On Campus interviewing – or OCI – is a grueling, even demoralizing, experience for any law student, so should students who attend lower ranked law schools even bother with it?
Yes! OCI is a necessary part of the process of breaking in to BigLaw.
While its true that odds are, at a lower ranked law school, you won’t get your summer associate job at a BigLaw firm directly as a result of participating in OCI, here’s just a few reasons why you should participate anyway.
1. Get Your Foot Out of Your Mouth
Everyone can benefit from going through multiple short, high-nerve, screener interviews, during which you have just 10-30 minutes tops to put your best foot forward.
How OCI works at a law school, which students may participate, and the BigLaw firms that show up (if any), will vary from school to school. The idea is to bring recruiting attorneys from BigLaw firms on to conduct screener interviews to determine which law students (if any) to call back to the firm’s offices for full-scale recruitment.
Going through OCI, you can’t help but hone your speaking and presentation skills not to mention your “elevator speech” and your ability to connect and relate to the stranger(s) across the table. If there is a particular aspect of interviewing that terrifies you, like making small talk, or maintaining prolonged eye contact, then these screener interviews are a perfect opportunity for you to work out your kinks and become better adjusted in uncomfortable situations.
2. Meet Practicing BigLaw Lawyers
You should treat OCI as an opportunity to get in front of attorneys you may not normally meet and speak with in your day-to-day.
Instead of walking into your interviews dead set on impressing your way into a BigLaw job (which in my experience always backfires) you should walk in intent on learning something about or from the people across the table.
On top of doing the required research about the law firm, take the extra step and come up with some outside the box questions to ask. Doing so will take your screener chat beyond the obvious topics, which the recruiting lawyers will appreciate during a long day of hearing the same crap from candidates over and over. You should really dig in and get specific. Ask meaningful questions. Come up with things that really interest you that you can’t figure out from publicly available research. Then you can walk out of the screener having learned something that may become useful down the line in your interviewing process, even if that particular firm doesn’t select you for a call back.
If you aren’t interested in the firm, your should still use the opportunity to learn something. Perhaps in your research you see that one of the recruiting attorneys worked on a certain case with or against a firm or about a subject matter that you are interested in—ask about that experience, see what you can learn. The goal is to gain something from the experience you can use later.
3. Re-Purpose Rejection
So you can expect rejection from OCI. But if you adjust your thinking, you can turn all of it into an opportunity.
First, the experience does wonders for your nerves. It makes you tougher and less nervous for the next time. Second, rejection doesn’t mean the experience didn’t happen. Use it as an opportunity to follow-up with the folks who passed on you. Contact them after the fact (not too long after) and politely ask for some advice to help you through the process. Better yet, see if you can find out what you could do better going forward. Tell them to lay it on you–you can take it!
Treat the rejection as an opportunity to learn, and please, don’t take it personally. This is a process, and each step you will get better at it, as long as you keep your perspective, sense of humor and your head screwed on straight.
Students who attend lower ranked schools need to look at OCI differently—approach the experience with an understanding of how to derive value from it. Use it for more than its worth.
Want help getting ready to maximize your opportunities at OCI? Get in touch now,