Friday, August 9, 2013

GUEST POST: Four Suggestions from an OCI Veteran

As you get ready for your OCI interviews that start next week, keep these tips in mind from today's guest poster, a recent graduate who successfully obtained a summer associate position at a large New York City law firm through the OCI process.

Be Flexible.
A lot of OCI stress goes into formulating answers to the questions "why law school?" or "why do you want to be a lawyer?" These are valid questions that you will get asked and that you should be prepared to answer. However, I found that a not insignificant amount of my OCI stress stemmed from anticipating questions asking "what type of law would you like to practice?" and "corporate or litigation?" These questions are not only less frequently asked, but a firm answer to them may not always work in your favor. This is true for two reasons: (1) it's unlikely that you'll have a developed idea of what it is you'd like to do, not having previously worked in a firm (this is especially true concerning the "corporate or litigation" question) and (2) firms may be looking for particular summer associates, taking into consideration what departments are busy, where the anticipate growth, where a lot of attorneys have been leaving, etc., and your seemingly unwavering commitment to ERISA work, in the name of having a definitive stance on the issue of what you'd "like to do," may hurt you when your partner interviewer knows in a year's time, the ERISA group will be downsizing. My advice here is to remain flexible. If you're interested in something specific, it's fine to address it and let it be known, but you should also take care to equally highlight your desire to try different practice areas, your eagerness to learn, and your ability to be flexible.

Be Prepared to Really Answer "Why XYZ firm?"
Do your research. I'm not talking about just visiting the firm website and NALP. Check out Vault, search the Wall Street Journal, run some general searches to see if the firm has popped up in the news, try to really get a grasp of what the firm does and where they are headed. You will get pushed on this question if you provide a generic answer. Interviewers are busy people and it's important that you come across as having done your homework to avoid taking a 20 minute time-slot to interview for a position at a firm that you really know nothing about. This is not to say you need to go nuts here and research trial brief style, but you do need to dig a tad deeper than you may think necessary to come up with the good stuff that will allow you to stand out and earn you a check mark on your resume for really knowing why you're there in the first place.

Just When You Think You Have Enough Questions Prepared, Prepare Some More Questions. No doubt by now you have 5-6 questions prepared for the end of your interview. You've made sure to jot inquiries like "What makes for a successful summer associate at XYZ firm?" and "In what practice areas do you anticipate growth?" (both good questions) in your handy leather portfolio. Heck, maybe you've even expanded that list to 8-10 questions or even, if you're really ambitious, 10-12. You'll likely make it through 80%, or even all of your interviews, and not have used all of these questions and you'll be proud of your erring on the side of caution by having so many prepared. However, that moment will come, whether it's on the 2nd floor of CLJ or in a partner's office during a callback, where the interview will be placed in your hands, where the typical "Do you have any questions for me?" will not be tossed over to you with only a few minutes remaining in the interview, but rather right at the beginning of your time together, and you'll be left with 30 minutes or so with nothing else to do but ask questions. This is the situation you must prepare for. Your generic questions will likely be good to carry over from firm to firm, but I would take care to spend some extra time forming firm-specific questions, that will enable you to fill time, allow the interviewer to segue into other discussions about the firm, and most importantly, as above, stand out as researched, prepared, and truly interested in the job.

Drink Water. Eat Lunch.
Sounds obvious, right? I thought so too. During interview week, you will be faced with long days of sometimes back-to-back interviews. Worse, your interviews may not be back-to-back, but will have just enough time between each to be inconvenient yet not enough time to ensure that leaving the building is not a risky proposition (Will I make it back on time? Will a Newark police officer on horseback write me up for j-walking?). To add to the variables, it will also be hot, likely very hot and walking outdoors could mean turning into a sweaty mess right before your 1st choice firm interview. With the above in mind, I suggest you (1) keep snacks on hand so as to avoid the "I'll eat later" mentality and wind up close to passed out in your 4:40 interview and (2) keep hydrated as you will be talking more than you make think possible and dry mouth (and the accompanying breath) is not ideal.