If you want a summer associate position at a law firm, your best bet is to participate in on-campus interviews (OCI) at your law school. However, stiff competition means you need to stand out apart from your resume and transcript. Your interview must convince recruiters you’re worthy of a callback. In order to get a callback, you must show you’re intellectually sharp, can apply what you’ve learned so far in real legal work and are teachable.
If you know how to demonstrate these traits, you can ace your on-campus interviews. But preparation starts well before your first interview. Use these tips to master the OCI, so you’ll get those callbacks.
Research Your Targets
Exploring your options starts months before the actual interviews. Many law firms sponsor on-campus receptions so students can get a feel for the fit and culture.
Once you’ve determined which firms interest you, do your research on each firm. Learn their history, practice areas, star attorneys, community activities, and where they’ve done the most notable work. Make sure the firm’s values sync with your own.
Use the NALP Directory of Legal Employers for preliminary research. Spend quality time reading their website copy, blogs and new articles. Be sure to follow the firms on social media as well, and read profiles of both law school alumni and past summer associates.
You can learn what each firm looks for in a candidate by reading their associate program materials and assessing the background and skills of past hires online. Talk to other students who’ve interned with the firm and reach out to law school alumni for informational interviews.
Craft a Customized Recruiting Package
In most cases, you’ll submit your resumes and writing samples online during a bidding, or other resume collection process to get an OCI with target firms. Recruiters look at hundreds of resumes so make yours exceptional.
Take the time to create a recruiting folder for each firm that includes your writing samples and resumes. Customize and polish your resume, creating one for each firm you’re interested in interviewing with (this should be based on what you’ve learned from your research).
Make sure your resume shows how your background, skills and experience syncs well with their requirements. Your writing samples should also be tailored to each firm. Have your resume package reviewed by your law school’s career services department before sending them out or bringing them to your on-campus interviews.
Perfect Your Pitch
You might have to sell yourself to prospective employers on the fly so develop your elevator pitch. In your pitch, briefly share your educational and work background, what practice areas interest you and what you’re looking for in a position. If you’re a 2L who’s unsure, it’s fine to say so.
Then, practice your pitch with those who’ll constructively assess and help you until it flows smoothly. Include trusted professors, previous summer associates, alumni at target firms and the career center counselors.
That way, if you find yourself facing a law firm’s recruiter on the way to an interview, you’ll be able to comfortably introduce yourself.
Practice Playing 20 Questions
All interviews vary, but it’s important to know the type of questions you’ll likely get asked at your OCI and how to answer them effectively. Recruiters base your questions on the work you’re after, their firm’s requirements, and your interview type.
There are plenty of places to research these questions, including your law school’s career center, past interns, alumni or sites like Vault. Once you know the types of questions to expect, you should craft strong answers to them. Ask the individuals you practiced your elevator pitch with to do a mock interview so you’ll feel confident in your responses.
Similarly, be sure to have a list of questions ready to ask each firm during your on-campus interview. Ask tailored, interesting questions that show you’ve done your research. Avoid questions with answers you’d easily find on the firm’s website, unless you’re asking for clarification.
Relax and Be Your Best Self
Even if you’re nervous, OCIs will be easier when you’ve completed the steps above. And once you’re mentally prepared, make sure you’re physically prepared as well! Lay out everything you need to bring with you the day of, and select professional outfits ahead of time for each interview.
Get a good night’s sleep, eat well and exercise in the days before the interview, carry a bottle of water and go ace these OCIs! After you’ve nailed the interviewed and you’ve started your summer associate position, here are 5 tips on how to land the job offer.