Follow these steps, and you'll ace your OCIs and outside interviews — and if all goes well, you'll land the job of your dreams.
Kaitlin Riley, JD'14
During OCI season, law students often prepare for interviews by practicing their answers. Students memorize their resumes, review lists of behavior-based questions, and think of how to frame their greatest weaknesses as impressive strengths.
While this preparation is valuable, my advice for how to ace your OCI interviews takes a slightly different approach. Instead of spending all of your time thinking of your answers to interview questions, you should spend just as much time, if not more, asking questions yourself. Moreover, while the time you spend practicing your answers should come in the weeks before your actual interviews, the time you spend asking questions should begin months in advance of OCI season.
Before you get ready to apply anywhere, ask yourself what kind of job you want and where you want that job to be. This will help you narrow your list during OCI, and help you recognize how much you want to look for interviews beyond the employers who are coming to campus.
Some questions that could be helpful:
Interviews are really a two-way street. You will do your best in an interview if you show that you are invested in your potential employer, so do your homework before deciding to apply. Do enough online or in-person research to know what specifically about that firm or organization makes it a good fit for your interests, experience, or personal preferences. That way you can include those details in your cover letter so that you will stand out from the beginning.
Some questions that could be helpful:
Just as asking questions during a conversation makes an individual feel that you are interested in him, asking questions during an interview shows you have a sincere interest in the firm or organization you have applied to. These questions are arguably the most important questions to formulate, and they are often the ones that are most overlooked. Therefore, if you really want to stand out in an interview, aim to have your interviewers talk almost as much as you. When preparing these questions, look for attributes and accomplishments the firm or organization is proud of, and ask your interviewer to tell you more about them.
Some questions that could be helpful:
If you follow these simple steps, you are guaranteed to ace your OCIs and your outside interviews, and if all goes well, you will land the job of your dreams.
There is great in-house work available for attorneys coming straight out of law school. My experience is a perfect example.
Evan Sarosi, JD'13
For many lawyers, working in-house is a dream job. The common wisdom is that lawyers need to cut their teeth with a clerkship, government position, or BigLaw before that dream job becomes available. Lawyers seem to think – at least before they jump in -- that in-house work offers fewer and more flexible hours, greater integration with the business line, and an escape from the almighty billable hour.
I'm not here to tell you that in-house counsel is a dream job, or that it's easier and more relaxed (to the latter two points, it most definitely is not!). However, I can tell you that no longer must you pay your dues in other jobs before you move in-house. There is great in-house work available for attorneys coming straight out of law school. My experience is a perfect example.
Corporations have begun to chafe at the excessive costs and the underlying billable-hours model of law firms. Innovative billing models are becoming the norm, even as corporations (and firms for that matter) outsource doc review overseas or to designated doc review firms. Corporations have seen an opportunity to expand their in-house programs in order to reduce their costs. They are noticing that they can pay an entry-level attorney a lot less to perform the same tasks usually undertaken by outside counsel, with the benefit that the entry-level attorney has a tabula rasa that they can mold, while outside counsel is often stuck in its ways and inclined to deliver less narrowly tailored client service.
Interviewing with and working at Nationwide (obligatory corporate motto: We're On Your Side) was an extremely dynamic and engaging experience. As a threshold matter, corporations in general, and Nationwide in particular, look for candidates who possess a modicum of work experience, preferably in the financial services sector and/or large corporate setting. Having worked as a regulatory specialist for the Dow Chemical Company, as a legal intern for a small private equity firm, and as a law student observer at the Securities and Exchange Commission, my experience in the financial services sector clearly boosted my candidacy.
To put yourself on the path toward an in-house position, it's very important to seek out relevant experiences, both during summers and throughout the semesters. Additionally, good grades are necessarily a prerequisite, but one of the most important qualities that can't be stressed enough is an applicant's ability to understand, appreciate, and exhibit the corporate culture and values that pervade the entire organization.
The work you do in-house won't always be sexy, just as is the case in a law firm. Working for a truly "nationwide" corporation, I was subjected to completing a number of dreaded 50-state surveys. But when you think about the sheer breadth of practice areas at a major property and casualty insurance company that also maintains a securities offering and trading practice, a real estate investment company, a tax practice (both corporate and product-based), M&A, a broker-dealer practice, a bank, specialty insurance, public pension plans, lobbying, and government relations, you begin to realize that the opportunities in-house are truly limitless.
My experiences helped me to evaluate my career path and think more practically about what kind of law I want to practice and what kind of lawyer I want to be.
Taryn Lewis, JD'14
It wasn’t until April of my 1L year that I was offered a summer position. Prior to April, I had spent my time applying to paid internships with law firms and nonprofit organizations. None of these opportunities panned out, and I was growing anxious.
I decided to change my strategy and give up on the paid internship pipedream. Once I was open to unpaid experiences, I was faced with a cold, hard reality: I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
I realized that for as much as I was learning about substantive law, I knew very little about courts or how they worked. I began to reach out to my network (family members, attorneys I had been introduced to, etc.) to see what they knew about working in courts.
One of my family members introduced me to a former judge who graciously gave me some basic tips on how to approach this process:
At this point, you are probably wondering why you should go through all of this. I was fortunate to have been offered an opportunity to extern for a federal district court judge in the Southern District of Ohio, and taking advantage of this opportunity was easily the best decision I made in law school.
I did some writing for the judge and his clerks, but I also did quite a bit of observing. I saw lawyers in action in many settings, including trials, summary jury trials, hearings, pleas, settlement conferences, and status conferences. I also gained a great working knowledge of how courts are structured and what judges expect from attorneys. My experiences helped me to evaluate my career path and think more practically about what kind of law I want to practice and what kind of lawyer I want to be.
Serving as an unpaid extern allowed me to further develop my professional network: I met judges, clerks, and attorneys throughout the summer who, in turn, introduced me to more judges, clerks, and attorneys. My summer externship proved to be quite valuable throughout fall interviews, especially because I was interviewing with firms located in the city in which I externed. Interviewers were eager to ask about my experiences, and I found myself asking much better questions than I had in my first year, simply because I had a better sense of what work litigators and courts do on a day to day basis.
If you have any questions about how I obtained my externship or what my experiences were like, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com.
Once you are offered a summer associate position at a firm, relationships should become your most important focus.
Kellie Rockel, JD'13
Some practical advice I wish I had before I started at my Chicago firm:
A quality resume outlines relevant and meaningful experiences. This can only be accomplished in one way: getting involved.
Caleb Bean, JD'14
The staff at the Office of Career and Professional Development (OCPD) advises and provides support regarding professional development. One area of support that has been beneficial to my professional development and job search is in the area of resumes. On several occasions, Caroline Dowd-Higgins, a Director at the OCPD, has reviewed my resume for substance and style. In order to build a quality resume, I first acquired relevant and meaningful experiences.
A quality resume outlines relevant and meaningful experiences. This can only be accomplished in one way: getting involved. I was involved in extracurricular activities and organizations throughout my time at Purdue University where I studied Electrical Engineering. I continued to become more involved even through my senior year when I became involved as a College of Engineering Ambassador. I learned a great deal through this leadership role and was able to help other students through the mentor program run by the engineering ambassadors.
Following my time at Purdue, I became involved at Maurer School of Law. Right away, I became involved with the Intellectual Property Association (IPA). The IPA is an organization for students that hosts panel discussions regarding intellectual property issues, guest speakers from the world of intellectual property, and networking events where students interact with and receive advice from intellectual property practitioners. It is through this organization, as a first-year law student, that I developed an awareness of the current intellectual property issues that affect practitioners in the intellectual property field.
During my first year, I also began working with the Tenant Assistance Project (TAP). TAP is an assistance program, run by Maurer law students with the assistance of a supervising attorney, that provides legal help to tenants who face an immediate threat of eviction. TAP provides Bloomington residents quality legal information, advice, and representation. Helping to prevent homelessness in Monroe County, Indiana, TAP has been a great experience for me. Through TAP, I am able to meet with clients, educate clients about their legal rights, and provide clients legal information for use at their hearing. IPA and TAP are only a couple relevant and meaningful experiences that I have gained while a student at Maurer School of Law.
Once I gained relevant and meaningful experience in the legal field, I contacted OCPD and requested to have my resume reviewed. Ms. Dowd-Higgins volunteered to assist me in putting together my resume and tailoring it towards legal employers. I quickly came to understand that resumes for legal employers are quite different than resumes for engineering employers. Ms. Dowd-Higgins instructed me as to which experiences legal employers like to see and how I could tailor my resume to highlight these experiences.
My resume now tells the story of my career path into the legal field. Several significant experiences are emphasized on my resume: my background in Electrical Engineering, my engineering work experience, my interest in intellectual property law, and my legal work experience in the intellectual property field. These are the experiences that Ms. Dowd-Higgins assisted me in accentuating on my resume. I am very grateful for the feedback that I received from Ms. Dowd-Higgins, and I strongly encourage students to get assistance from the OCPD.
How I Enhanced My Legal Education
Kiely Keesler, JD'14
Law school teaches you how to think like a lawyer, not how to act like one. Most of my classes involve reading hundreds of cases and give me little opportunity to practice the skills I would be using as a future litigator. Thankfully, Indiana University offers a multitude of extracurricular and work-related opportunities that allow students to enhance their educational experience.
During the fall of my 1L year, I began working as a volunteer with the Protective Order Project, an organization that helps victims file civil orders for protection against abusers. Working one-on-one with real people in need enabled me to keep my law school experience in perspective. I had the opportunity to work alongside attorneys to draft legal documents, prepare for hearings, and learn the best techniques for handling attorney-client relationships. This year, I serve on the Protective Order Project's executive board as the Student Director. Through this leadership position, I have grown in my abilities to delegate, collaborate with a team, train new volunteers, manage an organization, and spearhead partnerships with other agencies in the community.
Beginning in my second year as a law student, I obtained an internship with Indiana University Student Legal Services, where I work alongside four supervising attorneys. As an intern, I receive real case assignments and I am the primary point of contact with my clients and their adverse parties. I conduct intake interviews, negotiate settlements, draft court documents, and do anything necessary to serve my clients. Certified Legal Interns at Student Legal Services get the privilege of presenting their cases in the courtroom with an attorney present. Through my experiences with Student Legal Services, I have developed a working knowledge of a wide variety of legal practice areas.
Because of my legal experiences outside of the classroom, I recently received and accepted a summer internship offer at a prosecutor's office in Brooklyn, New York. I believe I have broken through the statement that "law school teaches you how to think like a lawyer, not how to act like one." I now feel secure looking a defendant and his or her counsel in the eyes without feeling intimidated. I can write a motion and submit it to the court without questioning myself. I can work with a crime victim or an uncooperative witness and get the whole story. I can stand up in open courtroom with confidence. With these practical skills, I am much more prepared for my future career as a litigator.
Get out there! And home in on your "social in."
Dakota Scheu, JD'15
From the time I was a child my parents told me there are three vital things I need to know in order to be successful: Network, Network, and Negotiate. In today’s day and age the job market consists of 80% unlisted job opportunities only achievable by knowing somebody who knows somebody who works for that employer. It is no longer a world of simply applying. It’s your job to make sure those employers associate your face to the name, and hear about you before you walk in the door.
Frigyes Karinthy's once hard to imagine 6 degrees of separation has now been reduced to 3.74 degrees of separation (sorry to the .74th of a person!), thanks to what? You guessed it….Facebook. We are in the Social Networking generation. People have Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts, Linked-in, MySpace accounts (if you are a member of a garage band or forgot to delete it in middle school), online dating accounts, and several email accounts. Just analyzing our daily routines reveals a shocking habitual need for social connecting. It is absolutely a necessity to be “tied-into” people as a lawyer. People, after all, are our business. It is how we conduct our business relationships that get us more, or sadly less, clients.
So you want to have that "edge" into the work place? You're going to need to network. The only difference between two highly qualified candidates comes down to the buzz phrase of this era: it’s who you know.
The Networking "Code"
The Art of Networking
Everyone is doing this, so do not be shy. Seeing as we are all closely related, the business workplace has become a vastly smaller sphere. It is easy to gain access to this exclusive group; which might seem counter intuitive. But it is. Through networking your reputation will quickly precede you.
Law Schools have a wonderful Office of Career and Professional Development staff that are pro’s at this. Tap into their years of personal experience and knowledge by proxy. Just like your parents, they want you to learn from other’s mistakes, rather than make them yourself. If the OCPD staff does not know you by first name and career end goals without having to look it up, you are NOT doing it right. Their job is to help launch you into the professional world. And lastly, don’t be afraid to simply cold call a person who fits the profile of the job you are seeking. Your confidence and persistence demonstrated in a cold call! This gives you the edge.
Get out there! And home in on your "social in."
Looking for work in a new city can be hard. The best thing to do is to use the resources you have at your fingertips.
Kyle Morrison, JD'13
I knew coming to law school that I wanted to work in New York City. When OCPD had a New York trip scheduled for Spring Break, I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn more about the New York legal environment. Before we went, I looked up some of the organizations we were going to be able to meet and sent my resume to them so that I could possibly interview with them while I was on the trip. Upon arrival, I was told that I could interview with the New York City Law Department, and furthermore, understanding that I would only be in town for a few days, the hiring department was very accommodating with accepting my writing sample and references.
I was fortunate enough to work there this previous summer, specifically in the Workers' Compensation division. It was a great experience to be able to take the legal knowledge and skills I learned in the classroom and apply them in a real world setting. As a summer honors intern, I wrote summations, appeals, and rebuttals. I visited the board with other attorneys in the office and was able to conduct depositions of physicians under the supervision of other attorneys in the office. The division was small, which allowed me to gain experience working with all of the attorneys, who were all helpful and friendly to work with, and provided me with general career advice.
Additionally, the Law Department hosted a ton of social events so that we were able to see New York City while acquainting ourselves with other interns in the program. We went on tours of Grand Central Station, the Great Neck Police Training Facility and City Hall. Personally, I feel as though public service is another great way to familiarize one's self with a new city, while networking with individuals to learn more about other job opportunities in that city. Simply, you can learn about the legal environment and what makes a city unique and a great place to live.
Looking for work in a new city can be hard. The best thing to do is to use the resources you have. Indiana Law has alumni in all 50 states, and they can help get you in contact with people. Also, the office offers invaluable advice on both resumes and interviewing. OCPD is therefore a great place to start creating a game plan. Finally, using the JD GPS project as a way to build your network of contacts is another good idea. In the end, working in a new city is an achievable goal if you use the resources that are available.
Whether students are considering a legal career in New York or Washington, DC, or simply looking for an extraordinary spring break experience, they should take advantage of this unique opportunity.
Cale O'Bryan, '13
My 1L spring break with the OCPD was one of my favorite experiences as an Indiana Law student. Every year the OCPD arranges tours and small group meetings with various legal departments in both Washington, D.C. and New York City. Both trips are optional experiences designed to give students exposure to both attorneys and legal careers in the DC and NYC job markets. The finale of both trips is an exclusive Indiana Law alumni cocktail event, where students can interact with law school graduates who have established careers in these premiere cities. Participating students not only benefit by broadening their legal networks, but also from the opportunity to observe practicing attorneys with inspiring legal careers.
Both trips follow a structured schedule, but allow great flexibility for students. I chose to partake in the NYC trip, which began after the conclusion of the DC trip. This was my first experience traveling to the Big Apple. I was fortunate to stay on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with my old college roommate and travel by subway to the arranged meeting spots. Most of the law school events took place in Midtown Manhattan, enabling participants to visit Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and the Empire State Building. Assistant Dean Michael Keller served as the host for the trip, guiding us around the city and introducing us to the working professionals. We met with dozens of attorneys, representing firms, corporations, government agencies, and nonprofits. Our tour included legal employers such as the New York Law Department, New York State Attorney General, Human Rights Watch, the General Counsel's offices of Condé Nast and The New Yorker, as well as Allan & Overy International Law Firm. Several of the students who were adamant about working in New York received interviews during their visit and were offered summer internship positions.
I highly encourage Indiana Law students to participate in the OCPD Spring Break trips. Whether students are considering a legal career in either of these cities or simply looking for an extraordinary spring break experience, they should take advantage of this unique opportunity.
The legal profession class helped me find a job after my first summer.
Tim Conroy, '13
The legal profession class helped me land a job after my first summer. A key part of the class required us to interview five law school graduates practicing in different areas of the law. In early February 2011, I interviewed a federal judge in Indianapolis. She talked about her experiences that led up to her current position, including her time spent as a Criminal Court Judge in Indianapolis. The interview went well, and I found our conversation to be very insightful as I began to think about my own career path. After the interview was completed, I thanked her and left.
A couple of weeks later, the Marion County Prosecutor's Office (Indianapolis) listed a summer internship on the Symplicity jobs page. Because I had not yet found a job for the summer, I applied. In late March, I received an email from the recruiting coordinator inviting me to their office for an interview.
Because I remembered that the federal judge had been a criminal court judge earlier in her career, I asked her for her opinions on the Prosecutor's Office and some interviewing tips. I again found her information to be very helpful, and I was confident heading into my interview.
A few days later, I drove up to Indianapolis for my interview. I met with my interviewer, and things seemed to be going well. She asked many of the same questions that I had been asked during my mock interview with the OCPD staff. As the interview ended, however, I received a big surprise. The interviewer told me that the federal judge had written a letter of recommendation on my behalf. I was hired on the spot.
It doesn't really matter which city you end up working in for the summer. IU is bound to have ... alumni [there] who are waiting and willing to pass on their experiences and give advice...
Jon Levy, '13
Since I am originally from Chicago, I figured I would spend the summer working in the city and gaining as much legal experience as possible. I took a summer externship with the Illinois Appellate Court, 1st Division. The hours were very flexible and this was the key to my networking.
Earlier in the school year, I asked David Main for a list of alumni in Chicago that worked in law firms and government positions that I had interest in. In this economy, the most valuable asset that we as law students have besides our education is our ability to network with IU alums. When the summer got underway, I began emailing them slowly with the intention of either meeting them for coffee somewhere in the city (near their office) or speaking to them on the phone about their experiences. The only other rhyme to my method was going through the list alphabetically.
I sent out about five emails a day for the first few days to start, giving a brief introduction of who I am, what area of the law I was interested in and seeing if they would be interested in meeting with me briefly for coffee or lunch. Obviously I offered to pay.
I heard back from most within the first few hours of sending out an email. My email to meeting or at least phone call ratio was about 50%. Pretty good considering that they had absolutely no reason to speak with me other than that they were alumni and I was reaching out. The alumni I met with were some of the nicest and most sincere attorneys that I currently know in Chicago. They offered advice on Chicago, their firms, how to get the most out of law school, and most of them even offered to hand my resume directly to their recruiting coordinators. Many were very happy to reminisce about their law school days and especially liked to hear gossip about Dean Fromm and Dean Robel, topics that you absolutely have to brush up on before beginning the networking process.
Between early July and Mid-August, I met with over 30 IU alums in varying positions and firms. I never ended up paying for coffee and those that took me to lunch were generous enough to buy.
Although most alums were willing and happy to give advice, I connected with some better than others and try to maintain as much of a relationship as I can. Every month or so, I send them an email and update them about my life and ask how everything is going. Very casual and simple, and based on the responses they seem to genuinely appreciate student outreach. Also, if you happen to find yourself visiting Chicago or are in the city for any other reason, dropping them a line for coffee is always encouraged. Attendance at official IU alumni events, like the cocktail hour during fall break, is an absolute must since many of the people you network with are bound to be there. Hopefully, more events like this will happen in the major alumni centers because everyone who attends enjoys them immensely.
It doesn't really matter which city you end up working in for the summer. IU is bound to have at least a handful, if not more, alumni who are waiting and willing to pass on their experiences and give advice to their successors. Whether you are trying to pass along your resume in hopes of finding work or just trying to meet your future network, these individuals are one of the best ways to get your name out into the legal world.
Read how I skipped the "typical" 1L summer experience by splitting time working and travelling abroad.
Meg Burton, '13
As an undergrad at Clemson University, I spent four months studying abroad in Australia. It was honestly one of the best experiences of my life, so when I learned that there were study abroad opportunities available in law school, I knew I wanted to take advantage of them. However, one of my concerns when deciding whether or not to study abroad was that I would miss out on the "typical" legal experience summer 1Ls get. I was worried that by taking classes, I would not get the same work experience that all my classmates would.
My solution was to split my summer. Through the month of June I worked three days a week at a Bankruptcy Law Firm, and the remaining two days a week volunteering at Lowell District Court in the Probation Department. I took these two positions in an effort to get legal experience generally, firm experience more specifically, and observe some court proceedings. During the months of July and August I went to London as part of the USD Study Abroad program and took classes in International Litigation and International Entertainment Law.
Most of the other IU students I went abroad with had a similar arrangement: they worked during half their summer, and then studied abroad for the other half. The key is finding a job that is going to allow you to be flexible, and making sure that your employer understands the situation. Even in looking for a job, I made it clear that I would only be working for about a month or so. Neither of my employers had a problem that my summer internship would be so short, and we were able to work out a flexible schedule that met all our needs.
Splitting my summer was the best choice for me. I got a lot of very beneficial work experience. I drafted motions, did legal research, and attended court proceedings: basically all the tasks of a typical 1L summer job. In addition, I got the incredible experience of studying abroad. While studying abroad I got to take interesting classes for credit, get an international perspective on the study of law, meet great new people, and explore great new places.
I truly believe that studying abroad for any period of time is an incredible learning experience. More importantly, studying abroad does not preclude you from getting work experience during your 1L summer, as long as you are flexible with your time and willing to make it work. I urge students interested in study abroad to take advantage of the programs here at Maurer.
Never has the sharing of ideas and experiences been more important in the life of a law student.
Mario Treto, '12
We live in a time where the legal job market is competitive; the days of having numerous job opportunities have changed and students are becoming more and more dependent on the available resources law schools provide. Students often turn to their law school's career center to provide direction and focus to their respective career searches. The Maurer School of Law has directed its resources to the Office of Career and Professional Development, where new ideas and resources are continually being implemented.
We often forget that the wheel does not have to be reinvented. We stand on the shoulders of alumni and other fellow law students who have conducted their own job searches, interviewed with numerous employers, and ultimately reflected on those experiences. This column will be those student's thoughts expressed in written word.
Throughout the year, we will update this portion of the website with different students' perspectives on issues related to career and employment topics. This column is candid; we want students to showcase their genuine experiences and sentiments. Perhaps you may read this column and take away a specific student's experiences with a particular employer. Or, perhaps, you may read someone's innovative and creative way of looking for a job and use a similar approach in your own job search strategy. Or, finally, you may read this column to see other student's experiences at the law school. Nevertheless, I hope that you enjoy the time and energy that each of these students has put into telling a part of their story. We all have something new to learn with each piece.