Why Think Early About Your Interviews/OCI?

Tags: Interviewing Articles

In our other articles, we’ve described the importance of learning about law firms’ economics and practice groups, the importance of planning for your bids, and the importance of networking and doing so effectively.

What is the first step to doing all of these things, and doing them right? The answer is time.

No one is superman, and to do a job correctly and right requires time, OCI is no different. Even the best law-students make two major mistakes about this:

  1. They think that grades are all they need.  
  2. They think, as a result of the first point, that OCI only needs to be thought of a week or two before it begins.

You might be naturally personable, highly intelligent, and very intelligent and driven. You might get great grades working only marginally hard, and you might be so good on your feet and socially astute that you can just wing interviews without much preparation. In which case, you’ll get a job no matter what, and you might think that point number 1 above does not apply, and that you’ll have no trouble getting a job at OCI.

If this is you, then sure, you’ll get a job, but we have already pointed out why you should never be just trying to get one offer.  With the 2015 OCI interview bible, we want to try to help law students do several things:

  1. If you’re a demi-god law student, you should not just be trying to get a single job offer, but maximize the number of job offers.
  2. If you a mediocre law student, you should still be aiming for firms that typically accept students with higher grades than you.
  3. If you’re a terrible law-student, and ended up in the bottom third of your class, you might have less choice and more of an uphill battle, but you should still be able to get job offers.
  4. For all of the above, whether you’re getting loads of offers or just one offer, you should still try to make the right choice in the first circumstance, and make sure that one offer is the best offer possible.  

To do this, you have to network, research, and plan. To do these things right, you have to start early. Law students who have lower grades, who have no illusions, often do not make the mistake of waiting till the last moment, because they know it’s the last hope.  But great law students, by being overconfident, often squander away valuable time, and the massive dividends their grades would have offer them in terms of being selective about where they go.

By waiting, and not starting early, these students have failed to understand the cardinal rule of law school: everything is a means to an end, and that end… is a (great) OFFER.

Lets see why you should start early with some examples:

1. Networking

You don’t build relationships in the last two weeks before interviews. You build them with time. I took many individuals out to lunch last summer during their callback interviews. All had similar grades, and were similarly guarded in conversation. Few managed to impress.

But one guy out of the dozens of people I interviewed had e-mailed me months before, because he had looked up his target firms, found the individuals that had gone to his school, and reached out for advice and information. I had completely forgotten, and was surprised when I met the guy at the lunch table. It wasn’t much, but it got the conversation going, it showed he cared and prepared, and it made me more inclined to click “enthusiastic offer” on the evaluation form.

2. Interviews

Can you answer detailed questioning about your life and experiences without practice? Can you control your nerves without practice? Can you remain calm in an unfamiliar and high-stress situation without training? Do Navy SEALs go into combat, survive, and win with no training? Does training take time?

On one of my interviews, the partner did not bother with any of the standard questions. After the pleasantries, he cut to the chase by telling me the facts of a case he had before him (sans reference to any identifying information, of course), and asked me what I would argue in his situation.

How did I stay calm?

Because I had practiced untraditional lines of questioning with a friend, and was ready for curve balls, even if the content of the question is entirely unpredictable. I was ready for unpredictability.

3. Research

How long does it take you write a 50 page research paper? A week? A month? Two months? How much information do you think there is out there about law firms? Their practice groups? Their cultures? Their economic situations? Is the answer: “less than a 50-page research paper,” or “more?”

To have actionable information on law firms, information that will arm you for both the interview and the choices you must make after (if you’ve done your job), you have to spend months researching firms down to the tiniest detail. Only the foolhardy think they know everything, and end up making bad choices that hurt them in the long run.  

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