Rock OCI and Get the Job You Want: Introduction

Photo of Conference Room TableFirst things first: what is OCI, anyway?

On Campus Interviewing

The name varies, but most law schools have some variant of on campus interviewing, or OCI. Basically, a bunch of law firms send representatives to a single location (either on campus or in a nearby hotel) and these people conduct short interviews with law students. Afterwards, certain chosen students are granted “callback interviews” – more extensive interviews that happen on-site at the law firm’s office. If all goes well, the callback interview results in a job offer to join the firm’s summer associate program the following summer.

One slightly odd aspect of OCI is that it generally happens before 2L classes start, so you’ll be interviewing for a job that starts after your second year of law school, before that year has even started. Kind of weird, right? And potentially problematic if the economy shifts markedly during your second year, and the firm you thought you’d be summering with decides to cancel or downsize their program, leaving you in the lurch. But let’s not dwell on that now!

How Do Firms Decide Which Students to Interview?

For obvious reasons, firms can’t interview every single student in the class, and every student can’t interview at every firm. There has to be some sort of sorting mechanism, to determine which firms will interview which students.

Schools do this in one of two ways:

  • students bid on firms and each firm interviews the students who ranked it most highly, or
  • students submit their transcripts and résumés, and each firm decides which students it wants to interview.

Some schools employ a hybrid method, whereby firms set minimum criteria (generally GPA based) and students then bid on the firms they’re eligible to interview at.

Warning: Unless You’re at the Top of Your Class, OCI is Going to Seem Unfair

Let’s get this out of the way. OCI is largely GPA based, even at the very top schools.

If your grades are excellent, you’ll be flooded with offers, and you’ll have to resist the temptation to moan about how hard it is to schedule all of your callbacks and still have time to study. Please do your best to resist this temptation, as it’s very annoying for those around you.

If your grades are average at a top school, you’ll have offers, but they might be at less “prestigious” firms. In the end, this is probably a benefit, actually, since many of these firms are more humane than the very fanciest firms (someone has to pay for those elaborate offices), but you may not immediately recognize the upside, and could find yourself feeling like crap because your friend got a callback, and you didn’t. That’s life. Try to drum up some gratitude that you have offers at all.

If you’ve got grades that are well below average at a top school, you’ll probably still get an offer from somewhere, which will strike average students at less highly ranked schools as patently unfair. They’re probably right, and you should be thanking your lucky stars for whatever comes your way.

If you’ve got anything but top grades at a lower ranked school, OCI may not pan out for you. That’s not to say you shouldn’t make the effort, but you may have to employ more labor intensive strategies for finding summer employment. Is this fair? Who’s to say, but just think how satisfying it will be when you finally find a job and can scoff at all those people who didn’t have the character building experience you had!

To Maximize Your Chances, Become a Student of the System

Who do you think is going to be more successful?

  • Ms. Flighty, who almost misses the deadline for OCI bids, picks a few firms she’s heard of in a couple of different cities, and hopes for the best.
  • Ms. Diligent, who spends the summer reading her OCI manual and asking her upperclass friends for advice, carefully reviews the stated preferences of all of the firms in her target cities, sorts these firms into target, reach, and safety categories, researches any firm that seems interesting, and generates her bid list by using her research to select a handful of firms in each category in her target cities.

Call me crazy, but I’m going to go with strategy two!

Be Optimistic, But Realistic

As with most things in life, you get out of OCI what you put in. Generally you’ll be given a lot of information about what firms are looking for, and who they’ve hired in the past. The process isn’t that different from deciding where to apply to law school. You simply identify places that seem like a good fit, then try to figure out if they’ll have you. But you have to be realistic. If a firm has never hired anyone who’s not in the top 10% at your school, they’re unlikely to hire you if you’re in the top 20%.

Yes, I know you’re a special snowflake, but so is everyone else. If you have a spare bid, feel free to waste it on a firm that’s never going to hire you. Just be sure that you’re not wasting all of your bids. If you play the odds, your overall results will be far more satisfying.

Master OCI and Get the Job You Want

Read on to get the information you need to get the summer associate position you want:

Return to Summer Jobs 101.

Confused about OCI bidding strategies? Leave questions in the comments!

Image by goincase via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.


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Comments

  1. I’m a cofounder of http://www.navforward.com. It’s another useful tool to help you research law firms of all sizes. You can quickly learn what an office actually does so that you can more effectively craft your narrative or cover letter to match the needs of that specific office.

  2. NY Law Student says:

    1. Is there somewhere that I can find a list of the largest firms and their usual GPA cutoffs for OCI?
    2. When firms say “law review preferred” does a position on another non-LR journal hurt you and/or is it something you should address in an interview?

    • 1. That’s going to depend a lot on the school. Typically, your school should provide at least a basic overview of this information, to avoid having you waste bids.
      2. Being on another journal isn’t going to hurt you, but it’s not going to help as much as being on Law Review. It’s definitely better than no journal, however.

      Best of luck!

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