As the supdawg days of summer slowly give way to autumn, law schools across the country fill with a palpable sense of foreboding. Representatives from Toronto firms will be rolling up to your school on their magic carpets, and you must remember one thing: never brush your teeth with your suit on. The first rule of OCIs is that toothpaste will always drip on your garments. Think of it as tempting some very vengeful Gods. You don’t want to be the Icarus of your school. Now that the most important tidbit is out there, I will move this train right along.
Sycophants have told me that I have more tips than a bag of darts. I’m inclined to agree. However, the advice I give may not make a lick of difference to you. That’s okay. If you’re quick on your feet, intelligent, personable, nice, memorable and confident, then you’ll have no trouble in this process. Conversely, if you’re rude, arrogant, self-entitled and artificial, then the process will have no trouble with you. Please keep in mind that this is an exhausting, but not exhaustive list of OCI tips. For a full list, you should probably try google or something.
As Kanye West once said, “There’s a thousand yous, there’s only one of me.” Well, they’re Kanye, and you’re you. There are over 9000 people who have good marks, have interesting work experience, are well-traveled, etc. You need to give them something to remember about you, whether it be an experience you had, a place you’ve been, the way you speak, etc. Standing out doesn’t mean you have to stand out better than your competition- it’s not a relative thing. In order to stand out, you have to allow the representatives to get to know you as a person. You can be as polished as the Queen’s bannister, but if you offer no insight into who you are, then you might as well be a crash test dummy. Of course, standing out is a two-way street. You can stand out in a bad way as well. Here’s a list of ways to stand out. See if you can spot the good ones:
-Volunteered at a refugee camp in [COUNTRY NAME]
-Swam the English Channel
-Makes fun of pregnant women
-Tells engaging stories about experiences
-Used to be a gourmet cook before law school
-And so on…
Bottom line: Let them get to know you. Don’t be an image, be a person.
As a second year law student, there’s a good chance that you know relatively little about the practice of law. I know I sure didn’t. At this point, you’re not supposed to. Don’t get yourself into an awkward situation because you’re trying to impress a tax lawyer with your potentially incorrect knowledge of an upside down butterfly restructuring transaction. If you do happen to be well-versed in an area of law, by all means, do it up sick style. However, keep in mind that these firms are hiring students – all you really need is a keen interest in learning.
Bottom line: They’re hiring future lawyers.
Find out who’s interviewing you, and read the person’s bio (you will it find on the firm’s website). If your interviewer is a securities lawyer specializing in mining, you could ask her how she got into that area, if that’s what she pictured herself doing when she first started law, if she’s ever been to a mine, etc.
There are some students who will go so far as to search Quicklaw for cases/transactions the lawyers at the firm were involved in. Call me crazy, but I think that’s a bit much. I imagine if I was in the interviewer chair, and someone wanted to talk about the finer points of a case I was involved in, I would have two words for him/her: “Dude… seriously?” What insight can you possibly give them about a case that they probably remember like the back of their hand? You’re obviously not going to critique their lawyering style, so the only message you send is that you’re attempting very very hard to ingratiate yourself. You’re better than that.
From what I can gather, you can get all the information you need from the firm’s website. Know about their practice areas, their student programs, etc. It’s very important that you ask good questions. You have to allow the firms a chance to sell themselves to you, as they are competing almost as much as the students are. Ask a question about the firm that shows that you have done a bit of research, and then pretend to be interested in the answer. Also, don’t ask vague questions, such as “What’s your articling program like?” Have specific questions prepared which will allow them to elaborate favorably on their organization.
Bottom Line: Inform yourself.
Look the Part
Guys: Wear a nice fitted suit, and observe common fashion protocols. Looking the part, as shallow as it sounds, is important.
Ladies: During OCI’s women should always wear prom dresses.
Firms bill clients for the time a summer student spends on their file. A Bay Street summer student’s billing rate, while much less than an actual lawyer’s, is by no means cheap. During the course of your work, you might get the chance to meet a client. When you do, I think it is important that you look like you are worth the money they are paying for you. Of course, no one at any law firm will ever tell you this, but I’d bet dollars to donuts that they think it. Make their decision to give you an offer an easy one. In an interview you should look like you could start work tomorrow. I don’t ever want to be accused of being a generalist, so I will now list some fashion tips for the concerned gentleman.
Black/Really Dark Shirts: Some people say that one should never ever wear a black shirt to the office. I have to disagree. It’s perfectly acceptable if your office is a cell phone booth in the mall. Wear a light-colored shirt. A pattern is fine, so long as it is not distracting.
Cologne: The only reason you should ever wear cologne to an OCI is if you have to rush off to a high school dance right after interviews. No cologne.
Shoes: Match your belt.
Belt: Match your shoes.
Tie: At your belt, or about 2-3 centimeters above. Patterns are tight, but nothing too crazy. You want your personality to stand out, not your tie.
Black Suits: Some have said that black suits are too formal for this sort of thing. In actuality, it doesn’t matter. No one really cares. In fact, one could argue that a black suit is more versatile than other options. After a long day, some firms will host cocktail parties. Remember that time James Bond wore his blue pinstriped suit to that cocktail party? Me neither. That said, you don’t have to wear a black suit to a cocktail party. As I said, no one cares. Actually, just ignore this entire paragraph.
This post was not designed to get you a job at Cassels Brock. In fact, I don’t want all of you to work there. There simply aren’t enough chairs. Some of you might have to go to other firms, and that’s totally cool. We’ll still go for drinks and email each other and stuff. This post was designed to give you some personal insight into the OCI process. My lawyer is telling me that I have to tell you that the stuff I talked about above is not the opinion of Cassels Brock & Blackwell or Warner Brothers.
Back to my plug. If I had to choose any firm to work at, it would be the one in Boston Legal. However, if I had to choose a real Toronto law firm, it would be Cassels Brock & Blackwell. The esoteric concept of “fit” may not make much sense to you now, but there is some truth to it. I just “fit” there, strange as it sounds. This doesn’t mean that Cassels (or any other firm) only hires one type of person; it’s much more complex than that. I can’t explain it, but you’ll know it when you feel it. If you want more technical insight into the type of work you could end up doing, feel free to check out the rest of the blog, which was written by four very different law students who all “fit” with Cassels Brock. You’ll find your fit somewhere, so just go with the flow and don’t forget what I said about brushing your teeth.
Good luck everyone!