Dear Potential Applicants,
Since Leigh-Ann suggested speaking to upper year students in Justin’s helpful interview below, I thought I would solicit some advice from our very own summer students!
Here we go!
Brittany: “Know your resume cold. Have an anecdote for each experience. Many interviewers will pick the most obscure thing on your resume and run with it. During many of my OCIs I was asked about my volunteer experience at the Humane Society. I thought the interviewers would want to discuss my professional work experience but many firms are interested in getting to know who you are outside of work and school. Also, prepare for typical interview questions. You will be asked in almost every OCI the following questions: Why law school? Why litigation/corporate? Why our firm? Ask yourself these questions before OCIs. Throughout this process you will learn a lot about yourself.”
Stephen: “When interviewing (whether during OCIs or in-firms), be the best you. You don’t need to be the loudest, smartest, funniest or most interesting person. Just be personable and try to connect with your interviewers.”
Justin: “During in firms, it’s against the LSUC rules for firms to make offers prior to 5:00pm on offer day. However, if you do feel pressure (either subtle or overt) at the end of an interview to make some kind of verbal commitment, have an escape answer prepped. Mine was something along the lines of “I’m extremely interested in your firm, and wouldn’t be here otherwise. Thank you so much for this opportunity, I just want to make sure I take some time to digest all of this information. I’ll be sure to keep you informed.” You want firms to know you are very interested, if you legitimately are – but never tell a firm they are your top choice if that’s not 100% true. IF you are uncomfortable with “committing” on the spot – don’t bend to any pressure to do so. Go home, decompress, and think about it for a bit. You can always call to say “you’re my number 1” later.”
This mysterious individual request to remain “Anonymous” (“what a weirdo”): “I would say it is important to know what you are looking for in a firm. After that it is just a matter of being able to recognize it among the options available. Going to firm tours, firm events, and getting in contact with lawyers throughout the firm is a great way to get a sense of whether you would fit in. Good luck!”
Clara: “Don’t buy your suit the weekend before your interview. Hem your pants. Tailor your suit. Work your shoes in before your interview. Practise sitting, walking and standing in your shoes and outfit. Take out the stitches from the back of your blazer and/or pencil skirt. Boys, get your hair cut a couple weeks before. Relax your shoulders. Eye contact. Smile and enjoy the process because there’s nothing like it.”
Like the champ he is, Jeremy has three pieces of advice for you:
- Your application package should hit on as many quality that employers are looking for that you can show (e.g. teamwork, leadership, communication skills, hard work, attention to detail, etc.).
- Stay positive and calm through the process. If you react in an extreme way, you’ll have extreme feelings and people will be able to see that.
- Wear solid white or light blue shirt and a navy or charcoal suit (that fits… properly). This won’t make or break you, but bay street law has a conservative and crisp image – if you want to fit in, make it look like you’d fit in.
Steph: “Don’t forget your hair gel…no seriously, bring hairspray too. And don’t stand near any candles—hairspray is flammable.” Of course this girl would write about hair.
Tali: “When booking in-firm interviews, make sure to leave enough time in between each interview (at least 30 minutes). This will allow you to breath and re-focus, instead of rushing from one interview to the next.”
Sam: “Ok, so…remember to brush your teeth in the morning? Don’t drink too much at the parties? Remember to send thank yous?” Questions or statements? Sam is so hard to read.
Belinda: “Have fun! As we all know, interviews and applications, on top of class, studying, and oh – this thing called a personal life – can cause us students a lot of stress. The one tip I would have for any potential applicant is to try and enjoy the entire recruitment process! I agree, no one really loves writing cover letters or reading your resume 1000000 times to make sure there aren’t any typos… but the whole idea of recruitment is to meet new people and, yes, have fun! You’ll want to find a place that is right for you; where you will enjoy working with the people around you. I personally believe that looking at your applications and interviews as a means to an end might not always be the best mindset. I think the best way to get the most out of recruitment is to have fun, meet lawyers, mingle with your peers, and get to know the culture at the firms while being pampered with good food and drink (even if you might be too anxious to eat or drink).”
Jake: “The three day in-firm interview period seems like an eternity while you are in it. Looking back, it is just three days of your life! So relax and have fun with it because three days over the course of a lifetime is nothing.”
Jess: “OCIs can be a whirlwind! Of course you’ll be prepared with all the typical stuff like great questions, a sharp suit, and breath mints but to help make the process easier on you, here are a few tips to get you through the day long (or two day long for some of you) speed dating challenge:
- Prepare cue cards or a short summary of each firm to refresh your memory in the 3 minutes between interviews.
- Write little notes or key words on the back of the interviewers’ business cards to help you recall what you spoke about during the interview – it will help you personalize your thank you e-mails later (when your brain is fried from the day) and make you a bit more memorable!
- Breathe and smile!“
Kyle: “My advice would be to do the leg work and know as much as possible about each firm that you are interviewing with and contact summer and articling students at those firms to ask any questions you may have, and they can also give you an idea of what it’s like to work at that firm. Beyond that, try and get as much sleep as possible the night before, remember to eat and drink throughout the day, and do your best to keep everything in perspective. A little caffeine here and there doesn’t hurt either.”
Max: “Show up early for OCIs. Get to the place where interviews are happening at least a few minutes before your first one and just get a sense of how the process works and where everyone is sitting. This might not be easy if you have an interview first thing in the morning, but it’s really helpful to have a lay of the land before you get started. You don’t want to be the eager applicant for the Toronto office who walks into the booth for the Vancouver one. Stuff like that doesn’t look good, and it can throw you off your game. Just be prudent and show up with enough time to make sure you don’t make that kind of sloppy mistake. This can be a bit of a double edged sword though, so when showing up early be careful how you talk to people. Many students get (understandably) nervous about OCIs so you don’t want to inadvertently say something that makes someone feel bad/worse. Equally you don’t want to let someone else’s experience impact your own: “What’s that you say? You have thirty six interviews today? My my, you must be a much more competitive candidate than me, I only have a measly four…” The whole OCI process can be stressful for everyone, and that manifests itself in different forms for different people. Don’t be the jerk who makes someone feel down just before they go into an interview, and don’t let it happen to you. You’re best off to just keep your head down and get through the whole thing, then debrief with your friends (and hopefully future colleagues) afterwards.”
Luke: “Assume nothing. You have probably heard that certain firms care about certain things and others don’t. Chances are, despite all of your firm research, you don’t necessarily know what a given firm is looking for. Or, even if you do, that firm has a much more diverse group of people than you think. Better to be open-minded and willing to actually engage with your interviewers than to assume Firm X wants to hear all about your clinical work, whereas Firm J wants to hears all about your research. And forget about your grades – once you have an interview, that is more or less over and done with.”
Bryan: “Remember the names of ALL the lawyers you meet, as you will inevitably get asked ‘So who have you met with so far?'”
Len: “Be prepared to talk about yourself, but don’t be afraid to admit when you’re not familiar with an aspect of the profession. Good questions show you’re willing to learn. At in firm interviews and cocktails, get to know the other student applicants, not just the lawyers. You never know who you’ll end up working with, and people really notice how you interact with each other.”
Yet another student has requested anonymity: “Drink lots of water during OCI day and in-firm interviews—you talk a lot and it’s a long day so don’t underestimate the power of hydration [Editor’s note: I bet this guy knows a thing or two about hydration]! Also, don’t fret about saying the same thing over and over again. You are meeting new people all day long and they have no idea that you’ve answered the question of, “Why the law?” the exact same way 15 times before. Just relax and speak naturally and let your personality shine through.”
Laura: Do not make fun of any posters hung on a partner’s wall. You never know who might be a client. Also, if you’re funny, embrace it. It’s a long day for the interviewers as well, and humour is the best way to make it more pleasant.
That’s it for now! If you’re planning on applying to Cassels this fall and have questions, please feel free to contact any one of us! Our information can be found here.