Law School Diary: On Campus Interviews

LSAT Blog Law School On Campus Interviews
In this week's Law School Diaries column, law student "Elle Woods" describes the process of law school on-campus interviewing.


OCI is a b$tch.  OCI – or On Campus Interviews - hasn’t even started yet and it’s already this giant cloud of stress and anxiety hovering over me.   Before grades were even released, my inbox was flooded with a ridiculous number of emails from the Career Planning and Professionalism office at Penn telling me to start researching firms, going to firm receptions, and planning my bid list.  Sigh, they spare not even a moment to let you live in blissful ignorance that maybe law school doesn’t exist.

OCI is what everyone (very intimidatingly) says makes or breaks you if you want to work at a firm.  This four-week period of back to back interviews and call-backs is what will probably end up landing you that “dream” summer associate position after 2L year – the job that will probably turn into a permanent offer for after graduation.  Basically, your entire legal career at a future depends on OCI.  No pressure or anything.

Well, I refuse to buy into the hype and propaganda.  Sure, OCI is important for those of us who want firm gigs, but it’s definitely not the be-all or end-all.  My attitude going into this is, if I get a position, great; if not, then I’ll just work harder and get a firm job after 2L year.  There’s enough legal work out there that excites me that if I don’t end up at a firm I won’t be devastated (just annoyed with myself).  However, not everyone has the same mindset.  For a lot of people, this is when they really start gunning for the Wachtells and Cravaths of the legal world.

Unfortunately, OCI doesn’t only exist during that one month that you’re interviewing – the preparation itself starts well in advance.  I think “bidding” for interviews is the general procedure at most law schools.  At Penn, that means we’re given an excel spreadsheet with 450 or so different interviews (about 200 firms, a lot of which have multiple locations represented).  You then have to rank your top 60 interview choices, and those become your “bids.” From what I’ve heard, though, most schools do 30-50 bids.

At Penn, interviewers don’t have any say in which students they interview – the system just assigns the interviews (most students get 15-25 interviews) based on your bid list, no other factors are considered.  The firms can set guidelines like, “We only want students in the top 1/3 of the class,” but they have no access to grades and can’t weed people out prior to the interviews.  Of course, that’s where bidding strategically comes in.  if you’re risk-adverse like I am, you’re going to rank “easier” firms towards the top of your list.  That way, you don’t waste your precious bids and get 14 out of 18 interviews with firms that want straight-A students.

At various other schools, however, firms do see your transcript along with your resume and have input in selecting which students they want to interview based on your bid list and your grades/resume.    If you’re like me and have mediocre grades but interview very well/have good work experience (*blushes humbly*) this would be completely disastrous – firms would weed you out before you had a chance to dazzle them with your personality to compensate for your grades.  On the other hand, at least you know that you’re not wasting your time interviewing with firms that are “out of your league.”

Irrespective of which OCI procedures your school uses, I promise you that bidding will be an equal pain in the butt.  Of course, it’s up to you how much time you spend doing your homework in preparation for bidding (researching firms, looking at past OCI data, etc. ).  Penn gives us so much information that I feel guilty/stupid for not thoroughly looking through it.  Either way, everyone tells you that first year summer is laid-back and fun – you have a job with normal hours and your weekends and evenings are yours (a luxury we didn’t really have during 1L year). That’s true, for the most part.  However, what people fail to tell you is that preparing for OCI is a full-time job in itself. And if this all sounds complicated, don’t worry, most students don’t start even thinking about it until after 1L year is over. In fact, OCI is a month away and I’m still not sure that I fully understand how it works.  Hmm, I should probably get on that...

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