Tips for managing the OCI process

Issue May/June 2017 By Jeffrey Morlend

As second semester wraps up, many 1Ls begin to think about the infamous on-campus interview (OCI) process that awaits them this summer. Below are a few tips on how to successfully prepare for and manage this process.

Preparation. Before applying to just any firm on your school's OCI list, consider where you want to live after law school. Unlike other professions, it isn't as easy for lawyers to move around from state to state. While the new Uniform Bar Exam has certainly made relocation easier for lawyers, not all states have signed on to accept the UBE, so you may find yourself taking another bar exam if you decide to move across state lines in the future. As a result, other than for applications to firms in a city, such as New York, tailor your resume and cover letter accordingly, and don't be afraid to let your potential employer know in your cover letter the reasons you plan to be in that area after you graduate.

Firms. Many students know from day one that they want to go into Big Law, but that's certainly not for everyone. If you're unsure of whether you want to be working with hundreds, or potentially thousands, of other attorneys at the same firm, consider focusing your search instead on mid-size firms, boutique firms or Big Law firms that have smaller offices in the locations in which you are looking.

Once you've decided the type of firm to which you want to apply, consider the area of law in which you want to practice. Some of you may know without any hesitation which practice area you want to pursue. Others of you may know that you're more interested in transactional law than litigation, but still haven't figured out exactly what you want to do. The remainder of you still have no idea what it is you want to do - after all, you only have one year of law school under your belt.

Whichever category you fall into, you should consider where you are on that spectrum when applying to firms, because some firms require you to pick an area of law in which you will practice even in advance of your time as a summer associate, while other firms have a standard rotation program or provide a pool of work during your summer so you can experience different practice areas.

Every firm is different, and you are going to want to research them well so that you end up at a firm where you have the opportunity to confirm your interests, solidify your interests or discover your interests.

Interviews. Once you make it to the on-campus interview, your goal is to stand out, in a good way, of course. Interviewers sit in a room and can meet upwards of 20 law students in one day, all of whom are asking the same questions and answering the interviewer's questions in the same way. So, how can you stand out? Simply by being a human being.

If you see a suitcase in the corner because the interviewer traveled to be at your school that day, be a human being and wish them safe travels before you leave. Ask them how they are doing and how the interviews are going. Don't be a machine and simply go through the process.

If you're going to be spending countless hours at a firm, odds are you are going to want to be around people you can connect with and get along with well. The interviewer may be thinking the same thing, so don't be afraid to show some personality, but of course always remain professional.

Questions. While in your interview, be sure to have answers ready if asked why you are interested in that particular geographical area and that particular firm. In addition, on-campus interviews are oftentimes filled with time for you to ask questions of the interviewer, so be sure to have at least two questions prepared for each person with whom you will meet. A good rule of thumb is to ask one question about the firm generally and one question about that person's particular practice. Avoid questions that you could get answers to simply by looking at the firm's website, and ask educated questions that show you did your research. Don't be afraid to ask substantive questions.

OCI can be a daunting process, but if you get a head start and follow these tips, it will hopefully be a successful and rewarding experience for you. Remember, just as much as these firms are interviewing you, you are also interviewing them. Best of luck!

Jeffrey Morlend is an attorney in the Corporate and Capital Markets practice groups at Sullivan & Worcester LLP in Boston, where he is actively involved in the hiring and recruitment processes. He is also a lecturer in the first year legal writing program at Boston University School of Law and is a member of the board of directors of the Massachusetts Bar Association, Young Lawyers Division.

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