For the past several weeks, law students around the country have been through countless OCI screeners and callbacks, with the hopes of landing a competitive law firm gig. What should you do if OCI has come and gone and you don’t have a job offer in hand? It’s normal to feel upset if you’re in this position; the OCI process is stressful and requires a lot of time and energy, so of course you hoped it would pay off. But you are not a failure, and this is not the time to give up. Only about 10 percent of law students find employment through OCI, so you’re actually in the majority. This can be hard to accept, especially if it seems like a lot of your friends and classmates received offers through OCI, but you have to drown out that noise for now. Hope is not lost, but you do need to keep your nose to the grindstone. Here are some steps you should take if you didn’t secure a law firm offer during OCI.
Wrap Up Any Loose Ends.
First, make sure you’ve closed the loop on any outstanding OCI opportunities. If there are firms you haven’t heard back from but you’re still interested in working for, send an email of continued interest to the recruiting contact. Until you’ve heard something affirmative, you can’t be 100 percent sure that a firm isn’t interested in hiring you. It’s possible that the firm is backlogged with communication (OCI is an incredibly busy time for them) or they are trying to make some final, difficult decisions—in which case, your statement of interest could provide the edge you need to get an offer. While you shouldn’t get your hopes up too high that one of these is true, it certainly doesn’t hurt to reach out and try. It also never hurts to stay in touch with recruiting contacts that you’ve connected with even if the firm has decided not to extend an offer, but never badger a recruiting team or demand a callback if the firm has declined to move forward.
Sometimes, it truly is the luck of the draw when it comes to who does and who doesn’t do well at OCI. But it’s also possible there was something about your application materials or interview skills that needed a little tweaking. If you never did mock interviews with your career services office, now is the time. (If you did mock interviews, it still doesn’t hurt to try again and ask for feedback on what you can improve.) This is also a good time for a re-review of your resume and other materials. It is also worth asking what feedback, if any, your career adviser received from firms at OCI. They probably didn’t hear about your performance specifically, but any general critiques they received would be helpful to take into account. Another route you might try is seeking direct feedback yourself, but be careful here—you shouldn’t be emailing law firm partners demanding they explain why they didn’t hire you. If you have a close, trusted contact who is associated with the firm—perhaps an older student or a junior associate you got to know during the interview process—you could see if they have any insights they’re willing to share. You can also send a polite thank you note to the firm’s recruiting contact for considering your application and ask if they would mind sharing any feedback on your application and interview. (If they do not respond, move on.)
Submit Your Resume through Career Services.
If your law school offers it, be sure to take advantage of the resume collect program. Through this process, career services will handle collecting student resumes to pass along to participating employers. Employers will then contact you directly to initiate the interview process. Employers who participate in a resume collect are affirmatively interested in interviewing students from your school, but for some reason (geography, recruiting resources, etc.) they don’t participate in the actual OCI program—so don’t miss this chance to get interested eyes on your resume. Pay close attention to communications from career services to ensure you don’t miss important deadlines, and follow submission instructions carefully.
Send That Mass Email.
When you Google, “What to do if you strike out at OCI,” you’ll come across a ton of advice about mass mailing. The idea is to create an email cover letter template and send it to as many firms as possible in the hopes that the numbers game will pay off—in other words, the more firms you email, the better the chance you’ll pick up an interview or two. It’s certainly worth a shot, but keep in mind that after OCI, this method will probably get you less traction than during the pre-OCI rush. It’s possible, though, that there are firms who need to fill a remaining spot or two and are willing to interview candidates outside the OCI pool, so it’s worth a try.
If you decide to mass mail, remember to omit firms you already interacted with through OCI or resume collection through career services. And before you add a firm to your email list, you should check to make sure they don’t have an active job posting. Firms would rather you use their application process than add clutter to their inbox. And finally: Triple-check your mail merge for correct firm and contact names. The last thing you want to do is make it obvious your email is a template.
Turn to Job Postings.
Your law school has a job board, and you should use it. Any employer that is posting a job to your school is specifically interested in students at your school, so your chances of landing an interview are higher than going to other job boards. If you can set up alerts for new job notifications, do it, and make sure you’re applying as quickly as possible. When it comes to these jobs, you might also be able to glean valuable intel from career services. They are the ones who work with the employers posting the jobs, so they could have suggestions about which opportunities are a good fit for you, intel about the people you’ll interview with, or even the ability to put in a recommendation on your behalf. To be sure, you shouldn’t limit your applications to the jobs on the school job board. Browsing public job boards like Indeed and LinkedIn help you cast a wider net—be sure to set alerts on these sites too.
Reach Out to Your Network.
More than ever, now is the time to reach out to your network. This includes career services, alumni from your school, professors, contacts you’ve made through events like firm meet-and-greets or affinity group meetings, and other connections in your professional network. But remember: Although you might feel extra pressure to find a job now, the golden rule of networking still applies—you shouldn’t just be asking people for a job. Keep building on your existing connections and get your name out there to new ones. You can and should make it known you are seeking a job opportunity, but don’t beg for an interview. For tips on what to talk about and how to approach a networking conversation, start with these articles on informational interviews:
- What to Ask During a Networking Interview
- 4 Tips for Building Relationships During Informational Interviews
Expand Your Horizons.
If your heart was set on BigLaw, it can be hard to accept that you should start looking for other opportunities. But keep in mind that just because you don’t end up in BigLaw now, it doesn’t mean you can’t end up there later—and if you’re a 2L, you might still have the opportunity to participate in 3L OCI next year. If you’re interested in a specific practice area, look for opportunities at smaller firms that will allow you to build up skills in that area. Or look for a government or public interest job where you’ll get tons of substantive, hand-on experience. These positions will look great on your resume and will equip you with knowledge of a certain corner of the law—this will make you an even more marketable candidate down the road. In addition to considering different employer types, you might also want to consider alternative geographic regions. If you’re willing to relocate, you may find a broader array of opportunities available to you.
Remember, OCI was just one avenue available to you in your job search. There are plenty of opportunities out there—don’t let discouragement stop you from taking the initiative to find them.
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