Navigating Fall OCI: Advice from Rising 3L, Michelle Hood

The CSO asked several students and recent grads to share their advice on navigating the Fall OCI recruiting season. Over the summer we will be sharing their tips about the research and bidding process, including strategies for ranking employers, what to expect during OCI, and more.

Rising 3L student, Michelle Hood, who will be splitting her time this summer at Haynes and Boone, LLP in Dallas and Williams & Connolly LLP in Washington, DC, candidly shares her Fall OCI advice:

What resources did you find most helpful when researching employers?
To research firm history, background, reputation, and noteworthy cases, I used the firms’ own websites and Wikipedia. To research statistics, I liked using NALP. I was mostly concerned with what practices the firm, and specifically the office I wanted to work in, focused on. NALP lists the number of total attorneys at the firm, as well as the number of attorneys in each office and practice group. NALP also lists the partner to associate ratio. I was looking for a firm with a low partner to associate ratio because I think that suggests higher quality work and a more achievable path to partnership.

What suggestions do you have on the day of interviews?

  • Plan to be everywhere super early – you never know what unexpected things may happen.
  • Have a list of at least three questions you can ask interviewers. It’s okay to ask them the same questions, but do be sure the questions are not easily answered by looking on the firm website.
  • Be energetic. The interviewers interview student, after student, after student for hour, after hour, after hour. It can get repetitive, so break up the monotony.

What questions would you recommend students ask employers?
Two general suggestions for questions: (1) think of the qualities you are looking for in a firm and ask questions to politely probe the interviewer; and (2) improve the quality of your questions by asking follow-up questions and/or explaining why you asked the question, why it is important to you.

  1. What type of work do first and second year associates do? What are the final products young associates create? What aspects of a case are young associates involved in? It is best to ask these types of questions to young associates. You can also simply ask young associates, maybe during a call back lunch, what they are working on now or what they have worked on since they started. This is a good way to honestly gauge the quality of work assigned to young associates.
  2. How much work does the X office (office you are interviewing with) do with other offices around the country/world? I asked this question because I wanted to work at the office that was the hub or center of the firm. I did not want to work, say in Dallas, for only partners in New York. If you want to find mentorship and excel at a firm, I think face time with the partners and associates you work with is important.
  3. Do young associates rotate through certain practice groups or tend to specialize earlier? At what point do associates start to gravitate toward into either M&A or Corporate Securities work?
  4. I spent three weeks working in the Corporate Securities Practice Group at X firm my 1L summer, how is M&A work different from Corporate Securities work? I then expressed my interest in trying M&A work next summer because of the qualities the interviewer used to describe M&A work. This question helped to demonstrate (1) the little knowledge I did have and (2) that my interest in corporate work was not feigned.

How did you manage reception/dinner invitations? Did you go to each reception you were invited to? Did you feel that attending a dinner/reception helped you make a stronger connection with the firm?
I tried to attend each reception/dinner I was invited to. In the few instances that I had to choose between receptions/dinners, I chose either (i) the firm I most wanted to work for, (ii) the firm I felt like I needed more interaction with to decide whether I liked the firm, or (iii) the firm I felt like I needed more time with to make a lasting and positive impression.

I think the receptions and dinners are very influential. They are a GREAT way to make a stronger connection with the attorneys in town. First, the dinner allows you to see the attorneys in a more relaxed setting and get a better feel for the firm. And second, the dinner is another opportunity for the firm to get to know, and like, you. I highly recommend going. Much of law firm interviewing is about personality fit. You are interviewing the law firms just as the law firms are interviewing you. Receptions/dinners are a great way for you to find the firm that fits your personality.

And while you are at the receptions/dinners, be sure to break away from your friends – I know, the comfort zone – to talk with attorneys. You are there to get to know the attorneys, not mingle with your friends. My friends and I would go out after receptions to talk and catch up. That way we were not so distracted with catching up with one another during the receptions/dinners.

Did you send thank-you notes after each interview? If so what format and to whom?
I sent handwritten thank-you letters after each interview. I sent them to every person that interviewed me, even during callback interviews with eight different people. After the interview process, I realized handwritten thank-you letters were not necessary. In some instances I received the summer clerkship offer before the letters even arrived at the firm. So I do not think you must write handwritten thank-you letters. They could be a nice gesture and influential if the firm is on the fence about hiring you.

What was the average wait time to hear back from employers after the first interview?
I think I heard back from most places within a week. But do understand, the hiring process is a numbers game. Firms usually have a number of associates they expect to need in the year you all will graduate. They base the number of summer associates to be hired on the number of associates they will need in the future, taking into consideration the few summers that may not return. So when extending summer offers to 2L students, firms will contact a round of students first. Then the firm will wait to see which students accept the offers. Once students accept or decline summer clerkship offers, the firm will conduct another round of offers taking into consideration the number of declines they received. This will continue until all summer associate space is filled.

*Caveat: this was the summer hiring process for the firms I interviewed with – mostly large Texas firms with summer classes of 20 or more. Other summer programs may have different hiring practices.

Also, if you receive an offer from one firm, but have not heard back from another firm that you would rather clerk with, it is acceptable to get back in touch with the firm you’d prefer to work for and ask when you can expect to hear back. You can explain that you have an offer deadline from another firm, but before you make any decisions you’d like to know the timeline of this firm so that you can make an informed choice.

What is the one piece of advice would you give to a rising 2L regarding OCI?

  1. In general, relax. UT Law has great hiring percentages and UT Law students are the most sought after in Texas, and really all of middle-America. There is no school within hundreds of miles as highly regarded as UT Law. Just think, in the northeast there are tons of prestigious schools located very close to one another.
  2. In interviews, be personable and have fun. Once your resume gets you the interview, it’s really all about personality fit. So relax and have fun.