Tuesday, November 01, 2005

1Ls take notice - OCIP Lessons Learned

Now that the interview process is over, with a few exceptions, it’s time for some lessons learned. It is my hope that the topics discussed will be as helpful to 1Ls as I think they would have been to me one year ago. I encourage other 2Ls and 3Ls to write in either agreeing with or augmenting my own thoughts with some of theirs. Each successive class should have it easier and, hopefully, this post is a start.

First of all, you should know what my qualifications are for writing this - my results and luck with the process. I interviewed with 33 firms during OCIP (well actually 31, but had 2 pre-OCIP which I’ve decided to clump in with the rest). I received 17 callbacks but most of them were extended considerably after the interview date – two-weeks or more in my case. Of those 17 callbacks I went on 7 and received an offer from each, in other words, every firm I went on a callback with I received an offer from. I have no idea if my experience is typical, but I would say my results are pretty good, at least, I was happy with the choices I had. Here are some of my lessons learned about the process and related experiences in no particular order. They are my own thoughts and you should think about whether the strategy and advice I outline below will work for you.

At the beginning of OCIP keep track of your pre-bidding rankings (if you made them, and you should as how else are you going to decide what firms to place in what spots). You ranked firms a certain way for a reason. If you don’t get your #4 pick but get the rest of your top ten, try to get an interview with #4 when they are on campus. Too often, as was the case with me, you tend to forget about the firms you don’t receive interviews from, even though many firms you do get interviews with might be ranked rather low on your list going into the entire process. Had I actively pursued the top 10 or 15 firms I had going into OCIP in each phase, and not simply acquiesced to the interviews I already had, I feel I would have had better choices during the callback phase, and wouldn’t have been scrambling towards the end to interview with every last firm in order to increase my odds of receiving callbacks.

Preparing for OCIP interviews is a waste of time (note: I said only OCIP interviews, it is imperative you prepare thoroughly for callback interviews as I credit much of my success in this phase to being able to ask smart, specific questions about the interviewers and the firms). This is probably something that you have to figure out for yourself but I felt I performed much better when I knew only the person’s name and not all about what they did for Firm X. Everyone likes to talk about themselves and while it is sometimes useful to be able to ask a specific question about your interviewer’s work, I felt that the better question was what they did the past week and why they liked it. If you are interested in what they say, ask a more specific follow-up. These interviews are only 20 minutes long and that’s barely enough time to learn anything or ask any meaningful questions. It goes without saying, however, that you must know what the firm does. Although the most humorous OCIP stories were told by those students who only wanted to do litigation at a firm and are told mid-interview the firm does corporate work only, those stories are best heard and not told from a first-person perspective. Don’t make this mistake.

Thank-you notes, that people say are important, are worthless. I received offers from just as many firms that I didn’t send thank you notes to as the ones I did. Save your time after an interview and relax.

Apply for Firm jobs on Dec. 1. Last year I didn’t do this, and while I had a great summer at a public interest organization, I feel that it would have been worthwhile and not that difficult. Firms aren’t looking for 1Ls who know exactly what they want to do (my impression); they’re looking for 1Ls who are simply interested in their firm and who have reasonably good backgrounds (backgrounds are all they can judge on Dec. 1 anyway). I didn’t apply because I thought it would take too much time away from my studying. It really shouldn't. Put together a decent cover letter now and change it slightly for each firm. Apply to enough firms and you'll get some bites. It should be beneficial to go on a few interviews and see what the process is like. It will serve you very well when you’re a 2L. I think this will behoove even those of you who want to explore public interest (as I did) during the 1L summer. Practice for OCIP during your 1L year can't hurt.

I have no doubt that other 2Ls and 3Ls will add to this topic. My advice is for 1Ls to read it all and try to understand as much as possible. Make a short list of the better suggestions you read and keep it for next year or, if you follow my advice and decide to apply for firms this year, after Dec. 1. Good luck 1Ls – it’s not a fun process but the more prepared you are the better you are able to handle it.

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24 Comments:

Blogger ESQ-JD said...

Great advice. Thanks! We just had our 1L orientation on jobs and I hope to put together a resume soon. I always wondered though, what does a law firm see in a 1L in December when we don't even have grades?

I am assuming they look at law school you are at, your undergrad, and job experience? I came straight out, so I really have little job experience. Oh well...

11/01/2005 7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

17 callbacks...are you the one who writes the disturbing and long posts in the Zeb book?

11/01/2005 8:23 PM  
Blogger Disco Stu said...

I can honestly say I've never written anything in the Zeb book - well once, a small exam related item last year, but that was it. Sorry, place your blame for that note on someone else.

11/01/2005 8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One mistake I made was: I was so interested in a particular firm that I interviewed for two of their offices (A and B). Despite the fact that I strongly prefered office A, I heard first from office B. Before the callback with office B, I spoke with office A about a possible callback and they stated that they do not like to "step on eachother's toes." Lesson learned: I should have only interviewed with office A and not tried to hedge my bets a la inter-office interviewing

11/01/2005 9:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Co-sign with basically everything Armen has said so far, with a few variations. I did prepare for my OCI interviews and found that my eagerness to learn about the firm was appreciated and rewarded.

Grades don't matter as much as personality does. There are people with all P's who do extremely well in OCI. Of course, grades will help you land the more prestigious firms and those firms that have strict grade cut-offs, but if you're worried about not getting an offer at all, you should check your personality before you check your grades. So long as you can carry on a normal conversation, do not appear to have deviant interests and hobbies, and are well-mannered enough to be taken out in public, you should have no problems.

I didn't have all P's, but was far from having mostly HH's and had little trouble filling up my callback week schedule. I interviewed with about half the number of firms that Armen did.

11/01/2005 9:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edit to above post - at this late hour I have failed to notice that the OP was Disco Stu, not Armen. Substitute DS for Armen in my post above. Sorry.

11/01/2005 10:14 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

This is how rumors get started. I can only dream of being half the man, lover, and law student that Disco Stud is.

11/01/2005 10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree for the most part with DS, but I would say the big December 1 mail merge is a waste of time. Maybe once you have grades in January try it out, but w/o grades it's a waste of time, paper, and stamps. And if you ignore all that anyway, at least do a selective mail merge to firms who say they actually will consider 1Ls--many don't. Check the NALP profile first. But really, give Spring OCI a shot or wait until January--cover letters are a pain and the less you have to bother with them the better.

11/02/2005 12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DS, I don't think your OCIP experience was at all typical. I think its important for 1Ls to get some other perspectives, because I don't think what you wrote is the norm.

First, 17 callbacks is a hell of a lot. I know very few people who got anything close to that many. While most people got several callbakcs, no one should expect 17.

Second, I don't think most people got an offer from every callback. This was especially true for SF firms, I think, as compared to NY or DC (perhaps cus SF has smaller classes?).

Third, 1Ls shoudl not feel pressure to work at or even interview with any firms this year. If you really want to work at a firm, or really need the money, by all means go for it. But there are tons of other things you can be doing that will be far more interesting. And don't worry about interviews next year--working at a firm now will not matter next year, and any "practice" you get now will be marginally helpful at best. As another poster said, personality is most important, so concentrate on having something interesting to talk about in interviews, not "practicing."

Anyway, this isn't to say that DS's advice wasn't good--it was. In the end, almost everyone I know ended up with options that they were really pleased with. But I think that everyone should be realistic about the process. OFten we only hear from the people who had the best luck in the process (and so much of it is luck), and so it doesn't give you a good idea of what it is really like.

11/02/2005 1:56 PM  
Blogger Disco Stu said...

1:56 - I agree that my results weren't that typical. I had much better results in the last week, though, precisely because I had so much practice at interviewing - I knew what they wanted to hear. I owe that to practicing my interviewing skills prior to and during OCIP. Perhaps your right and 1Ls won't learn anything by interviewing now. To that I say, what's the point of doing something if you don't learn from it? 1Ls - if you're not going to remember the interviewing skills you learned this year then don't interview just to practice. If you are interviewing take notes on what you answered and how it seemed to influence the decisionmakers. This is getting a little of my original topic of the post - which was procedural things about OCIP, and not interviewing tips.

1:56 also mentioned luck coming into play and grades had been talked about briefly. This is where individual experiences will differ dramatically. Whether it's because I was fortunate enough to receive so many call backs or not - I would say I don't want to think luck was that important or that grades weren't that important. I'd like to think that firms hired me because they saw my grades and thought I could fit in well with their firm or they saw something in me - not just luck.

It's no doubt more complicated than that. Of course there are firms out there that have grade cut-offs that only the Amjurs among us (and I am certaintly not one) will make. That said, I used statistics to calculate that I was in the top third of the class. Mind you top-third of the class does not equal top-third of the Boalties interviewers see. There were firms out there I was surprised to get callbacks from - both because of how I did in the interview and my grades. There were also firms out there that I was absolutely shocked not to receive a callback from. For one particular firm my interview went fantastically - probably the best interview I had the whole time, and I know people who worked there last summer were not above me on the grade scale.

Like anything there are some random variations. But if your grades are decent (mine were) and your interview skills are sharp (again, I think I'm an excellent interviewer) things should look up for you at the end of the process. I would say if it's luck you should make your own, as I feel I did.

11/02/2005 3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is 1:56 again....

I agree with most of your last post, DS. I still say that interviewing with firms as a 1L isn't that important, but it certainly isn't going to hurt you, so if someone wants to do it, they definitely should. If you feel like you need the practice, then you probably ought to do it--just don't feel that it is essential to succeeding next year.

In terms of luck, you're right--you make your own. By "luck" I just meant that sometimes there isn't rhyme or reason to an individual firm's decision. You may get an offer from a very competitive firm and then not get a callback from somewhere seemingly less competitive. In the end, I think things shake out in the right way overall, but there are always surprises from particular firms.

My main point, really, was just that you did really well in OCIP, which is great. But while everyone can expect to end up with a job they're happy with, not everyone should expect to have the volume of options you did.

11/02/2005 3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And don't think a callback is a given; there were plenty of people with none.

11/02/2005 4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:56 is right. 17 callbacks is not only atypical -- it's amazing!

from what i know about myself and my close friends, for people that did roughly 15 interviews in each phase, 5-10 is about average. although, there are rumors that some people received no callbacks at all.

re: 1L firm jobs:

don't think that if you work for a judge or a non-profit your first summer you will be significantly disadvantaged in OCI during 2L. that is simply not the case.

mail merge before grades come out is NOT a waste of time. some people have gotten firm jobs and externships before grades came out.

11/02/2005 4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd just like to say that people in the newly opened reading room should keep their fucking mouths shut. One more place that I can't study...

you may now return to OCIP talk...

11/02/2005 5:33 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Great, yet another anti-social psychopath.

11/02/2005 5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, I'm a 3L. My first year, there weren't that many firm jobs available. I also decided that i should focus on finals and apply for firm jobs and judicial externships afterwards. So I didn't apply until about Dec. 22nd. I got an externship in ND Cal in Oakland, although this was before ND Cal started demanding 1L grades. It was a great experience. I highly recommend it to anyone who can find enough cash to get through the summer without being paid. You'll get awesome writing experience, much more so than you'll get at a firm, based on my 2L summer experience.

As for OCIP, I think I interviewed at 17 places in SV/SF and got 13 callbacks. Of the call backs I went on, I got offers at each one. My 1L grades were not stellar, but I have an advance degree that made me a very attractive candidate in my field of law. And I think my externship helped -- I had a great writing sample. I was also pretty selective, trying to figure out where I thought I'd be happy and so probably didn't apply to places where many Boalties seem to apply -- Latham, O'Melveny, Kirkland, etc.

But most of all, don't freak out. The job market seems strong now and even people who I know did not work their 1L summer got good jobs through OCIP. It will all be ok.

11/02/2005 7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My advice to 1Ls is this. If you are thinking of doing a judicial externship, you should send your resumes out shortly after December 1st. Don't wait too long or wait until winter break to do this. I was glad I did it soon. I scheduled my interviews to take place during the winter break--since that was when I was going to be in LA. I did my first interview, got the offer and accepted, and then cancelled my remaining interviews. This allowed me to enjoy the rest of my winter break. It was not a stressful process.

I think judicial externships are good (even though unpaid) because when I went through OCIP, every firm was really impressed that I got to work at the 9th circuit and wanted to know more about it. I think it played a factor in turning my callbacks into offers, and I was pretty happy with my OCIP results.

11/03/2005 5:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: 1L summer firm jobs.

A lot of people say that 1L firm jobs don't matter, but I think there are three advantages. First, if you're sure that you want to be at a firm, it gives you more perspective on what type of firm you want to be at when you start working. Second, it gives you a lot of interview practice because you know exactly what interviewers want to hear during 2L OCIP. Third, if you work for a firm that is recognizable in the market you want to work in and you receive an offer, your options during 2L summer will improve substantially.

The people that I know with 1L firm jobs at large law firms did very well in OCIP. Several came within one or two offers of receiving an offer from every firm they interviewed with.

The biggest downside to a 1L firm job is that it makes your first summer more stressful. Other summer associates will have an extra year of legal research and writing experience. Every firm during the 2L OCIP will ask if you received an offer, so you must work hard enough to get the offer.

11/03/2005 5:16 PM  
Blogger G. said...

"Thank-you notes, that people say are important, are worthless."

Or dangerous -- my friend at our firm recently interviewed someone to be a 2L next summer (not from Boalt) and got a faxed thank you note talking about what a great fit she thought she would be for Hanson Bridgett (we do not work at Hanson Bridgett). ;)

I wish I had time to read some of the comments here and offer feedback as an alumni, but for polling's sake:

1) I did the giant mail merge of letters Dec. 1 as a 1L (only to Bay Area firms that considered 1Ls -- about 50 letters) and got 2 interviews and 1 offer. But hey it only takes one, and I was ecstatic to have that job! I found it to be a really good experience because I got the chance to work at two different firms during school, rather than just one. Helps you get a little perspective. Oh yeah, and I REALLY needed the money.

2) At OCIP I did 17 interviews and even though that's not as many as a lot of people do, it sure felt like a lot to me. I was offered callbacks for all but one firm (damn you, Farella Braun [shakes fist at sky]!). I didn't want to do 16 callbacks, so then I finally got off my ass and started doing substantial, in-depth research, and I was able to narrow it down to 5 firms at which I wanted to do callbacks.

I got offers from all five -- my impression (which may be wrong) is that usually if they bother to bring you in for a callback they have already decided they like you (and your resume). Plus you come with the stamp of approval of whoever conducted the OCIP interview.

Anyway, try not to let the stress get you down -- I actually thought OCIP was kind of a fun process, just because most of it is so laughably absurd. And because it involved drinking at Henry's. When $3 Long Island Iced Teas are involved, it's tough to complain.

11/03/2005 5:53 PM  
Blogger G. said...

Oh wait I just realized I lied, I did *NOT* get an offer for Morrison & Foerster's Walnut Creek office, for which I did a callback. They were only hiring 1 summer associate for that office, so I think it's worth noting that if you are doing a callback at a small office, it's less likely you will get an offer if they're only hiring 1 or 2 people.

I'm not saying that was the reason they kicked me to the curb, I'm actually pretty sure it was just because they thought I was weird. Or maybe because they saw through my charade of enthusiasm for their particular office and realized that a large draw was that I would have had a 10-minute commute. :)

11/03/2005 6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had abysmal grades from 1L and worked at a nonprofit over that summer. I split the second summer between a nonprofit and a law firm.
Even though I busted my ass during 2L and pulled a great GPA, it was very hard for me to convince anyone that I wanted to work for a firm. Grades and experience matter a hell of a lot. That being said, genuine enthusiasm can get you very far.

Whether or not to send thank you notes depends on the firm. Some firms decide before you're even out the door, so sending thank you notes is a huge waste of time. That being said, send them anyway. You want something positive in your file even if they do not hire you; after all, you will probably run across at least one person from that firm again and it's great when they already like you. I sent thank you notes to every firm I did callbacks with- and for every offer I received, someone from that office specifically mentioned how much they liked the thank you note.

17 callbacks is simply astounding. I wouldn't have the energy. Find the few firms you really like and go for those. Focus your energy or you will burn out. If you are fortunate or skilled enough to accumulate that many callbacks, for your own sake, choose which ones to go on so that you can really get a good idea of where you want to go.

Also, 1Ls and 2Ls, be selective. You can be. You go to a great school. By the time you are a 3L, you should only be looking at firms you'd work for longterm. Cast your net widely but think carefully before accepting with a firm. I had a lot of friends who worked their 2L summers at a firm just because they got a summer offer from them, only to discover that they hated it and did not accept a permanent offer...which put them back in the job search market as 3Ls. Which sucked, because they had to explain why they didnt take the job from the summer firm. And then the summer firm knew they weren't happy...it's just a bad cycle. Best to be selective from the get-go so that you don't end up weighing bad options.

Good luck! No matter what, don't despair. You are going to have a degree from a great institution. I started with a 2.60 GPA, busted my ass, did OCIP three times, and just netted the job of my dreams. If I can do it, anyone can.

Also, I would recommend reading: Guerilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of your Dreams. Everyone who I know who has read that book received multiple offers, including an offer from their number one choice. Best $24 I ever spent.

11/05/2005 4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

for those of you who end up in the straight-P club or very close - there are a number of us. I would expect a 1 to 10 ration or callbacks to screening interviews. You gots to hustle, but if you do, you'll get a job.

11/07/2005 11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And please don't forget that OCIP is NOT the only avenue people should use for recruiting. In fact MOST firms in the U.S. don't do OCIP. For some reason everyone thinks if you don't get a job through OCIP, your life is over...which couldn't be further from the truth.

11/11/2005 1:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really late entry:


Like others have said, personality counts! A lot! I have all Ps, interviewed with about 25 or so firms, and had 7 callbacks with 6 offers. I know that making that connection with folks really makes a difference.

And I do think the callback = offer ratio is higher on the East Coast; I mean they have to make a much greater investment to get you there, so they're probably more likely to really want you than if they just have to reimburse you for parking or BART fare.

1/26/2006 11:17 AM  

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