OCI advice to 1Ls: the advice of a 2L

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This description reflects both my experiences as a 2L and select contributions from other 2Ls. My hope is to give 1Ls a taste of OCI.

You’re standing in a long hallway in your “law” suit, just outside a nondescript hotel room. You hear muffled voices inside, possibly laughter, and you start to feel both nervous and envious. Nervous because you’re next in line, and envious because the interviewer and the person right before you seem to have hit it off, which adds to your nervousness, which makes you feel even more envious that the person interviewing right before you does not seem to feel nervous. It’s downright nerve-wracking.

Welcome to OCI.

2L OCI starts in April of 1L year when OCS holds information sessions explaining the OCI process. Mainly, OCS wants you to start figuring out where you want to work your 2L summer. Since the bidding process begins immediately after school starts, it is best to figure out before summer ends in which city you want to work. Not deciding, however, is not a big deal, since it just means that you’re going to be doing more interviews and your cheeks are going to hurt from having to smile so much. I speak from experience. The second step, bidding for an on-campus interview, is relatively painless; most people get all their bids. Even if you do not receive an interview slot during OCI for a firm, you can generally insert yourself into the interview schedule by speaking directly with that firm’s recruiter.

In contrast, the interview process is not nearly as easy to navigate. You’d think that as a reasonably socially adept HLS student, chatting with someone for 20 minutes should be a piece of cake. OCI, however, is more than just those 20 minutes where you are face to face with an interviewer. For one thing, most interviews just happen to occur either immediately following or preceding lecture, and dressing up in a “law” suit and sneakers to class is always classy. I swear that one day, in the middle of what seems a relatively problem-free interview, I will look down and suddenly realize that I still have my sneakers on. Joy of joys.

You would think the time between getting to the Charles Hotel, or wherever you happen to be interviewing, and actually starting the interview would be rather straightforward. Au contraire! Let me give you an example: When the correct time came for my interview, I dutifully knocked once on the door as requested. After waiting a few minutes, and despite hearing sounds inside the hotel room, I decided to knock again. After yet a few more minutes-yes, I knocked a fatal third time. Yeah…I didn’t get a callback from that firm.

I’ve found that interviews on campus are generally 15-17 minutes of pleasant chitchat, interspersed with about 3-5 minutes of awkward silences. My “favorite” part of the interview is at the end, when the interviewer asks if you have any questions. If you do have questions, this part is really simple. However, I often find myself flustered since I really don’t care for learning about the firm. I know that I’m basically begging for a job and any answer they pick will be just dandy. My proudest memory is of my asking the interviewer, “Do you know how many summers your firm hires for the summer class?” As luck would have it, my interviewer turned out to be the hiring partner in charge of the summer program. Yup, I didn’t get a callback from that firm either.

Now don’t think that I didn’t achieve any success. In fact, I got invited to a post-OCI dinner. Feeling very self-confident and, considering the invitation card only required “business casual,” I found myself the only person at dinner not in a business suit. Of course, I was not flustered and proceeded to enjoy a nice steak dinner. At some point, I decided that the dinner was going well and, being tired with aching cheeks, told my interviewer that I was going home. Looking back, I wish I had drunk more since I didn’t get a callback anyway.

My favorite part of the process is waiting to hear back. But honestly? Waiting sucks. I used to wonder, “Why don’t they let me know already?” Then I found out that the answer is that they don’t want me. You might also wonder, “Should I talk to friends to see if they have received callbacks?” Asking friends is like scratching a scab. You know it’s not good for you, but you do it anyway and then proceed to feel deflated when someone else tells you that so-and-so received a callback from the same firm that is currently ignoring you. The worst part of this process is that, despite knowing that you should not care what the firms think about you and that your self-worth does not depend on how many firms give you callbacks, you still feel elated when a firm does give you a callback and somewhat crushed when you get that thin envelope, just like those other people during the college application process. There’s too much invested to not care.

All in all, this year’s OCI seems to be harder than previous years, especially for those interviewing in D.C. and California. Of course, there are students who have received 13 callbacks from D.C. People interviewing in New York also do not seem to have many problems receiving multiple callbacks. However, some people interviewing for other cities have not heard anything positive. Someone told me that having three callbacks should be considered a success. If I repeat it enough times, does it then become true?

OCI is not all doom and gloom. After all, the famous chocolate-covered pretzels do exist and sometimes you get to engage in lively conversation with interesting lawyers who work on important projects. The solidarity among 2Ls, forged by the fact that everyone is going through the exact same horrendous experience, is quite unique and somewhat positive. Nevertheless, you can’t help but feel liberated once OCI is finished. That is, you feel liberated until you realize that the second round starts in a week.

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