I last wrote the night before on-campus interviews (“OCIs”): those 17-minute, preliminary interviews with big Vancouver law firms. I promised to report back on my experiences, but before I get into the details, I want to make a quick disclaimer. This process was pretty competitive and intense. This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise – students across the country were vying for a small number of positions – but I think it’s worth emphasizing.
I feel extremely lucky to have come out of this whole thing with a position at a firm I really like. Without a doubt, this process didn’t end with everyone getting exactly what they wanted. I’m not trying to scare anyone, but out of approximately 200 second year students, only around 50 got jobs through OCIs. With that said, there are lots of jobs out there with firms that don’t participate in this process. This is but one possible path.
September 19th – 20th: On Campus Interviews
My nerves compelled me to be about an hour early for my first OCI. This meant I had plenty of time to scope out the set up, fret about missing classes, and make nervous chitchat with classmates while I waited. We reassured each other that our outfits were appropriate and that firms would be crazy not to hire us.
The interviews were held in small booths made out of curtains, which were not the most welcoming, but were very functional. For whatever magical reason, even though there was only a thin piece of fabric separating my interviews from others’, the acoustics were such that you couldn’t hear other people. By the time introductions had been made and hands had been shook, the other interviews melted away into background sound. This was a BIG relief because some interviews went better than others, so I could convince myself that what happened behind the curtains, stayed behind the curtains.
At the end of Day 2, I’d had so many adrenaline peaks and troughs that I was totally spent. There was a two-week wait before interview call day, when I would know the outcome of my OCIs. Interview call day is when firms call to schedule “in firm” interviews – the next step in getting a summer job.
October 17th – 19th: Interview Week
Interview week was truly an experience. I spent those three days running around downtown Vancouver, going from firm to firm, event to event. Thank heavens it was sunny. At times interview week was super fun, other times it was pretty stressful. It was an opportunity to meet scores of interesting and successful people, but it was also a week of tough decisions and some rejection.
Firms put a ton of resources into interview week (well, the whole recruitment process really). There were lunches and dinners, receptions and coffees. I met dozens of partners, associates and students – many spent a significant amount of time answering my questions and telling me about their practices. Firms put a lot of effort into getting to know students, and while Career Services will be able to advise you better than I can, I think it’s safe to say that firms are looking for a bit of reciprocation in this process. The people I met weren’t concerned that I didn’t know what kind of law I want to practice, but they wanted to get a sense of why I wanted to work for them in particular. They certainly gave me every opportunity to show my curiosity about their firm.
My focus for interview week was pretty general (because I don’t know what kind of law I want to practice). I paid attention to the vibes I got from the people I met, and the kinds of things they emphasized as being important to their “firm culture”. I also asked lawyers about their pre-law background and what drew them to their practice area to get a sense of what my path might be if I ended up at their firm. Lastly, I tried to imagine what it would be like working at the firms I interviewed with.
When it was all said and done, I consider myself to be very lucky to have received an offer, and from a firm I really like. I’ve heard all sorts of stories from friends – some knew exactly who was going to be their first call with an offer; others were really surprised by who called and who didn’t.
The best advice I was given during this crazy month and a half was: Don’t read into anything. If you’re digging a firm but they don’t invite you to a lunch: don’t read into it. If you thought you nailed an OCI but the firm didn’t respond to your follow-up email: don’t read into it. If the firm gives you gifts, tells you they think you’re amazing, invites you to meet every lawyer in the firm: don’t read into it. I’ve heard lots of stories, and you may not know exactly where you stand with a firm until they call with a job offer.
For example, the firm that I will be working for this summer didn’t call me on interview call day to schedule an interview. Yup. They called me a full 30+ hours later. I thought for sure they must have gotten a cancelation and I was top of their pity list. It was hard not to read into it! But it turned out to be an awesome interview (sparks flew!), and they were my first call with a job offer (and they called me at 8:00 am sharp that time).
That’s a pretty long summary (I know), but if you have any questions- I’d be more than happy to answer them!