What Are Biglaw “On-Campus Interviews” or “OCI”?
“Biglaw” is the nickname given to large law firms with offices in cities all across the U.S. and around the world. Almost all Biglaw firms recruit law students and offer them summer jobs in the exact same way: through OCI.
On-campus interviews, or “OCI,” is the name given to the process that rising second-year law students (2Ls) participate in to secure summer jobs, which hopefully lead to full-time job offers, at Biglaw firms.
OCI actually consists of multiple types of interviews: initial screening interviews, callback interviews at each firm’s offices and a more casual (but still sort of an interview) lunch.
For a complete overview of the Biglaw OCI process, be sure to check out my guest post on the excellent law school blog, Brazen & Brunette! Click here to read the post and familiarize yourself with the OCI process; then come back to this post for my 3 insider tips!
When I was a Biglaw associate, I participated extensively in recruiting, conducting both screening interviews and callback interviews. The whole process can be somewhat of a mystery to law students, so my goal here is to demystify the process a bit.
Here are three key things that I learned as an interviewer that I didn’t know, but wish I had known, when I was a law student interviewing for a Biglaw summer associate position.
1. Whether or not you receive a job offer from a Biglaw firm is much more complicated than how well your interviews went.
Let’s say you are super qualified, have a great screening interview and you land the callback interview. Great! It’s then up to the four attorneys, who are usually a mix of partners and associates, to interview you during the callback and decide your fate – whether they recommend you for an offer or not.
Hopefully your four interviews go just as well as your screening interview did. You click with each interviewer, there are no awkward pauses or questions you can’t answer and you just know that you nailed it. You leave the callback day exhausted but certain you got the job offer.
And then – nothing. Radio silence from the firm for a few days or even weeks until the call from a recruiting coordinator comes in letting you know that you didn’t get an offer.
You were rejected. And you’re super confused.
The likely reason? Well, it turns out, deciding who gets an offer is a complicated thing.
The firm takes so many things into consideration, many of which are beyond your control. For example, in addition to how qualified you are and how well the interview went, the firm considers: your gender and your ethnicity (they can’t have a summer class of only white women, for example); your law school (they don’t like to have too many from one school); and more.
Basically, it all boils down to the fact that firms aim to have a diverse group of incoming associates. And diversity includes things you might not have thought of before, like which law school you attend, which languages you speak and which practice group (if any) you said you were interested in joining.
2. If you don’t meet the firm’s minimum GPA or other basic requirements, it is very unlikely you’ll make it past the screening interview.
Here’s the harsh reality about a Biglaw screening interview: you have little to no chance of getting past the gates of the initial screener if you do not meet the firm’s minimum GPA or other requirements.
I can’t tell you how many times, when I first began interviewing candidates at screening interviews, that I thought a candidate was great, but was told that because the person didn’t meet the GPA cut-off we couldn’t offer him a callback interview.
What if you have a valid reason for your poor grades? The harsh reality is that your reason does not really matter to Biglaw firms. They set a minimum GPA cut-off (which will vary based on your law school) and that minimum is pretty much inflexible.
The lesson here is two-fold: it’s very difficult or almost impossible to get past a screening interview with poor grades. This might be controversial advice, but I would suggest that you don’t get your own hopes up by applying somewhere that is ultimately going to reject you. This can be demoralizing, is a waste of time your own time and takes up the spot of one of your classmates who could have interviewed with that firm, but couldn’t because you took up the spot.
Aside from GPA, another requirement firms usually have is that candidates must be on some sort of journal in order to get a callback interview. Do you have to be on Law Review? Nope. But you need to be on something.
One caveat to this rule is if your school does not allow you to be on a journal for a very specific reason. If this is the case – MAKE IT VERY CLEAR to your interviewer why you are not on a journal.
For example, my law school (at the time, I’m not sure what it is like now) did not allow students to be on both Moot Court and a journal – it was one or the other. Often, students who were passionate about oral arguments or wanted to be litigators chose moot court, even if they were the smartest kids in the class, instead of law review or another journal.
Your school’s career services office should make sure employers understand this, but it never hurts to mention it during your screening interview so that the interviewer understands why you made that choice and that it prohibited you from being on a journal. As long as it is clear, you won’t be dinged for not meeting this requirement.
3. There is such thing as a “dumb question” – don’t ask one during an interview.
Hopefully at this point in life you’ve come to realize that there are, in fact, dumb questions. And there is one in particular that you should not ask any of your interviewers during OCI.
Here it is: anything that has to do with “lifestyle.” Such as:
- “What is your lifestyle like?”
- “What is the work/life balance at the firm like?”
- “Do you ever have to work evenings and/or weekends?”
- “How much free time do you have?”
- “How flexible is the workplace?”
Now, you might think this is crazy advice. These are all very legitimate questions that any potential employee would want to know before signing up for a job! I certainly would!
However, these are not appropriate questions to ask during a Biglaw interview. In Biglaw, at least to get your foot in the door, you want to give off the impression that you are willing to work all day and all night and be at the beck and call of your clients at all times.
But don’t worry. Instead of asking those questions, there are other ways to figure out the answers to these very relevant questions.
What can you ask instead? Try to get the interviewer to describe his or her day so you can read into what that means for their lifestyle and the flexibility (or inflexibility) of the firm, such as:
- “What is your typical work day like?”
- “How many projects/deals/cases do you usually work on at a time?”
- “What is the work flow in your group like?”
Hopefully these questions will both show that you are interested in the interviewer and his or her work and the firm, and will still provide you with relevant information on what the lifestyle of the firm is, without you having to ask directly.
OCI Can Be So Frustrating!
When I look back on OCI, I remember as a law student thinking that it was a daunting, confusing and intimidating process. After working on the other side of the curtain for many years, I gained more clarity on the process, but it took a very long time.
While OCI is probably still confusing and a big mysterious to you, I hope these three nuggets of information provided some insight into the process and help you as you navigate through OCI.
Feel free to reach out with any questions or comments, either in the comments section below or with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (if you prefer to keep your thoughts private)!