Category Archives: OCI

OCI Applications: Cover Letter, Resume & Final Tips

Since 5 PM on Monday August 21 is fast-approaching, our summer student group thought it would be beneficial to share some final tips of advice as you finalize your cover letters and resumes. We know the stress of uploading every document to the ViDesktop… making sure that every T is crossed and I is dotted.

Don’t fret! Considering the fact that all of us went through the exact same process last year, we thought we would share some of the key features/ elements of a successful cover letter.

1) Know yourself and be able to communicate your “theme” in your cover letter

The reader of your cover letter will be greatly impressed when they can draw connections between your resume and your cover letter. You want your cover letter to provide a strong sense of your personality, character, work ethic, and attitude. Every line you include in your cover letter should therefore have a purpose. Make sure you are drawing connections between the work experience and the skills you acquired during the experience.

For example, if you were a barista at Starbucks, do not waste valuable real estate on explaining the role of a barista. Everyone generally knows the roles and duties of a barista at a coffee shop. Do your best to communicate the lessons and skills you gained on the job, IE: “Over the past four years, I have worked as a barista at Starbucks Canada, where I was promoted from Jr. Server into a managerial role, overseeing roughly 15 employees. It was through this experience where I learned the value of working within a team-setting under tight deadlines.”

Already, as a reader, we would get the sense that you are team player who rose through the ranks based on hard work, dedication, and commitment. Do not be afraid to tell your story!

2) Be honest about your interests but do not pigeon hole yourself (if applying to a full-service firm).

At Cassels Brock, we are a full-service firm, which means that our lawyers practice all different types of law. Our advocacy and business groups consist of many sub-groups and practice areas. This structure is quite similar at other firms. As a reader, one would definitely want to see that you are interested in certain areas of the law. It shows that you have done your research and have selected courses that can somewhat prepare you for practice. At the same time; however, always keep an open mind.

Many of us wrote to Cassels something alone these lines: “I am interested in your franchise and intellectual property groups, but would welcome the opportunity to gain broad exposure to the various groups within advocacy and business law.”

3) Always include a paragraph on WHY the firm

We are sure that many, if not most of you, have attended various firm tours across the city over the course of the summer. While it may not be apparent to you just yet, you will notice (during in-firm interviews) that firms embody distinct cultures. Ultimately, many of you will be making decisions about your legal career based on a specific culture of a firm. If you have had the opportunity to speak with summer students/ articling students and/or lawyers from firms, be sure to mention some of the integral tidbits they shared about the firm in your cover letter. Always explain to the reader WHY you see yourself making a great addition to the firm and WHAT about the firm attracted you to apply. Do your best to communicate characteristics and/or features that are not directly mentioned on the website.

Were there certain diversity initiatives about the firm that you admired? Did a summer student speak about a work assignment that seemed exciting and intriguing? Did you speak to a recruiter about the unique qualities of the firm? Be sure to mention those key interactions/ conversations! It will benefit you in the long run, especially when you are able to put a name to a face during the interview process.

Resume

  • Use powerful active verbs such as “I managed,” “I facilitated,” “I organized.”
  • Maximum use of 3 bullets per experience.
  • Try to avoid high school involvement (unless it is inherently unique).
  • Be specific when describing your tasks.
  • Think carefully about your skills and interests section.

Final Tips

  • Be yourself! Everyone in this process values authenticity.
  • Know your personality- be able to recognize the type of firm/ working environment you are looking for (IE: smaller, medium, big, rotational summer program, flexible summer program, litigation, corporate, full-service).
  • Ask meaningful questions (Try not to ask lawyers questions that can be answered directly from the Cassels Brock website).
  • Use students as your resources from beginning to end (Call a friend who interviewed at Cassels prior to OCIs to learn more about the interview experience).

We wish all of you the best of the luck in the process. Our summer term ends Friday August 18th, 2017, but all of us would be happy to provide support and to answer any of your questions throughout the process!

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Fashion Friday: 10 OCI/In-Firm Fashion Tips

You have to look your best to do your best.

It might sound silly but that’s one of my favourite sayings – when you’re confident in yourself you give your best.

I think this is especially true during OCIs and In-firms. It’s intimidating enough to meet a bunch of lawyers working at big Bay Street law firms without having to worry about your outfit not being on point. So, hopefully these 10 tips will make your OCIs and In-firms slightly less stressful.

(1) Buy a Nice Suit –Take the time to buy a nice suit. Yes, suits are expensive, and it will seem like a lot of money to spend before you even have a job. However, a nice suit can make all the difference. I should note that by nice I don’t necessarily mean the most expensive suit on the market, you need a decent suit that works for you. For women’s suits especially the hunt can be challenging. My best friend and I went shopping about 8 different times before I found one that worked for me. I found that the Bay and Calvin Klein seemed to have the nicest suits for me, while other people found Banana Republic or J Crew suits work better for them. Brands that work great for your friend might not work at all for you, so be sure to try out lots of places.

(2) Pants or a Skirt – My thought is skirts are best for interviews and the reality is most people go that route. But, some people rock pants and if you’re more comfortable in them wear them – it’s all about confidence. If you have the option to buy a 3 piece suit it’s not a bad idea because you’ll just have more options for when you land that dream job!

(3) Keep the Colours Simple – Most of the women during OCIs and In-firms wore a black, navy, or charcoal suit. There are special rules for men’s suits though, one of which is that men should not wear black suits because they are considered to be too formal. I would also recommend wearing a white or neutral coloured dress shirt under your suit. I chose to wear a collared blouse, but a lot of the women wore a neutral shirt without a collar under their suit. It is important to note that, I know my colleagues Kojo and Tegan would disagree with me on this point. Kojo, being the stylish guy he is, he wore a bright pink tie to his Cassels interview. Tegan went to OCIs with a patterned shirt under her suit. Again it’s all about confidence!

(4) Go to a Tailor – A little bit of tailoring can make all the difference. I’ve heard a lot of lawyers say that it is better to have a less expensive suit that fits right, than an ill-fitting more expensive suit. So, when you are buying your suit, keep in mind that it will take time and cost extra money to get it tailored.

(5) Nails Done… – This is a very small detail, but you want to make sure you look put together from head to toe. I would suggest either a clear coat of nail polish or getting a neutral coloured shellac polish. The days are long and a regular coloured coat of polish may chip.

(6) Hair Done… – Again it’s about looking polished and professional. Most people wear their hair down and neat but a simple ponytail or bun is also an option.

(7) Everything Did (oh you fancy huh… but not too fancy don’t overdo it)Wear Natural Makeup – If you wear makeup, I would suggest making it look as natural as possible. Also keep in mind that the days are really long and you may not have time for touch-ups. However, it is most important that your makeup is done in a way that makes you feel comfortable and confident. For example, I didn’t wear any lipstick during OCIs/In-firms due to an irrational fear that I would get lipstick on my teeth.

(8) Bring a Structured Purse – For OCIs and In-firms most women brought some sort of purse to hold all of their stuff. As Tegan mentioned in her last post on things to bring with you to OCI’s, the purse you bring should be structured, professional looking, and medium-sized. Don’t worry about the brand. But, if you are looking to save money on a nice bag, I would recommend the Toronto Premium Outlets in Milton, where there’s Kate Spade, Coach, and Michael Kors outlets. You can also find things at Winners or the Bay both name brand and otherwise. Additionally, the simple colours tip from #3 applies to bags as well.

(9) Wear Sensible Shoes – During In-firms especially, there will be a lot of walking from place to place. The best piece of advice I received from upper years was if you plan to wear new shoes to In-firms, make sure you break them in first! Specifically, I would recommend wearing plain black shoes with less than a two inch heel.

(10) Minimal Jewellery (but definitely a watch)– The attention should be on you, not your bling. Some people chose to wear no jewelry but simple studs and/or a simple, small necklace are great options too. Whichever route you go, you should absolutely wear a watch especially for In-firms – you will need to check the time and it is rude to be pulling out your phone. Just be sure the watch you pick is professional (i.e. none of those GPS, calculator, scuba diving plastic ones) and not too flashy.

*Disclaimer, these are my personal opinions with help from Tegan, the most important thing is that you feel comfortable and confident in your outfit so you will rock your interviews!

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Fashion Friday OCI Tips: Mary Poppins Bag

Hey All!

Happy Fashion Friday! When I was going through the recruit I read this blog and my two favorite kinds of posts were OCI Tips and Fashion Friday posts, so today I figured I would combine the two.

I’m sure you will all wind up putting a lot (if you’re like me maybe too much) thought into what you wear. This post isn’t about that. This post is about all the other stuff you should bring. You know that scene in Mary Poppins where she just keeps pulling things out of her bag – that is what I felt like during OCIs and in firms. If you don’t know what I’m talking about you should probably go watch Mary Poppins it’s a classic. Although another good reference would be Hermione’s handbag from Deathly Hallows. Now if you don’t get either of those references I really can’t help you but I digress.

Here is a list of things you should carry with you during OCI’s and in firms:

  • Gum, toothbrush, floss etc.: nobody likes bad breath and you will be eating… a lot.
  • Make Up: For touch ups – these will be looooong days.
  • Advil etc: Hopefully you won’t need it but you might. And I wouldn’t want to be trying to find time to run to the drugstore while already dealing with a headache.
  • Tide to Go: for obvious reasons.
  • Hair ties, bobby pins etc.: Your hair will look fly when you leave the house in the morning but after running around and sweating it may be more fly-aways than fly. Be prepared.
  • Hairspray: Good for your hair, also good for stopping runs in panty hose. Sometimes they can’t be stopped so…
  • Extra pantyhose
  • Flats: Some people can rock it all day in heels I am not one of those people. I walked everywhere in flats and changed into the heels in the lobby of the building (the building lobby not the firm reception area – made that mistake once – regretted it).
  • Band-Aids: Sometimes even flats can rub you the wrong way.
  • Granola bars or other snacks: Yes there are lots of places to buy food but no you will not always have time. Oddly, even with all the firms feeding me, I still ate about 3 granola bars a day during in firms.
  • Hard copy of your schedule and locations: Your phone may die but the show must go on!
  • Copies of your resume: No one I know got asked for a copy but this is definitely a time to be better safe than sorry.
  • Umbrella: Weather dependent of course. It should be noted that you can take the path everywhere but I still get lost down there so I liked having the option of popping up to the surface.

It should be noted that most people brought way less stuff with them than I did. But, it should also be noted that I gave a lot of Band-Aids, bobby pins, Advil and even a pair of pantyhose to people. I carried a large structured bag – a good idea because they look professional even when bursting at the seams, other people carried much smaller bags and only carried what they deemed to be essential opting to pick up anything else they might need in between interviews. The reality is you need to pack for you. If you’re like me and it makes you calmer to be prepared for any possible situation, bring lots of stuff with you. There is a room to leave stuff in during OCIs and firms have coat rooms where you can leave the bag during interviews. If you would rather travel light that’s fine too (just make sure you know where the closest Shoppers is in case of emergency).

Until next time!

-Tegan (with guest contributions from Meghan who I bothered while trying to make sure this list was complete)

 

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The OCI Application Process, Demystified

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:

Planning

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.

Research

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:

Cover Letter

  • 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.

Resume

  • 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.

The Wrap-Up

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,

Rowan

 

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West Coast Wednesday (Special Thursday Edition): Tips and Tricks for Vancouver’s “Big Firm” Hiring Process

To all of you brilliant and amazing almost-2Ls out there:

How is it August already!?!? Days are getting shorter, nights are getting colder, and a cloud of palpable stress has descended over law students across Canada…

OCI’S AND INTERVIEW WEEK ARE ALMOST UPON US!!!!

Don’t worry, CBB Vancouver has your back.

In our second-to-last West Coast Wednesday post of summer 2014, Arend and I want to share our insights about Vancouver’s “big firm” hiring process. We both remember how it felt to ride the emotional roller coaster of job applications last year. Somehow we both made it through in one piece and ended up with jobs that we love.

We have comments on all stages of the application process, from visiting firms in the summer to the “grand finale” of Interview Week. Hopefully you’ll find at least some of what we’ve written to be helpful!

In the summer

Arend

  • Invite summer students to coffee – The benefits are immense: you get one-on-one time, students can give you the best impression of what being a summer student is like, you get free coffee and possibly a snack, you might be introduced to some other firm members, and you will make an impression just by reaching out. Always send a follow-up thank you email after the coffee – it’s a nice gesture that will be noticed and appreciated.
  • Do research before you visit firms or meet with students – It makes a good impression if you seem interested and knowledgeable about the firm.

Jenna

  • Visit as many firms as you can – The best way to get a sense of the general atmosphere of a firm is to visit its office. You can sign up for group tours and open houses, or contact a firm’s student coordinator and request to meet with a summer student individually.
  • Contact people you know who are working in firms you’re interested in – People you know are more likely to give you candid feedback on their experiences at a firm. They may also put in a good word for you when you apply, which can set you apart from other applicants.

“Wine and Cheese” events

Arend

  • Arrive early – If you arrive at the very beginning of the event, you will have more opportunities to meet with lawyers and face less competition from other candidates.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t get an opportunity to make an impression on the lawyers – These events can be challenging and intimidating. In a typical evening you might only be able to chat with four or five lawyers, and even when you do, you’ll be competing with other students trying to interject. You’re unlikely to get a job offer or an invitation for coffee or dinner afterwards. The real purpose of the wine and cheese is for students to get an understanding of the firm and a taste of its culture.
  • Relax and enjoy the free cheese – mmmmm cheese!

When you submit your applications

Arend

  • Narrow your focus – Some students apply widely, willing to try everything, while others, with clear career objectives, limit their scope. It’s challenging to give advice on how many applications to send, but don’t send an application if you have no intention of working for the firm or in their area of law.
  • Use the resources provided by the UBC Law Career Services Office (CSO) – They provide useful templates and examples of resumes and cover letters. If you aren’t from UBC you can still contact the CSO and inquire about accessing these resources.

Jenna

  • If you’re applying from an out-of-province school, or you aren’t from Vancouver, emphasize your connection to the city in your application – Firms want to ensure that you’re committed to working in Vancouver before they hire you. Mention why you want to work in Vancouver in your cover letter and be prepared to answer questions on this topic during your interviews.
  • Be strategic about how you write your cover letters – Make sure to mention any visits you made to the firm and the people you met. It will distinguish you application and demonstrate your interest in the firm.
  • PROOFREAD THOROUGHLY – Firms receive hundreds of applications. You want to stand out for the right reasons, not because you misspelled someone’s name or addressed your letter to the wrong firm.

OCI’s

Arend

  • Don’t worry if you don’t get asked any “serious” questions about your work and life experience –Interviewers will often ask questions about trivial parts of your resume because they want to hear a non-scripted answer and learn more about you as a person. Be yourself, engage in what they would like to discuss, and be personable.

Jenna

  • Keep smiling and don’t complain –Bring lots of energy to every conversation and be aware of the body language you’re conveying. If anyone asks you how your day is going, keep your comments positive and upbeat. The OCI process is draining and depressingly similar to speed dating, but just imagine being the interviewers! Likely they are even more burnt out than you, so try to make their job as easy as possible and make an effort to connect with them in engaging conversation.
  • Make a list of questions to ask your interviewers, but don’t feel like you have to stick to your script –To calm your nerves, spend some time thinking of some questions to ask your interviewers during the inevitable, “do you have any questions for us?” phase of the OCI. Write your questions down and bring the list with you to review, if needed, while you wait between interviews. Don’t force your questions; relax and go with the natural flow of the conversation whenever possible. If an interviewer mentions something that you’re genuinely interested in, ask about it! Don’t worry too much if you don’t get time to ask all of your questions, you can save them for interview week!

“Call Day” for Interview Week

Arend

  • Be selective in who you choose to interview with – I’d recommend taking five or six interviews. Having to manage 8 or 10 interviews during interview week will be exhausting, and will reduce the energy you need to woo your favourite firms.

Jenna

  • Make a game plan ahead of time – Write out a list of your OCI firms in order of your preference. Schedule your preferred firms earlier in the week (preferably Monday). If possible, leave the Wednesday open and unscheduled. Wednesday should be used for follow-up interviews with your favourite firms, which will be scheduled during Interview Week.
  • Write out a blank timetable in advance and fill in the time slots when firms call – Allow two hours for each interview (just to be safe). Include time slots for the evenings, as there will be receptions and dinners. You can squeeze a reception and dinner into one evening if need be, but don’t RSVP to a reception if you think you’ll be there for less than an hour.
  • If you make a mistake, people will understand – Firms know that this is a stressful and hectic process for candidates. If you double-book or need to cancel an interview, just call or email the firm’s student coordinator and politely explain what happened. They will understand, especially if you get in touch as promptly as possible and well in advance of the interview.

Interview Week

Arend

  • Keep your long-term career goals in mind – It’s easy to be excited at the prospect of working for an impressive firm, but don’t let the short-term glory of telling your grandma you’ll be working for a former Supreme Court judge cloud your long-term goals. This is more than just a summer job: chances are that you’ll be with this firm through articles and during your first few years as a lawyer.
  • Make sure you actually like people at the firms you’re interested in – A smart candidate prefers fit over prestige. The excitement of getting a summer job will quickly pass, and you’ll be left with the people you chose.
  • Profess your love to firms (appropriately) – As Jenna will discuss below, telling a firm that they’re your “first choice” is a terrifying but essential process. I recommend on Tuesday or Wednesday leading up to it by telling a firm that “you’re one of my top choices.” If you get any love back from them, then jump in and shout “I LOVE CASSELS!!! I can think of nothing better than spending an entire summer here!” (replacing “Cassels” with whatever firm you claim you can love as much as Jenna and I love Cassels). What about backup firms? Tell your number two “you’re among my two preferred firms,” and your third “you’re among my top three.” If you don’t want a firm to call, don’t tell them anything.

Jenna

  • Be nice to everyone – Every minute you spend visiting a firm during Interview Week is an opportunity to impress and make a good impression. This may seem obvious, but treat everyone you encounter with respect and consideration, from students to support staff to senior partners. Everyone has a say in hiring decisions.
  • Anticipate sources of stress and deal with the ones that are within your control – Interview Week is nerve-wracking enough, the last thing you want is to be worried about is a stain on your shirt or bad breath. I recommend carrying a bag of survival essentials, including tide-to-go, breath mints, extra pairs of nylons (you know they will rip), a cell phone charger, band aids, and energy bars (stomach grumbling mid-interview is the worst).
  • Consider staying in a hotel downtown – Even if you’re from Vancouver, staying downtown removes the unnecessary stress of waiting for a bus or a cab in the morning and reduces the time it takes you to get home to crash after a long day. I also found that it helped me stay “in the zone” and provided invaluable quiet time to think and reflect on the firms that I interviewed with.
  • If you know a firm is your first choice, TELL THEM! But only if you’re sure… You can only say “you’re my first choice” to one firm in the interview process, so make sure you say it to the right one! This phrase is code for “if you call me on call day, I will accept your offer.” If you say this to a firm and then decline their offer, you will burn bridges and start out your career with a negative reputation. Save the “first choice” conversation for Wednesday, after you’ve had at least one interview with all of the firms and carefully considered your options.

That’s all we’ve got for now, but please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about CBB Vancouver. We know that that preparing applications for OCI’s and Interview Week is stressful and we’re happy to help in any way we can!

Best of luck with the application process! Not that you’ll need luck, because you will do great.

Until next Wednesday,

Jenna C.

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