For those of you who aren’t familiar with this process, a brief synopsis: The first phase involves second-year law students sending out their resumés and cover letters, begging law firms for an interview. In between phases one and two, law students anxiously await intention-to-interview e-mails. The second phase is the actual interviews.
Each interview is 17 minutes long, in a makeshift cubicle constructed of tacky curtains. When the first bell rings, the interview begins and students have approximately 15 minutes to sell themselves to firms. The last two minutes are typically reserved for student questions. When the bell rings a second time, the interview is officially over and students have three minutes to get to their next meeting.
I will say, although the experience was nerve-racking, it was nowhere near the horror of the soup-slurping narcissist of dates past.
Having just completed OCI phase two last week, and now awaiting intention-to-call e-mails, I can reflect and hopefully provide up-and-comers with some guidance. In the week leading up to the interviews I did some things very well and other things poorly. As a person who constantly praises the network of upper-year support at my school, I did a terrible job of using it. Moral of the story: when your wise 3L buddies tell you not to stress and freak out, listen to them!
In spite of my intention to stay calm and collected, prior to OCIs, I became very nervous. I put a great deal of pressure on myself, which manifested in my lack of sleep and the return of my pre-exam chocolate addiction. Retrospectively, my advice is to fight the urge to stress. The reality is, law firms want to get to know who you are — a hard goal to accomplish in 17 minutes — but putting a face to the resumé is the ultimate goal. Stay relaxed and be confident in yourself. After my first interview, I felt I had calmed down a bit and was able to let my personality show. This should be everyone’s aim when going into that tiny cubicle. Be genuine. After I was done my interviews, I kicked myself for being so flustered the week before. Don’t make the same mistake.
Not stressing, however, does not mean that you shouldn’t prepare. As every law student knows, preparation is the key to success in any area of the bar. This was one of my strengths. I am fortunate enough to have friends who were willing to go over my resumé with me and spend countless hours asking me questions. I found it most helpful when my mock interviewers took notes during the questioning and gave me constructive feedback. If you do not have friends who’ll help with this, I suggest you start looking. Law students like coffee and candy. Bring an extra cup from Starbucks to the library and sit next to someone who looks friendly; you’ll be well on your way to being BFFs.
Going into the interviews, be sure to know your resumé well. If possible, have a short anecdote to tell about your various involvements, ideally something highlighting your personality or skills. Don’t lie or exaggerate about any of your accomplishments. Most importantly, spend some time thinking about the tough questions. Why do you want to work on Bay Street? Are you ready to commit to hard work and do you share the values of the firm to which you are applying? If there are firms that you are particularly drawn to, do some research. Inquiring about their mentorship program, community involvement, and opportunities for continued legal education can be extremely beneficial.
Once you have adequately prepared for the interviews, take a deep breath. No matter what the outcome, OCIs are a great learning opportunity. Much like dating, it is important to appreciate the good experiences and not dwell on the bad ones. Worst-case scenario, we get to do it all over again when we apply for articles.