It may seem like summer just began, but fall will be here before you know it. With fall comes on campus interviewing. Hopefully, if you are looking for a job through on campus interviewing, fall will also bring a summer job. But landing a summer associate position is no easy task. Spend some time this summer getting prepared for OCI and end up ahead of the pack when all of those firms come to campus for OCI.
Brush Up Your Resume
Undoubtedly you’re doing something this Summer to gain legal experience. Sure, you may be spending a good number of hours in more gainful employment, but the legal experience is what counts. Take some time in June and polish up your resume. Then write up a few sentences describing your current employment. It doesn’t have to be perfect. But it will be easier to remember what you did at the beginning of the summer when it’s fresh in your mind, instead of scrambling to figure it out in August.
If you’re anything like me, you have your resume packed to the brim with information. It may take a little finnegling to squeeze yet another position onto one page. If you take the time to add your summer work now, you can always perfect the writing later. But you don’t want to end up scrambling the night before a deadline to get everything to fit onto one page. Instead, in August you want to put the finishing touches on and have your resume evaluated.
Scout Your Destination Cities
Going the large firm route means making several decisions. One of the larger choices you will have to make is what city you want to start out in. New York? Chicago? D.C.? This decision can be a complete game changer when you put in your applications. If a firm is coming to your school but only interviewing for their Seattle office and you hate the rain, you don’t have to waste any fancy paper to apply there.
Put some genuine thought into this decision. It’s important to enjoy where you live. If your family is all on the West Coast, a job in New York may sound nice, but leave you miserable. Where will your significant other be this summer? Are there any smaller markets where you can gain a hometown advantage? Firms outside of these huge markets still look for the best candidates. But if that candidate is also from the area, it means there is less chance the firm will have to spend money on tons of training, only to have the employee transfer to another city. Use your family’s location to your advantage whenever possible.
Get a Teammate
I can’t even begin to explain how important it was to have a teammate when applying for jobs. Ideally you want to find someone not interested in the same area of law as you. That way there won’t be any competition. For example, I practice criminal law, but my good friend practices in environmental law. It became our habit to send each other every cover letter and resume we were going to send out. It’s amazing how many typos there can be in one cover letter when you write it five hours before the deadline. It is also incredibly easy to use the wrong recipient or law firm name when you are simply reusing an old cover letter. Hopefully your teammate can catch these things. Just as importantly, you have to be dedicated to catching the mistakes that he or she makes. If you both stay on top of each other it can be an extremely beneficial relationship.
Learn the Rules
Your school has rules about on campus interviewing. The National Association of Legal Professionals (NALP) is in charge of OCI rules on a national scale. They have plenty of rules as well. Both sets of rules are extremely important. Check them. Then check them again. Nothing is worse than finding your dream job during OCI, but discovering that you are out of bids and can’t get the job. These OCI deadlines can also sneak up fast. I remember my school had certain deadlines in early or mid-July. Now is the perfect time to get ready and mark those deadlines on your calendar. If your school doesn’t have a part of their website dedicated to OCI, contact your career services office. Try to think of all your questions at once and send them an e-mail. That way you can have all your answers in one place instead of piecemeal all over your inbox. But don’t be afraid to ask more questions. That’s what they are there for.
Tap Your Network
You’ve been brushing up your networking skills recently, right? It’s time to reap the benefits of the massive network of LinkedIn contacts you’ve accumulated. Or, if you’re anything like me, it’s time to call all your family members and their friends to see if anyone has any connection whatsoever with any lawyer in any law firm anywhere. These connections are great if you can find them. Opening a cover letter by referencing a mutual contact is a great way to keep your resume out of the trash pile.
One of the best tricks I found for successfully tapping a network is to just make sure people know that you are looking for a job. Send a note around to a few people asking them to keep their ear to the ground. Mention it at family barbecues this summer. By the time August rolls around, when people in your network of contacts meet a lawyer, their first thought should be “Oh, I know a law student looking for work.”