Given that many of you have begun or have at least started to think about the upcoming OCI process, I thought it would be helpful to share a few pieces of application-related advice. Here are a few basic things to keep in mind as you begin to prepare your applications:
At the outset, spend some time thinking about the types of firms that you could see yourself working at. Whether you see yourself taking your talents to a large, full-service corporate law firm, a smaller, more specialized boutique or something in between, beginning to develop an understanding of the type of legal environment you see yourself excelling in will help you target your applications and focus your time and energy on the firms you really want to work at.
Once you have a rough idea of the type (or types) of firms that you want to apply to, the next step is to begin researching the firms that fit the bill. Read their websites, reach out to their students and members of their student committees, attend their firm tours, look them up using NALP’s Canadian Directory of Legal Employers (http://www.nalpcanada.com/), and leverage your networks. The more research you do, the better prepared you will be to start differentiating firms and making decisions about which firms you want to target and which firms may no longer interest you.
Resume & Cover Letters
After the planning and research is done, start working on your resume and cover letters. Collectively, these documents are how you will tell the firms you are applying to more about yourself and your story. A few basic points about each:
- Think of your cover letter as an opportunity to craft a narrative that links your skills and experience with the culture and strengths of the firm that you are applying to.
- Don’t use overly complicated or flowery language to convey simple points. Instead, write clearly and concisely about why you believe you are a good fit at the firm.
- Avoid recycling your resume verbatim. Try to fit your skills and experience into broad themes that you want to convey to the reader.
- Don’t overstate your experience or try to make a routine job sound like something it’s not. More often than not, your experience at those entry-level jobs will have taught you skills that are extremely useful for the practice of law. Own those experiences and use them to your advantage.
- Leave white space on the page. Where you can say things in one line instead of two, do it. Concision is key.
- Include a “Skills and Interests” section. Often, a big part of your interview will be spent discussing what you have listed here. If you are an expert skydiver, are fluent in a foreign language, are addicted to fantasy sports etc. say so. These skills and interests are great conversation starters for when you land your dream interview.
Congratulations! You’ve finished your planning and research and have drafted your cover letters and resume. Before transcribing your application package onto parchment and sending it out via raven (or uploading it to viDesktop for those of you living outside of Westeros) give your application a thorough read-through. Attention to detail will go a long way, so proofread your documents over and over again, then send the documents to everyone you know and their grandmothers to do the same. Never hesitate to ask for help – the more eyes you have on something, the better it will be.
Best of luck,