Law Firm On Campus Interviews – How to win

This is the first in a series of two articles on Law Firm Recruitments in Toronto. Many Canadian law students in their second year will undoubtedly be participating in the annual formal recruitment ritual also know as the “OCI”, On-Campus Interviews with law firms in Toronto. all the best to all you hopefuls trying to land that sweet, sweet BIG LAW (or regular law) gig the following summer.


For those who strive for the Bay Street experience at one of the seven sisters law firms (if you don’t already know – it’s, in no particular order, Stikeman Elliott, Torys, McCarthy Tétrault, Osler Hoskin & Harcourt , Blake Cassels & Graydon, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg, and Goodmans) or any of the firms participating at OCI here’s some advice to kill it at your OCIs.


General Format: it’s like speed dating. You meet with each firm for about 20 minutes and then you move onto the next one.


1. Dress for success
It’s true. The guys and girls on Bay Street dress impeccably, and so should you. First impressions count, despite what people say. Even if you don’t have a fancy bespoke suit, you can still have your current garment tailored at a reputable shop so that it fits a little nicer on your body. However don’t go overboard in an attempt to try to stand out. Don’t be J-Lo at the 2000 Grammys.


2. The Firms are looking at whether you are a good fit
Here’s a little secret that you should know right off: the firms are actually recruiting you as a potential articling student (and future associate). In other words, they’re in this for the long run, and you should show them that you’re committed and a good fit. While it’s good to appear enthusiastic, you don’t want to be that guy or girl who comes off as crazy or desperate for the job. The recruiter will certainly remember you, but all for the wrong reasons. Your law school grades and undergrad grades and CV got you to the interview. They know you are a smart. Be your normal self and be polite and show your maturity. The whole point of this interview is for you to convince the bouncer (ahem OCI interviewer) that you work well with others, you are generally well-liked, and that they should call you back for an in-firm interview.


3. Do name drop, but don’t over do it
If you’re honestly enthusiastic about a particular part of law, or a firm, you would have gone on firm tours or reached out to practitioners in those areas. If you happen to know one of them at the firm, name drop. It shows that you’re enthusiastic to the recruiter and you’ve done your homework and took the effort to speak with someone. Most of the big full service firms are on a rotation program, so tell them how excited you would be be to rotate through that department. However, if you have nothing pleasant to say about a specific person, have some common sense and bite your tongue. You are being assessed from the moment you walk into that interview.


4. Have talking points prepared, especially about things on your CV
The format of the interview is typically 2 interviewers to one interviewee for most mid to large firms, for instance, the firm’s student programs manager plus an associate. Smaller boutiques may be 1 on 1. The good thing is most firms will send you an email ahead of time to tell you who you will be interviewing with. So look up what they do and have questions prepared for them. At the interview you should be prepared for anything they ask you. The format usually starts of with a bit of small talk, and some interviewers will jump right in and ask about things you’ve put on your resume. Those are the best kind, since you can pre-rehearse a response and tie that experience in to how you would be a good candidate. Also have some more generic responses prepared as why such as 1) why did you go to law school; or 2) why do you want to practice XXX  rather than YYY,Some other recruiters however will engage in small talk the whole time, and their questions will be the basis of their evaluation. For those interviewers, don’t get caught off guard, look calm and try to tie what you’ve talked about on your CV into the conversation.


5. Look them in the eye, like a boss
Eye contact is huge at the OCI. Looking at your interviewer straight in the eye is a sign of confidence. But don’t do it for too long otherwise it becomes over-dominating and creepy. If there are two interviewers, make eye contact with both so as to acknowledge that you are aware there is another interviewer in the room. When answering questions, your body should be facing the person who posed the question. Turn and look at the other interviewer from time to time.


6. Recruiters talk to each other and are practically work-BFFs
Think about it: they do this at least once a year, every year. They know each other well and share stories. This is also why having prepared talking points is a good idea. What you say remains consistent. The recruiters from all the firms know which firms are interviewing you and whether you are also another firm’s top picks. So DO NOT tell them “you’re my #1”. Do not criticize firm X when interviewing with firm Y.


7. Be Aware of Your Social Media Accounts
Recruiters may Google you and end up looking at pictures of you possibly intoxicated (alcohol or otherwise) at a friend’s house party. Misunderstandings may result which could cause you your OCI (or not). Get your personal brand under control and make sure you are aware of what information is available and accessible on your public social media profile. The easiest way is to use a browser in “Private” mode and do a complete review of your public-facing social media account.


8. Stay Sharp
OCI is a tiring process. Some people with a lot of interviews go at it for two days. It really is a psychological marathon because you have to stay stay sharp for each and every interviewer. In the days before OCIs, sleep well, eat well and exercise. It might be hard with classes and all, but at least try to fit that in.


Stay tuned for the next article in the series on In-Firm Interviews…



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