OCI was last week. How is everyone doing?
For the uninitiated, the On-Campus Interview Program is one of the principal ways BC Law students line up 2L summer internships at big law firms. These internships hopefully (and usually) lead to post-graduation job offers. There are, of course, other ways to get jobs in these firms. But OCI is a unique chance to get on that career trajectory early. So for those who aspire to work in these firms, OCI is a hugely important event. It is another one of those choke points in legal education that can feel all-important and all-consuming. And like those other gatekeeping moments, students are assessed and judged based on partial information. Resumes, cover letters, GPAs. And then the interviews, now conducted virtually, further diminishing that sliver of human connection that interviews used to allow.
Many students will be happy with their OCI outcomes. Inevitably, many students will not. It is competitive. Associate positions at these firms are among the most prestigious jobs for young lawyers. The lack of an offer can seem like more than a lost opportunity to nail down a job early; it often feels like a rejection from the top tier of the profession. But we should always keep in mind how incomplete a picture gatekeepers have of the people they judge. Good legal practice unfolds over the long haul and in close collaboration with colleagues and clients. Success in that setting is unlikely to be predicted well by a rapid selection process conducted remotely. Employers do what they can with the limited information available to them. But their decisions are often just more or less fortunate guesses.
So it’s a good time to be reminded that each of us is more than our CV or our future salary. It’s also a good time to think about the value of work outside the big firms. Depending on your goals, smaller and more specialized firms may offer better opportunities to choose both the kind of work you do and the kinds of clients you serve. Mission-driven non-profits and government positions can provide still further control over the scope, impact, or ethos of a young lawyer’s advocacy.
Ours is a highly stratified and elitist profession. Though a lawyer’s value lies principally in her grasp of nuance and her ability to render qualitative judgments, a lot still rides on quantitative metrics of dubious value. LSATs, USNWR rankings, GPAs, firm revenues per partner. The valence of these figures is not going to disappear from legal education and practice any time soon. But each law student and young lawyer can question them and make choices about their hold on her own mind and work.
Now is as good a time as any.
Ian Ramsey-North is a second-year law student at BC Law. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.