Law firms and other legal employers visit law schools nationwide during the fall to interview applicants for employment starting the following summer in a process called OCI (on-campus interviewing). Most large law firms do the majority of their hiring of new law graduates this way. Firms hire students to work the summer between their second and third year, and if the student performs well, firms often make offers to them for full-time employment upon graduation.
What types of employers participate in the fall interview program?
- Large Law Firms: These employers are able to establish their hiring needs a year in advance. Occasionally, a mid-size or small firm will participate. In general, smaller law firms do not. Instead, they recruit when they need to fill immediate openings.
- Government Agencies: Federal, state and local government agencies recruit for their summer intern programs, graduate honors programs, or for entry-level attorney positions.
- Accounting & Consulting Firms: Sometimes accounting firms are interested in law graduates with accounting backgrounds for their tax departments. They are generally interested in third-year students.
What types of credentials are OCI interviewers seeking?
Generally, employers seek students with a high class rank (top 10-15 percent) and/or other distinguishing academic credentials such as law review or moot court. Patent firms want a technical background. Government employers generally seek students who are committed to the work of the agency. Because employers often interview at many campuses across the country, the competition for positions is extremely high.
Why do recruiters interview more second-year students than third-year students?
Large and mid-size law firms tend to fill most of their first-year associate needs from their previous year's summer associate class. Therefore, they focus on hiring second-year students to fill future hiring needs.
Can I contact large, non-OCI firms directly?
If you are interested in applying to an employer that is not interviewing on-campus this fall, send a cover letter and resume to that employer in early August. If the recruiter is interested in interviewing you, he/she will contact you directly. You can go to www.nalpdirectory.com and do an advanced search of larger law firms in the city of your choice.
How does OCI work?
Students who wish to interview with the OCI employers will need to use their school's hiring website to review the online list of employers and their hiring criteria and to upload their application materials. Employers will then pre-select the students they wish to interview.
What criteria do employers use?
Employers determine their required or preferred hiring criteria. Know the employers' qualifications before bidding. If an employer requires the top 15 percent and you are ranked at 16 percent, unfortunately, you may not bid on that employer. If an employer's hiring criteria are listed as "preferred," this means that the employer will typically hire from within this class rank or just outside it. Students should be realistic in their bidding selections.
What should I expect when interviewing begins?
Interviews are generally scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. A few recruiters schedule only half-day schedules. Interviews are usually 20 or 30 minutes long.
If I get no interviews through OCI, what should I do?
About 90 percent of the nation's law graduates do not get hired through OCI. OCI is just one avenue to legal employment and, depending on your academic credentials, career goals, and practice interests, it may not be the appropriate avenue for you. If you are uncertain whether this is a program in which you should participate.
You can also consider out-of-state employers. If you are interested in an out-of-state employer, your cover letter should address why you wish to relocate to that city. Also, these employers will take your request more seriously if you tell them that you plan to visit their city on a certain date and that you would appreciate the opportunity to meet with them while you are in town. Keep in mind that if you want access to information about legal employers in other states, you can often gain the information by getting reciprocity to another law school career services office.
If I receive multiple offers for summer associate positions, how should I decide which offer to accept?
Focus on the work each firm engages in. What is each firm's core business? How will work be allocated? Will you rotate through practice areas as a junior associate or stay in just one? If you don't know what work you are interested in, choose a firm that will keep doors open and expose you to a number of practice areas.
Be honest with yourself about your personality and genuine interests. What vibe did you get from your interviewers? Who did you really click with? Find out about the day-to-day structure of the summer program including what practice areas you will be exposed to. Speak to current and former lawyers at each firm, though bear in mind that experiences of the same firm can vary dramatically and things may be different in two years' time.
Legally Blonde & Broke is a law school blog about getting through law school, saving money, and staying healthy. The creator of LBB Online attends Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago and hopes to enter personal injury litigation following graduation. LBB enjoys sharing her experience, tips, and tricks to be successful during the most difficult 3 years of a student's life.