that snapped inside my brain. Maybe it was the culmination of stress I’d written off after the horror of first semester, 1L. Perhaps it was the pathetic look on my face after ten minutes of ugly-crying.

At what point had I begun to allow myself to think that anything regarding my future was governed, so exclusively, by a number calculated along a ridiculous curve, or a pack of recruiting professionals basing their decisions upon said number? At what point had I allowed myself to tie my self-worth or professional potential to those things, as well? It was so uncharacteristic of how I’d run my entire life up to that point. How long was I going to let this continue? Not another damn second.

I fired off a text to a trusted colleague and fellow Legal Eagle, washed my face, pulled on my jacket, and walked into court. “Shall we?” The Courtroom Deputy smiled.

Who does this post apply to?

This post is for anyone and everyone who isn’t willing to aimlessly follow a linear path that marks them for anything other than success. This is for anyone who’s ready to buckle down and take back control. Let’s break the rules a bit.

What can I promise you by following my advice?

I can’t guarantee you a job. I really wish I could. What I can promise you, however, is that you will be okay. You will succeed. You will eventually find meaningful and fulfilling employment. If you follow what I am telling you, you will be investing in yourself. You will be investing in your future. You will be taking control of your future. That’s a very powerful thing. It is high-time to stop letting others govern your perception of what you can and cannot attain. Take back control, now.

How to use this post:

The post is divided into two categories: (1) Short Term OCI Alternatives; and (2) Long Term Career Planning-Best Practices. To get the most out of this post, I suggest incorporating aspects of both of these categories into your career planning strategy. The first section, specifically, aims at highlighting alternatives to the OCI process which have the potential to aid you in obtaining 2L summer employment along the same timeline as those utilizing the formal bidding process. The second section is, as described, a detailed view of best practices for moving forward in your legal career.

Short-Term OCI Alternatives

1. MyOCI

  • What It Is: Think of this as a shadow OCI: an informal process that you control by means of setting up individual meetings between yourself and representatives of firms that are participating within the formal OCI process, on your terms.
  • What The Goal Is: Obtain an informal, initial screener; demonstrate your potential/attractiveness in a live setting (as opposed to mere paper-credential), hook a direct-callback, insert yourself in the running for a summer spot
  • How To Do It:
  • Create a Target Group: The key to this approach is utilizing strategy to insure you’re maximizing the likelihood of the firm to take a meeting with you. Use the NALP Directory (https://www.nalpdirectory.com/) to drill down into firms that interest you on either side of the spectrum, be it litigation or transactional, whatever your persuasion. What are you looking for? Partner number. This controls all. The number of partners a firm reports to a given substantive practice area shows you what that firm truly specializes in. So don’t set your heart on doing Commercial Litigation at a firm that staffs two partners in that department but twenty in Life Sciences/Patent Practice. Put together a list of 15-20 firms that fit your bill. Match them against the numbers provided to you by BC Law as regards data analytics of student/firm matriculation rate per given cumulative GPA. The rule? Go about two-four tenths above your actual cumulative GPA. Thus, if you finished with a 3.15, target firms that report matriculation of students with a 3.35 – 3.55.
  • Identify Relevant Contacts: You may have already begun networking throughout the course of the year. Excellent. This’ll be easier for you. If not, don’t fear. LinkedIn is your new bff. Once your list of firms is ready to go, you need a readily identifiable contact, or two, at said firm. This can be individuals you’ve met prior, at a networking event, or individuals that you can connect to anew by means of an existing relationship. Alumni are your target here. Utilize LinkedIn not to blindly connect, but to drill down a list of individuals from your undergraduate, master’s or J.D. program at a given school, in a given city, at a given firm. It’s as simple as going to that school’s LinkedIn page and using their incredible data analytics tools to click, click, and sort through all of their existing alums on LinkedIn. Grab the contact info and input it into a master spreadsheet organized by city, firm, speciality, contact and contact information. Do not reach out on LinkedIn. This cheapens the connection and is less likely to receive a response. Gather your relevant contacts. Then move to the next step.
  • Initiate/Re-Initiate Contact: Time to reach out. Keep it brief, keep it professional, make it clear. You’re seeking a “firm-visit” or “coffee chat” to learn more about the firm, its culture, and its opportunities for law students seeking to grow their career in “x, y, z” area of practice. If it’s a contact you’ve already established, met with, spoken to, etc. this should be much easier. If the connection is new, be sure to include a subtle reference to the relationship. If it’s a BC Law alum, use your BC.edu e-mail, and ensure your signature denotes your J.D. candidacy at the law school. If it’s an undergraduate connection, take care to work that in. You could note that you were referred to the contact through your undergraduate school’s Career Services Office while inquiring about alumni in the legal profession. Avoid awkwardness.
  • Secure Meetings & Do Your Homework: You might just be rising 2Ls, but you’re not made of time. Consolidate, consolidate, consolidate. The goal is to make your way through these firm-visits as though you were creating your own OCI. That’s why I call it, MyOCI. Set two-three days and do no more than four each day. I’d secured eight out of the e-mails I sent. I set them up in succession, four each day over a two day period, suited up, and put on my game face. Keep your dates and times straight. Be flexible. Once you’ve got it locked down, it’s time to do your homework. Refer back to Cara’s post on Interviewing, because at this point, you’ve essentially garnered an informal screener.
  • Attend & Be Fabulous: Time to lock and load. Suit up. Look the part. Be yourself. Know yourself. Know the firm. Know the contact. Be fabulous. At this rate, you must assume the contact has an understanding of why you’re actually in front of them. Treat this as a screener. It’s your foot-in-the-door moment. Have a portfolio ready. What do I mean by this? A folder with two pockets, neutral, solid color, on one side is your most updated resume on resume paper, beneath it is a set of references (also on resume paper), on the opposite side is a clean, edited, concise writing sample, on regular paper. You’ll hand this to them after shaking their hand, saying: “Thanks so much for making time to meet with me today, I’ve brought a copy of my portfolio for your review.” In a separate folder only to be pulled out if requested is a stack of unofficial transcripts from undergrad and law school. If they want it, they’ll ask for it. Don’t feed them what they’re not hungry for. Put in front of them what you want them to see.
  • Closing Notes: This is YourOCI, it’s your terms. It’s stickshift, not automatic. You’ll get the feel for the conversation. If they’re gonna bring you into a callback/inquire further with their recruiters, you’ll know. The topic will inevitably shift to whether or not you’re participating in OCI and whether or not the firm has extended you the opportunity to interview with them, formally. It’s okay to reveal that (a) you are; and (b) they have not. The hope is that this shocks them enough to make them directly contact their recruiters on your behalf and push you into a direct-callback during their formal OCI process. For me, this worked four out of eight times. I’m no more special than any of you. You got this. Make it werrrk.

2. Symplicity-Watch (Direct Applications)

 

  • What It Is: It’s exactly what it sounds like. Symplicity is a GOLDMINE. There are tons of amazing summer opportunities that are posted every day. In fact, it’s how I ended up getting employed. I’d gone to third round callbacks with two firms through MyOCI, but ultimately, I applied for a summer associateship through a Symplicity direct-to-firm resume drop and low and behold, a month and a few rounds of interviews later, I was gainfully and happily employed. I’ll begin work for that same employer in a little over a month.
  • What The Goal Is: Apply to as many opportunities that pique your interest. Plain and simple. Start to think out-of-the-box. Lawyers no longer just work in law firms. I’m a business adviser to large multinationals who need day-to-day corporate governance advisory. Simultaneously I advise on corporate restructurings and international business planning. I work for a Big Four. I’m not an accountant and I don’t crunch numbers. Go figure. The legal world is changing. Other friends of mine are regulatory gurus advising Big Five Banks the likes of whose name rhymes with “tracks” on Dodd-Frank. We’re lawyers in an evolving world. Open your mind. You’ll see that opportunities open with it.
  • How To Do It: Just log on to your Symplicity in the morning the way you would to sort through your e-mail. Once your resume and references are locked and loaded on the site, bang through those applications like no one’s business. Have a general, industry-specific cover letter ready for submission and alter accordingly. Click and be done.

3. Semesters-In-Practice/Externships (Forced Summers)

  • What It Is: This takes you somewhat out of the timeframe of the traditional OCI process, as the others do not. Symplicity, the goldmine it is, also carries a significant amount of posts which offer rising 2Ls the opportunity to practice during the semester at small/mid-size firms who are in need of an extra hand. READ: They’re actively searching for new attorneys and are using this as a way to interview you for an entire semester before spending money on you.
  • What The Goal Is: Make yourself indispensable. You become something they cannot do without. While this is not how I obtained my job, numerous of my friends walked into 2L with externships and walked out of the first semester with a summer associateship. It’s a beautiful thing.
  • How To Do It: Troll Symplicity. Troll like you’ve never trolled before. Or, reach out to contacts and see if anyone is looking for free-labor. The answer is rarely, “no.”

4. Study-Abroad

  • What It Is: Exactly as it sounds, BC Law has amazing study-abroad opportunities that are career-oriented and carry with them the opportunity for continued employment. I won’t go too deep into details, but this is a viable opportunity and a means to employment that is both fulfilling, avant-garde, and sustainable. Scroll through the Impact blog posts tagged for Study-Abroad or feel free to reach out and ask me more about my London experience. For quick reference, here’s a hilarious (yet informative) video of myself and a true American hero, Rob Rossi: https://bclawimpact.org/2015/03/25/meet-the-3l-who-flew-in-from-london-for-admitted-students-day/

Long-Term Planning-General Best Practices

  • Create A Meaningful Network
      1. Go to every event you possibly can
      2. Make meaningful connections
      3. Organize them
        1. Use an excel spreadsheet, categorize the people you meet by city, profession, industry, firm, contact info, interesting fact about them
        2. Connect with them on LinkedIn – but do avoid use of the generic LinkedIn message. Instead, go for a follow up e-mail and upon receiving a response, request to connect. It’s more professional.
      4. Maintain them
        1. Reach out when something comes across your attention that you believe would pique their interest or be relevant to them. They’ll appreciate it, and they’ll immediately feel a sense of genuineness in your connection. Don’t bombard them. Reach out strategically or you’ll burn the connection by way of annoyance. You don’t want a reputation for this.
      5. Make yourself useful to them
        1. If and when you believe you can be of legitimate help to a contact, drop them a line and let them know. You may have someone in your network who fits the bill for a position they’re looking to fill, or a contact who is relevant to an area of research they’re pursuing. When you can begin to connect your connections, you’ve mastered the art of the network. Build bridges where they don’t exist. This is exactly what you want a reputation for.
  • Brand Yourself
      1. Get to know yourself
        1. What am I good at? Why? What can I do with that? How does that relate to the industry/profession I’m seeking to build my career in?
          1. Take time to think about this. I know we, generally, don’t have boatloads of time, but next time you’re thinking about getting hammered and blowing a Saturday on a hangover, stop at two drinks, wake up early on a Saturday, clear your head, and sit down for a few hours of “you time.” You’ll thank yourself and so will your future career and wallet.
      2. Develop your interests
        1. Reflect often. Who are you becoming as you progress through your academic career in the law? One of my favorite Jesuit professors asked this of me and my fellow eagles on our first day of law school and it has stuck with me ever since. I continually ask myself this question.
        2. Get involved in the legal community in a way that will produce tangible evidence of your involvement with/connection to those interests that materialize out of your reflections.
        3. Make other people want to know you by infusing positivity into everything that you do. Take pride in your work. Drop the haters. No one wants to be around negative people. Negative people suck. Don’t throw shade, throw a party.
      3. Document your successes
        1. Projects that you work on, tasks that you perform at work, these are all selling points that you need to develop, sign-posts of your development within your career – use them to draw out desired characteristics of employers. These are solid gold in an interview. You should always have stories ready to go.
  • Plan For Your Future
      1. This one’s ambitious, but you should get into the habit of looking 3 – 5 years into your future. A 3 year plan and a 5 year plan are beautiful things. Flexibility is too. Know that your plans may change. Having a structured understanding of where you’d like to be at each of those points however, and being able to roll with punches, will put you light-years ahead of your colleagues.
  • Suspend All Disbelief
    1. Nothing is out of your reach regardless of what rule or precedent says otherwise
    2. Make your own rules
    3. Linear thinking is your enemy
      1. There is ALWAYS another way
      2. Door closed? Use the window.
        1. No window? MAKE ONE.

That’s all I’ve got folks. I wish you all of the luck in the world. I don’t believe you need it. Go confidently in the direction of your desire. Remember you are never alone. Ever. You’re a part of a family. We are all rooting for you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need anything whatsoever.

My name is Damon J. Quattrochi and I am a proud alumnus of BC Law. I am currently sitting for the New York State Bar Exam. This fall I will proudly join the Global Structuring Core of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP’s New York City office, as a First Year International Tax Associate specializing in cross-border mergers and acquisitions. 

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