OCI Survival Tips
With one year of law school under your belt, it's time to start thinking about a position for next summer. We at Cadwalader often hear from law students that on-campus interviewing (OCI) is confusing and overwhelming. We thought you might appreciate some insight from the other side of the table on how to navigate the process. While we hope you seriously consider Cadwalader, we offer the following tips to help you prepare for OCI, regardless of which employer you choose in the end.
Logistically, OCI is a marathon, not a sprint. Prepare properly, and you will find the process educational, eye-opening, and possibly even fun.
- Make initial determinations about the criteria on which you will base your decisions. What factors are most important to you in a future employer: office size, overall firm size, geographic location, practice areas, clients, personnel policies, salary, firm and office culture, perceived prestige? The list should be based on your personal and professional goals, and not on what everyone else is doing. Keep an open mind, as you will likely complete the process with a different perspective than when you started.
- Thoroughly research each firm before pursuing an interview and determine which of your criteria they meet. It makes sense to focus only on firms that most closely match your interests.
- You may want to keep a spreadsheet on the firms you review and chart how they match up with your criteria. This will help you compare and contrast firms and keep them straight.
- Create a "cheat sheet" for each firm that you can review prior to your interview. Using this information, craft questions to ask during your OCI interview that can help you further narrow your choices.
- Sources of your research should include:
Firm websites, especially any sections or microsites developed specifically for law student recruiting
Your school's alumni or 3Ls who have worked in firms in which you're interested
National or industry newspapers and magazines that have written about the firm, its cases, deals, or people
Legal and business blogs (But be wary! Blogs are not always credible sources and many post gossip or false information to increase hits and generate advertising revenue.)
The Career Services Office (CSO) on your law school campus. They can help you make connections with alumni, share with you feedback from former summer associates, and offer advice from career counselors who are familiar with the industry, among other things.
- Try to arrive a few minutes early to your interview to regroup and review your cheat sheet for that particular employer. For the most part, your CSO will schedule your day with enough time in between each interview so that this is possible. However, interviews may run over, affecting your schedule. Remain in communication with your CSO or the firm's on-site recruitment staff, as they can help you communicate with your interviewer and keep schedules running smoothly.
- Take advantage of employer hospitality suites and other on-site resources during OCI. A 20-minute interview goes very quickly, so any time spent in the hospitality suite will supplement what you learned in your interview.
- Wear a suit. Even if you are interviewing with a "business casual" firm, dress in conservative business attire that is appropriate for an interview.
- Be genuine and honest. Interviewers will assume that you researched their firm, but no one expects you to know much about the actual practice of law or specific areas of practice. Pretending to know more than you do or overinflating your qualifications will make you seem less credible.
- To be fair to other candidates and the firms, respond to callback invitations promptly. Many times, firms will designate a number of callback interviews to offer to students at your school. Most firms will wait for responses before offering an interview to additional candidates, so a prompt response is appreciated.
- Before accepting a callback, strongly consider whether the employer meets the criteria that are genuinely important to you.
In general, our best advice is to remember that every piece of information you gather about a future employer is just one piece of a complex puzzle. Try to put together as many of the pieces as you can from a variety of trustworthy sources, use good judgment, and ask thoughtful questions of those with whom you meet.