Above the Law

Provided you do well and secure a summer associate position, on-campus interview week is your golden ticket to a future in law. Here are some tips on how to make the most of OCI and get a job in the process.

[NOTE: These tips only apply to law schools that set up OCI without GPA restrictions, as in, every student has the opportunity to participate in OCI and choose interviews with any firm regardless of their GPA.]

Unless you have a 3.8+ GPA, make sure to have “safety” firms.

Think back to college and law school applications. You aimed for the stars with a few “reach” schools, picked a bunch of “middle” schools where you had a 50-50 chance, and reserved a couple of “safety” schools to ensure that you were going somewhere. When you’re picking firms for OCI, it helps to use a similar process. If you’re allowed to choose 30 interviews, save at least five to ten of those interviews for firms where you have a high chance of getting a callback. Of course nothing is guaranteed and OCI is a bit of a gamble anyway, but it’s better safe than sorry, especially in this economy where law firms have shrunk their summer classes.

Visit the suites, chat up the associates, and drop off your resume at firms that didn’t make your list (it’s not all about the swag).

The people are just as important as the firm’s practice of the law. You have to mesh well with your future colleagues and fit in with the firm’s culture, in addition to being capable of producing high quality work. If you have some free time, wander into the suites and chat up the associates to learn more about the firm. It’s a more personal way of getting to know a firm and drop off your resume.

Make sure to have a strong handshake.

Once upon a time, I received a valuable tip from an interviewer who suggested that I practice giving a strong handshake. A handshake is part of the first impression, right? Many women haven’t been “trained” to have a strong handshake, which is integral to exuding confidence in your abilities and sending the message that you get the job done. It’s just as important to assert yourself through body language. This advice also applies to men – it’s not very attractive to have a weak handshake in the business world.

Check the schedule sheets posted on firms’ doors – there are usually blank spots for extra interviews.

Firms know that they’re not getting every qualified candidate with the OCI lottery. If you check the sheets posted on each door, there may be some blank spots to write in your name for an interview, typically first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. Sign up for as many extra interviews as may interest you. Not only do you increase your chances of getting callbacks, you get to practice your interview skills. Also, if a law firm doesn’t have a suite, you can still try to catch the interviewer(s) in between interviews to slip in your resume.

Remember to get business cards from each person who interviews you.

Interviews are nerve-wracking and you may forget to ask for a business card. However, get in the habit of requesting business cards at the end of each interview. You want to shoot thank you e-mails to your interviewers that evening, or the next day, when your interview is fresh on their minds. Plus, networking is all about staying in contact. Even if you don’t land a callback, a time may come in the future when you want to contact a past interviewer with questions about their practice area or possible leads for positions at other firms.

Summon your strength and head to cocktail hour at the end of each OCI day.

A day full of 20 minute interviews can really wear you out, both mentally and physically. But, chug that Red Bull and gather that extra burst of energy for all the cocktail receptions that will be hosted by the OCI firms. Like the suites, this is your chance to socialize and see if you can picture yourself working with them in the future on cases and deals. Interviewers and their associates are also going to be tired from asking the same darn questions all day, so they will be looking to unwind and be more informal with potential candidates. Just be smart about your alcohol intake and don’t leave a lasting impression as the 2L who no one should hire.

Sunny Choi is the 2013 Writers in Residence Coordinator for Ms. JD. She is a former participant in the Writers in Residence program, where her monthly column Legally Thrifty focused on beginners personal finance advice for law students and professionals. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, she currently practices commercial litigation and creditors’ rights while freelance writing and blogging in her spare time. She can be reached at wir@ms-jd.org.