As bid list season wraps up, I thought I'd run through some info that would have been nice to have spelled out walking into the process. This advice is mostly targeted to people with strong credentials at top schools who are anticipating having a good shot at getting a job out of OCI.
The stage is set, the green flag drops
When OCI begins, you'll need to have a conservative suit, be clean and deoderized, and have an interview folio thing with a place to take notes plus several copies of your resume, transcript, and writing sample (though other than Covington, which mentioned it in advance, I was personally never asked for the writing sample).
Before going into a firm, I recommend doing background research, and probably writing down key stats (firm name, location, size, main practice areas, and a question or two). This helps make sure you don't get names crossed, and will be nice to have in front of you as a cheat sheet.
You'll likely spend a lot of time standing nervously outside of doors. If you're lucky, you may have to do interviews in hotel rooms with beds creepily in the background. Just try to stay calm and do your best to be everywhere prepared and on time (fun fact: of the people I know who were late to interviews, none received a callback. Who knew?). Waiting around nerbously before the interview is probably the worst part though, so relax.
Come right in and have a seat over there
Most interviews are conversational, and will begin with a question about your resume. Questions will be recycled a LOT at this stage, so be ready to know the following out of the park: A question asking for info about ANY item on your resume (prepare interesting stories about your activities, interests, and jobs!), questions about what you did 1L year (parlay this into info about what practice areas you are and are not interested in, be prepared to discuss at least one substantive issue you dealt with), why you went to law school (especially if you have something weird like a background in math, science, and theatre), why you're interested in this firm (nota bene that you don't need an answer that distinguishes it perfectly from its peer firms: it's fine to use the same reasons for the Clearys of the world as the S&Cs of the world. Hammering home something unique is great, but realize that broad answers can be convincing and they KNOW you'll be looking at similar firms), why the geographic area (even if it's obvious, make sure you're enthusiastic here), whether you're interested in clerking (usually just for their info) and what practice area(s) you're interested in (no need to be certain, but expressing intelligent reflection / introspection is good).
Be prepared for the nightmare scenario of sitting down and having the interviewer kick his or her feet up and ask "So, what can I tell you about the firm?" This means you need questions specific to the firm, but you also need some good stock questions.
Here are GREAT stock questions based on what I've learned from 2 summers working at firms: How are summer associates staffed on projects? How do young associates choose their practice areas? What kinds of formal and informal training does the firm offer? How soon can associates take depositions? How does deal staffing work at your firm?
NOTA FUCKING BENE: Asking questions, for better or for worse, is a little bit of a game of russian roulette. Asking a question that could easily have been answered on the firm's website is a little like shooting yourself in the face. Make sure you do your research and be prepared to spin your stock questions: If you've read that the firm has two assignment coordinators giving summers work, instead of asking HOW they staff summers, ask how it works in practice or what it was like when they were a summer.
Yeah, it's annoying as fuck to come up with these questions without messing up. But you've got to do it.
In general, shoot for having a solid conversation and try to make some kind of connection. Tell interesting stories, ask penetrating questions, banter. Sell your strengths but don't treat it like a corporate interview with somebody from HR - you'll be talking to a lawyer, and you're requesting joining the club. Anybody with a pulse and a GED could do most young associate work, so they want people who look bright and motivated and enthusiastic but will also fit in well in a firm environment. Hiring decisions are impressionistic, so it's not the time to go for the fences on your ability to do doc review. You want to highlight strengths, yes, but you'll always get furthest in interviews where you enjoy yourself and connect with the interviewer in a professional way.
I realize that sounds wishy washy, but the process is wishy washy.
Anyway, interviews suck and everyone hates them, but smile like your life depended on it. If you want an ace up your sleeve, PRACTICE. So few people do this. Practice with your friends, practice with your career services office, practice with attorneys, practice with your enemies. Practice in front of mirrors. Once OCI is over you'll realize you just repeated the same shit over and over a million times and you're really good at it. So.... try to get really good at it BEFORE your career prospects are on the line, neh?
GOD DAMN IT WHY DO PEOPLE FROM THE SAME AREA CODE AS THE FIRMS I'M APPLYING TO KEEP CALLING ME
So the theme of this post is "worst parts of OCI" and there are like 50 of them, so get ready for another: waiting for callbacks. Absolutely the worst part of the process no question about it.
First, let's get one thing out of the way: SOME firms will complete all of their callbacks within 24 hours or less of finishing screening interviews. This is more common with large New York firms than other firms. But not all of those firms are that quick (I can think of a V5 off the top of my head that extended some of its callbacks weeks after its screening interviews) and not all firms in other locations are slow. Most importantly, just because one person has received a callback from a firm doesn't mean everyone else has been rejected. Firms have often very different process, sometimes that mean half the people who were interviewed will hear quickly and the other half later.
In general though, callbacks come quick (and, as you'd imagine, by phone) while rejections come slow by mail. You can look forward to these fun and infamous experiences as you go through the process: The "rejection letter dated before the interview" ding, the "phone call politely rejecting you" call (not any fun), the email requesting you fill out a survey before you've heard good news or bad news from the firm, etc.
Waiting for callbacks sucks. Try not to be a dick about it: Let the call go to voice mail if you're in the library instead of picking up your phone and shouting "OH HI CRAVATH, THAT SOUNDS LOVELY, LET ME CHECK MY VERY CROWDED CALENDAR AND SEE IF I CAN SQUEEZE A CALLBACK IN SOMETIME WEEK AFTER NEXT ONCE I HAVE SOME OPENINGS." I know law students aren't good at tact, but at least give it a good Christian try, mkay?
How did you KNOW I wanted to do more interviews? THAT SOUNDS GREAT. IT'S LIKE CHRISTMAS.
Scheduling callbacks is, without a doubt, the worst part of OCI. But here are some tips:
First, SCHEDULE THOSE FUCKERS FAST. Get them booked soon, and book them for as soon as your lazy ass can get to the firm. OCI is a race and once those spots are filled you've lost even if you're a great candidate.
That being said, do some fancy footwork to avoid two in one day unless it's desperate time / desperate measures.
If your school has no callback week, class is optional. You came to law school to get a job, not to watch professors and students try to out lawstudent one another by shouting "BUT WHERE DO WE DRAW THE LINE?!?!?" and dissecting case law on 16th century torts. I repeat, class is optional. If I find out you neglected a job thing for a school thing this fall I will say mean things about you behind your back.
Industry practice for scheduling is as follows: The firm will pay for your travel to the location and ONE night in a hotel. If you are from out of state and doing multiple, you will win Good at Life points scheduling them back to back. Query: How do you get firms to split the expenses? Answer: It's totally normal, follow these simple guidelines: You get one hotel night per firm you interview with. Choose one firm to host the trip and have them book your hotel and flight. After everything is done, you submit one form listing all the firms you visited to your host firm and they split costs. This is the gold standard for major markets, tread more carefully with smaller firms or markets.
A note on cancellations and alterations: If you are a good, self aware person you may find it uncomfortable to alter expensive hotel / air reservations or even cancel a callback interview. As long as you approach things professionally and don't abuse it, disregard these emotions. Things come up, and even if it means a firm eats some cash so you can squeeze another interview into a trip, it will be worth it to all parties in the long run.
For reimbursements, you can usually expense taxis, reasonable food expenditures, and any air or hotel charges directly incurred by you (likely none for any given trip). This process is slow as balls but you will get your money. Submit receipts early to avoid having one more thing hanging over your head. If the firm doesn't give you a form, the NALP website keeps the standard versions online. Feel free to contact recruiting departments with questions.
When does the hurting stop?
Callback interviews have to be the worst part of OCI. The standard (from which most deviate at least slightly) would be 4 interviews, 30 minutes each, and then lunch with some young associates. Hilarious variations include: The all-day Saturday interview with a group lunch in the middle, interviews that last as long as the interviewer wants and 10+ hours interview days, afternoon interview blocks skipping the meal, etc.
You'll usually see a mix of attorneys, all of whom will evaluate you so don't let your guard down infront of junior associates. Each interview will likely be slightly longer but otherwise the exact same format as your screening interviews. Shoot the shit! Ask cutting edge questions about how associates get work, what that particular attorney's experience with the firm/practice area has been, etc. Feel free to get more specific in callback interviews: Asking about housing, life at the firm, very specific practices or notable firm issues, etc. is more appropriate at this stage.
Since the standard interview is either a handful of morning interviews + lunch or a handful of afternoon interviews, it is possible to do two in one day. But the first will run over even if you tell everyone your plan making you late to the second, you will be completely exhausted, and it's unlikely you'll manage to bring your A-game to both. Sometimes it has to be done (I did it) but it is not ideal. So don't think you're clever for scheduling 6 callbacks over 3 days, you will blow up. Remember, callbacks are the worst part of OCI, and concentrating them just makes it that much worse.
The worst part of OCI
Waiting to find out if you received an offer from a firm you've done a callback with is EASILY the most awful part of the experience. Again, phone calls = good news and letters = DING. It's fine to ask during your callback what the time frame will be, but note this varies dramatically and at many firms is NOT indicative of what they think of you as a candidate. Hiring committees meet at random times, interviewers are faster or slower at getting their feedback into recruiting after your callback interviews, etc. A very few firms strive for same day offers (they also send you bonsai trees and rhyme with Mullivan and Bromwell) while others are upfront about taking weeks and reviewing all candidates before making decisions.
Really, there's nothing you can do but wait and cross your fingers. If you find your callback -> offer conversion ratio is low, get in touch with career services and figure out what you're doing wrong (forgot to wear clothes to interview, got belligerently drunk at interview lunch, started a fight in the lobby with other interviewees, etc.).
First rule of government spending: Why buy one when you can have two for twice the price
Many firms will invite you for a second visit after you receive an offer. This can be a great opportunity to reverse the tables and ask more questions secure in the knowledge that you have an offer. It also gives you the most important piece of information in the OCI process: exposure to more attorneys. At the end of many long days at any firm, a very most factor will likely be the people and culture, and you can't find out how you will respond to those by asking on TLS or scoping out vault. Take advantage of these if you have time (lolololololol).
In the end, there can be only one
After your pile of offers has come in, pick one and then collapse.
Being done with OCI is the best part of OCI.
Last edited by thesealocust on Mon Jul 18, 2011 11:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.