Four Keys to Navigating Pre-OCI Recruiting

by the Summer Associate Hub Team

So, you are done with finals and you’re ready to focus on your 2L summer associate job search.
As you may know, a lot of summer associate recruiting now happens before OCI.  This is known as pre-OCI recruiting, or if you prefer puns, “pre-cruiting.” 
You might be wondering where to start and how to approach the pre-OCI recruiting process.  Here are four keys to navigating the pre-OCI recruiting process.
1. Understand Your School’s Stance on Pre-Cruiting.  First, it is important to understand your law school career office’s stance on pre-cruiting.  
— Many law schools encourage students to pursue opportunities before OCI and can support you through the process.  Some schools offer students the ability to apply to firms directly through the school’s job portal (for example, Symplicity or 12twenty).  And some schools offer a limited pre-OCI process, where students can apply to a limited number of firms, without a formal bid list process.
— By contrast, some schools discourage pre-OCI recruiting and your best bet may be to dedicate your efforts for preparing for OCI.
2. Focus Your Efforts.  Pre-cruiting occurs on a rolling basis throughout the summer and does not have the structure of OCI.  It might be tempting to spray your resume to every BigLaw firm in town, but that can lead to a scattered and ineffective search.  Instead, focus your efforts on a specific set of firms that you are particularly interested in – maybe because of the practice areas you want to try or because you’ve heard from associates there about the culture.
Quick note – it is important to be realistic in this part of the process.  As opposed to OCI bidding (where many schools don’t allow firms to screen out candidates before interviews), pre-cruiting is more flexible.  Firms may decide not to move forward just based on the resume and transcript you submit.  If a firm is known to be selective about grades, and your grades are outside of the desired range, that may be a waste of your time to pursue before OCI (you may feel strongly that you are an outstanding candidate regardless of your grades, and you are… but we are speaking in generalities here).  Instead, you can use OCI as an opportunity to bid on the more selective firm and impress them in the interview.
By focusing your efforts on a specific set of firms:
  • You will spend your time more effectively, by having more informed and targeted conversations with attorneys at the firm that you can leverage to submit an application to the firm, and that are more likely to lead to job offers.
  • You will be better prepared for interviews, increasing your likelihood of landing an offer.
  • You will be less likely to burn out from the job search and lose motivation.  
3. Be Thoughtful About Your Outreach.  If you decide to reach out to attorneys to distinguish yourself in the job search, it is important to be thoughtful about it.
An email to a random partner at the firm saying: “Dear Partner, I’d love to chat because I’m interested in working at XYZ firm.” is an easy way to not get a response, let alone an offer.  
An email to a partner at the firm in a practice you are interested in and/or a fellow alum of your law school, along the lines of: “Hi Partner, I read your article about [insert interesting legal issue] and found it to be very interesting for these reasons…  [Insert practice area here] is an area that I’m interested in working in, and I’d love to connect sometime to hear more about your practice if you are available.” is a much more effective way to get in touch.  It shows that you are thoughtful and genuinely interested.  
For more advice on having an effective networking call, see this blog post by Amanda Haverstick: Three Ways to Stand Out in Networking Calls.
4. Remember, Be Smart About Your Offers.  There is a saying that when you sell your house, the first offer you get is probably going to be your best one.  Well, this saying is NOT true for law firm recruiting.
If you are able to secure an offer before OCI, that’s fantastic.  It’s easy to get excited and accept on the spot.  After all, you’ll be done!  Phew.  But keep in mind you are still at the very beginning of your job search.  Don’t just accept an offer because it’s the first one you got.
Instead, be thoughtful about why you would accept the offer.  One of the best things you can do is wait a week or two (your offer won’t expire by then, don’t worry) and see if you are still as excited about the offer as you were the day you got it. Some questions that you can ask yourself:
  • Do I have opportunities at other firms?  If so, why am I still considering those other firms?  If I had offers from all of those other firms, would I still accept this one?
  • What have I learned about this firm that makes me eager to join?
  • Have I spoken with associates at the firm about their experience after I received an offer?  (If not, you absolutely should!)
Asking yourself these types of questions will help you figure out for yourself whether to accept the offer or continue to pursue other opportunities.
Note: One additional layer to all of this is whether an offer is an “exploding offer” – in other words, when a firm provides an offer that expire before OCI even starts.  We will address this topic in a separate blog post.

Summer Associate Hub Team

This content is based on our own experiences as former law students and BigLaw attorneys, and countless conversations with firm recruiting teams, law students, law school career advisors, legal career coaches, and hiring partners.  

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