How to ace the On Campus Interview

Most law school graduates will remember with anxiety and (now on the other side) relief their first On Campus Interview. A gaggle of well-dressed law students sitting in a jittery line, nervous looks flitting across their faces as they struggle to look confident, all the while eagerly devouring a print out of a law firm’s webpage or a list of questions they intend to ask the interviewer(s) and resisting the urge to walk out.

The On Campus Interview (OCI) is a dreadful rite of passage for anyone wanting to work in a firm during and after law school. The tips contained within this article will not make the process less nerve wracking, but they might give you an edge over the competition and help you land your first firm job.

 

Know When & Where

 

One fact is absolutely true (like death and taxes): If you don’t know when and where OCIs are taking place on your law school’s campus (and get signed up) you are not going to snag one of the few available jobs.

The first step in surviving the OCI gauntlet is to communicate with your school’s career planning staff, your academic advisor, your school’s website, and (if you have a particular firm in mind) firm websites to determine the date, time, and location of the OCIs. Once you know when the OCIs or job fairs are taking place, get that into your calendar with several reminders leading up to the event.

 

Time is of the Essence

 

If you are enjoying your summer and not thinking about OCIs, you’re already starting off on the wrong foot to crush the OCI. Summer is a critical time to start preparing for the OCI, because most will take place within the first few weeks of the fall semester.

Once classes begin and you are thrust back into the stress of classes, the Socratic method, case briefing, and exam preparation, you will not be as focused of preparing for the OCI as you will need to be to be competitive. Summer is the perfect time to draft and polish cover letters, resumes, writing samples, etc. Put down the umbrella drink and get to work now.

 

A Failure to Plan is a Plan to Fail

 

While you are working feverishly to create application documents that a free of errors and will make you look like the type of candidate your chosen firm(s) cannot function without, it’s time to do you homework

You cannot reasonably expect to impress any firm’s recruiter if you haven’t done some research before they talk to you. You resume, grades, and good looks can only take you so far (which is basically a foot in the door). To really blow your interviewers away you must know your stuff.

 

Where to Begin?

 

The first place to look is your law school’s career advising center or your assigned career counselor. Knowing employers, employment trends, and interviewing is their bread and butter. They will have countless resources to help you in your preparation for the OCI.

Next, check out the website of any firm that you know you are going to interview with. Know the firm’s mission statement, get familiar with its primary practice areas, and learn a little about the attorneys in the firm (how many, areas of practice, backgrounds, etc.). It is also a great idea to look for publications, blogs, and social media presence for the firms with which you want to interview. You want to become as versed and knowledgeable about the firm and interviewers as humanly possible. They need to see that you put some work in and are passionate about working for them.

Once you are armed with the tools from your career counselor and have become an expert in the firms you are going to interview with, it is time to hone your general interview skills. The OCI can feel a bit like speed dating, so you have a finite amount of time to show them who you are and (more importantly) why you would be the asset to their firm that you claim to be.

There are countless sites on the Internet about common and difficult questions that interviewers commonly ask. Make a list of the top twenty and give each a little thought. You don’t need to memorize these questions by rote learning, but if you have at least given some consideration to a thoughtful response to each beforehand, you will be far more comfortable and confident during your OCI.

 

Are you Confident?

 

If not, then it’s time to get there. You are applying for these jobs as a successful law student. Hopefully, your 1L grades were solid, you’ve gotten a handle on how to be a law student, the fundamentals of legal writing and analysis, and have a basic understanding of several areas of substantive law.

You got into law school in the first place, which means you are competent and capable. Going into an OCI without some level of confidence will poison the interview from start. Don’t be arrogant (no one likes that) but own that you have earned your place in the seat across from those interviewers (and at your law school) and be confident that you do have great qualities to offer the firm.

If you believe in yourself and believe that you would be an exceptional addition to the firm’s team, armed with your error-free documents and pre-interview research, you will have a much easier time convincing the interview of that fact.

 

Survival is Possible

You can either suffer through the awful OCI experience, or you can leverage the OCI to land that perfect clerkship or internship during law school or your dream job after. Either way, the OCI survival game is all about being prepared and confident. If you can start that process now, you will crush your OCIs this fall.

 

 


Alison Monahan is the founder of The Girl’s Guide to Law School®, which is a leading resource for women (and some men) embarking on a legal career. Alison is also a co-founder of the Law School Toolbox® and Bar Exam Toolbox® which provide free resources, tutoring and a variety of courses and tools to help law students and bar exam takers succeed with less stress and anxiety. 


 

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