No, that noise you hear as the calendar flips to November isn’t the sound of leaves blowing in the fall wind. Rather, it it a collective sigh of relief coming from BC Law 2Ls that the OCI process has finally come to a close. OCI, short for “on campus interviewing,” serves as the major recruitment tool for most large, national firms looking to hire summer associates. Over the summer, 2L students may submit resumes, cover letters, and transcripts to all of the firms that they are interested in interviewing with. The firms then select students they wish to meet with for screener interviews on the law school campus. These initial interviews are about twenty minutes long and are generally a way for firms to get a feel for whether or not the candidate is a good “fit.”
Students who impress recruiters will receive callbacks inviting them to the firm’s office to meet with more attorneys. The callback process begins in September and can end all the way into October. I recently sat down with four 2Ls who successfully obtained summer associate positions to ask them about what they learned from the OCI process that they wish they had known when they began. They gave the following advice:
- Set the groundwork early. Getting that screener interview is largely a function of a successful 1L GPA. It’s important to recognize that and put in work from the start so you don’t exclude yourself from the OCI process before it even begins.
- Keep a log of all the work you do during your 1L Summer. “Tell me about your summer” was probably the most popular question I got during my interviews. Being able to point to specific, substantive projects you worked on over the summer is a great way to look both experienced and prepared.
- Reach out to attorneys to review your resume. If they’re not getting what you’re trying to tell them in your resume, you need to rewrite it.
- Network, network, network. In our experience, BC Law Alumni are incredibly eager to help. In addition to giving you a better sense of whether or not you will be a good fit, networking can lead to insider information about firms that you can drop during your interviews. Recruiters like to ask why you chose to apply to their firm and it’s always good to have a legitimate answer that you couldn’t have found on their website.
- Take full advantage of CSO’s mock interviews. CSO staff have gone through this process countless times. They know what works and what doesn’t, and they’re not afraid to tell you if anything about your interview style is problematic. It’s much better to find out from them than from your interviewers.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to apply. Many firm applications require cover letters. If you wait until the last minute to draft them, you won’t have the time you need to customize each letter. A letter that is clearly a template or filled with typos can prevent you from getting a screener you otherwise would have gotten.
- Come prepared with questions. While some interviewers will come with a list of specific questions for each candidate, others will simply ask if there’s anything you’d like to know about the firm. Avoid panicking in this situation by coming into the interview with enough questions (again, individually tailored to each firm!) that you will be able to fill the entire twenty minutes.
- If you have a top choice firm, tell them! Attorneys want to work with students who are excited about the work they do. Being honest about how interested you are in the firm may give you a leg up to get that offer.
- Don’t be afraid to direct apply. Two of the four students I spoke with got offers from firms that didn’t initially offer them screeners. After on-campus recruitment ended, the students emailed their materials directly to places they remained highly interested in. This proved to be a successful strategy.
- Stay calm! As I mentioned, one of the most important things recruiters are trying to determine is whether or not you will be a good fit for their firm. Thus, most of them won’t ask you any questions you won’t know the answer to. Don’t panic – be polite, be friendly, and remember that they were once in your shoes.