Monday, August 07, 2006

Practical Thoughts on OCI

I received several email inquiries, and I would like to address the substantive parts of those questions in one big post.

First, bid on as many firms as you possibly can, and then some.

I like to think of OCI as one big pond, with all of law firms as fish, and all of the law students as fishermen. To catch a lot of fish you need a big net, right? Well, the same goes for fall recruitment. The students I have seen come away from fall recruitment without jobs were typically those who did not cast their nets wide enough. Don't be that student -- remember that the wider and farther you case your net, the more likely you are going to catch something. Don't be too picky, too "status conscious" and for goodness sake, do not feed into the hype of firm X or Y. The more interviews you go on, the more likely you are to find a place where you would like to work, and people with whom you would like to work.

I knew several students who wanted to do environmental law, and only bid on firms who did environmental law, in parts of the country far from our law school that were not thriving legal markets. Guess what? These students ended up without jobs (despite their stellar grades). While many law students can be choosy, the reality of life is that you cannot be choosy until you have at least one offer in your back pocket. If you cast your net too small in a remote area of the country, your chances of catching one of the fish decrease dramatically.

The same goes if you want to transactional/corporate work versus litigation. Don't rule out all of the big litigation firms -- certainly rank transactional firms higher, but still maximize your bids. Remember that all of the bids you waste are opportunities you are letting pour down the drain. Most large law firms do a little bit of both anyway -- they don't call themselves "full service" for nothing. Plus, it is just a summer. It will be better to be employed doing something you don't necessarily like, than to not be employed at all. You can always leverage an offer into something else during 3L fall recruitment. And you never know, you just might like what you didn't set out to do.

Second, pound the pavement and the mail.

Once you are at fall recruitment, pound the pavement to pick up as many additional interviews as you can. Drop your resume with recruiters and go out of your way to take the slots of students who cancel their interviews. I had several friends who ended up working at firms that they didn't bid on (or didn't get interviews with) during fall recruitment. They got callbacks by being that student who showed so much interest in a firm, that they found a way to meet people and ask questions.

You should also mail your resume, cover letter, and writing sample to firms who don't necessarily interview on campus at your school. If you already know you will be in the area from out of town, by all means send the recruiter an email saying, "I will be in City X the week of Y date, and I would love to have the opportunity to meet with you." I received several screening interviews this way that lead to callbacks in and of themselves.

Third, pay selective attention to the hiring criteria listed by the employer

If the qualifications an employer lists as the type of student they are looking for have anything to do with class rank or journal, just overlook them (especially if you are a transfer student -- your grades/law review invitation should certainly satisfy these criteria). Basically, you can completely overlook the qualification portion unless they are looking for someone with a tech background to do IP work, or something similarly specific.

Fourth, don't forget that you are just as much a student at your new school as the non-transfers.

As an aside, and I just have to mention this because some have written about feeling "bad about taking a slot from someone else" at their new school, when an interviewer only has so many people they can interview. To this I say, do NOT worry about "taking a slot from a student" at your new school. You ARE a student at your new school, the employers are there to interview YOU. If an employer mistreats you because you are a transfer student, you should immediately inform your career services office. This represents a form of discrimination that law schools will not tolerate.

Fifth, don't feed into the Vault Rankings or the hype like you do the USNWR.

Every school has copies of The Vault rankings in their OCI waiting areas, and year after year I see students getting carried away about going to a highly ranked firms. Take these rankings with a grain of salt, and accord them much less deference than you did the USNWR.

First, firms really vary by region. I can guarantee you that the top firm in NYC or Chigaco is not necessarily the top firm in DC, and vice versa. Students also tend to get fixated on certain firms for no apparent reason, creating hype about a particular firm, and lusting after it. When they take a step back, they realize they know absolutely nothing about the firm. Try to make informed decisions to the extent that you can (law firm websites don't exactly assist you in this process, but use them as much as possible).

Remember that you get paid pretty much the same (especially during the summer when bonuses and benefits aren't factored in) at Vault Firm #1 and #100. The real question you have to ask yourself, is "do I want to work with the people at this firm?" and "will I enjoy the work?" Even if these questions are negative, it is better to be employed than to be unemployed, and OCI isn't the end of your career -- it is only the beginning.


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