On-Campus Interviews — Process

Overview

On-Campus Interviewing (OCI) takes place nationally at the undergraduate, graduate and professional school level. Employers from all industries, including law, interview students for summer and full-time positions. OCI is a high profile program within the law school and is a great opportunity for participating students; however, it is only one of many ways to meet with potential employers.

We solicit potential employers through contacts with alumni, referrals from faculty, targeted mailings and various other marketing strategies. Typically, we maintain a repeat customer base of about fifty organizations which regularly come to campus during fall semester. Approximately twenty employers recruit in the winter semester.

OCI mainly attracts large employers (51+ attorneys) and is highly visible. As a result, many students mistakenly assume that most law school graduates obtain their jobs through OCI. This is not the case.

  • For the Classes of 2002, 2001, and 2000, OCI employers hired 24.4 percent; 25.8 percent; and 25.5 percent respectively of MU Law graduates.
  • By comparison, 10 percent; 24.3 percent; and 22.3 percent of those same graduating classes found employment through self-initiated contact, and 16.3 percent; 17.1 percent; and 12.7 percent obtained jobs through Office of Career Development listings.
  • Another 21.5 percent; 20.7 percent; and 24.8 percent found jobs through referrals. OCI is only one of many ways in which graduates become employed.

Smaller employers (50 or fewer attorneys) hire 85 percent of all lawyers, yet rarely use OCI as a hiring vehicle, with few exceptions. They prefer networking or referrals, because they cannot afford to involve attorneys in the time-consuming and costly process of interviewing on campus. In addition, most small employers are unable to predict their hiring needs far in advance. They hire law students when there is an existing opening and when the student either is available or will soon be. Smaller employers tend to hire mostly in the spring and continue to hire new graduates during the six to nine months following graduation.

We urge you to consider the on-campus interview process as part of your overall job search strategy. Sign up for interviews with as many firms as your time and interests allow. You will not have a chance to receive an offer if you do not interview.

Some of you may believe your chances of being hired are low because your class rank may put you on the periphery or just outside the range listed as "preferred" by a particular firm. Do not allow that factor to prevent you from participating. You could be making a mistake, because:

  • Each interview gives you an opportunity to sell your particular strengths and abilities, even if you are outside the "preferred" range.
  • Each interview improves your interviewing skills. You can learn how to interview more effectively, which will serve you well later - even if OCI does not result in a job offer for you.

This section of the site will answer many of your questions. Please be sure to speak with us to clarify any other points. Keep in mind that OCI is just one component of an overall job search strategy. Feel free to speak with Dean Key or one of the Career Development Coordinators for other suggestions regarding job searches. Remember, everyone you meet could potentially be a lead to a job opportunity. Try to stay upbeat and positive during the rather trying "job" of finding a job. You will find an opportunity that is right for you!

Check out NALP's "Open Letter to Law Students" regarding interviewing insights from employers' perspectives.

Submitting Resumes

You should first review the OCI Schedule/Requirements to decide whether or not to submit a resume for a particular interview schedule. These briefly list the requirements of the recruiting employers. It is helpful to have your resume reviewed by a Career Development Coordinator prior to submitting it employers. Once your resume is in final form, and you believe you are qualified for the position, you may submit your resume(s) to the Office of Career Development (103 Hulston Hall) for the appropriate "Drop Deadline" date.

Deciding whether to submit a resume should be done only after reviewing the employers' information and, ideally, speaking with students or alumni who have worked there to get a feel for the employer. Indiscriminate interviewing is inappropriate. Please do not submit resumes to employers for whom you would not realistically consider working.

Should you include a cover letter? Cover letters are not always required nor expected. They may be helpful if they are well written and specifically targeted toward a particular employer. If you attach a cover letter to your resume, carefully review your spelling and grammar. Do NOT attach a generic, one size fits all, cover letter.

We do not pre-screen resumes for employers. You may submit for whatever employer interests you. The interviewers choose who they are going to interview from all of the resumes submitted.

Signing Up for Interviews

Employers select students for interviews and send us their interview list approximately one week before the interview date.

Once the employer has notified our office of its selections, you will receive an e-mail indicating whether or not you were selected by the firm for an on-campus interview. If you are participating in OCI, it is imperative that you check your e-mail on a regular basis. If you are selected to interview, you should sign on and choose an interview time. Be certain to check your calendar so that you don't end up with conflicting or back-to-back interview times.

Employers' resumes and other descriptive materials are in the Career Development Library in Room 103, in the large grey file cabinet. Employers expect you to read these materials and to conduct independent research about their firms before the interview. You should also extensively review the firm's website, the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, the Missouri Legal Directory, WESTLAW and/or LEXIS for information. Do not forget to consult with our office, other students, alumni and professors knowledgeable of the organization prior to your interview.

Interview Day and Follow-up

On the appropriate date, come to Room 103 to determine where your interview will take place. Plan to arrive about 10 minutes early. Check with us for any last minute instructions, then have a seat next to the interview room reserved for your firm. The firm name/names of interviewers will be posted outside their interview room at the beginning of each day. The interviewer will call your name when ready for you. Be prepared for an occasional late start, so try to not schedule back-to-back interviews. If necessary, we encourage interviewers to remain on schedule.

Interviews are typically 20 minutes in length. Before you leave the interview, ask the employer for a time-frame concerning a second interview (callback). It is important to obtain a business card so that you can write thank you notes.

Be sure to send a thank-you note to the interviewer. You have no idea how infrequently it is done and what a pleasant touch it is. Make certain to check spelling and names, and that you personalize the note. The note may be handwritten or typed.

The Call Back Interview

Many legal employers conduct two rounds of interviews for potential summer clerks or entry-level attorneys. Government agencies, large firms (more than 50 attorneys), mid-size firms (26-50 attorneys), and even some firms with 20 or fewer lawyers may conduct an initial screening interview on campus, at a job fair, or other venue outside of the employer's own office. For many law students, that initial interview takes place at the law school during the structured On Campus Interview procedure.

The second round of interviewing is often called the "call back." Before a call back interview, a representative of the firm will contact the student and arrange a date for an interview at the law office. Students are responsible for arranging their transportation to the call back interview; however, many law firms will validate parking fees and, when applicable, will generally reimburse students for the cost of mileage or airline travel.

OCI and call back interviews provide students with very different types of information about the firm. On-campus interviews give the law student a brief glimpse into the personality of the representative(s) of the employer and perhaps a glimpse into the firm's area of practice. Because on-campus interviews are generally twenty minutes in duration, the interviewers are limited in the amount of information they can convey about their place of work and the amount of information they can obtain from the law students. In contrast, call back interviews give the law student an opportunity to learn more in-depth information about the firm. Importantly, call back interviews give the law student a taste of the "corporate culture." By visiting the office, the law student can personally observe how law firm personnel interact with each other. This is also the student's chance to demonstrate his or her unique, compelling personal qualities.

Unlike on-campus interviews, which are generally conducted by one or two representatives of the firm, several attorneys participate in call back interviews. During a call back interview, it is not unusual for a law student to be rotated through multiple offices or conference rooms, each containing between one and three attorneys. Additionally, most call back interviews include a meeting between the law student and one or two newer associates (perhaps two or three years out of law school). In most cases, the attorney who conducted the on-campus interview will not participate in the call back interview, other than to say a brief "hello" to the law student. Since the on-campus interviewer has already had a favorable interview with the law student, the firm will use the call back opportunity to introduce the student to other members of the practice.

Perhaps the biggest difference between OCI and call back interviews is philosophical. On-campus interviews are about credentials. Student resumes are carefully examined before the firm selects the students it wishes to interview. During the on-campus experience, interviewers gauge whether the student possesses the right balance of academic performance, extracurricular involvement, communication skills, and professional demeanor necessary to succeed at the firm.

During the call back interview, the focus is on what many lawyers call "chemistry." The attorneys at the firm want to know if the student will "fit in." Is the student used to solitary work? If so, how will that student work in a culture that values teamwork and collegial effort? If the student appears to need a lot of guidance on projects, how will that student do in an environment filled with self-directed people? Does the student expect to step into the courtroom within a few months of graduation? If so, how will that student react to a practice with a heavy emphasis on complex pretrial work? Does the student appear to have the judgment to know when to seek clarification on a project and when to figure out a question on her own? Is the student somewhat reserved? If so, how well will he fit into a firm of outdoing personalities? In contrast, does the student appear to be gregarious and "high energy?" How well will this person fit into an office where lawyers work alone on fine details? Does the student share the firm's commitment to bar leadership, public service, or community involvement? These and other questions will be on the minds of partners and seasoned associates as they talk to a student during the call back interview.

As a practical matter, students should not be surprised if their call back interviews last at least half of a business day. When scheduling a call back interview, the student should be prepared to miss a full day of class, plus additional time, if necessary, for travel. Appropriate interview attire is expected, and thank-you notes should be written to every attorney involved in the call back interview.

Special Considerations

If you meet or approximate the employers' stated selection criteria (on the OCI schedule), they will probably grant you an interview. Plan accordingly. Some students get so many interviews that they become overwhelmed and exhausted, miss classes and are barely interested in the employers. Submit your resumes selectively.

Missing a campus interview is a serious breach of your commitment to the employer, who has also made a commitment to you. The legal community is very tightly knit. When employers detect carelessness or brashness or your part, they remember it. If you expect to practice law in Missouri, you must be on optimal terms with every lawyer or employer you meet. Your professional reputation depends on it.

If you are unable to fulfill your interview obligation, you must notify Career Development and the employer beforehand, and send the employer an apology (with a copy to us) before interviewing on campus again. Missing a campus interview a second time will jeopardize your participation in OCI for the rest of your law school career.

Some OCI employers are members of the National Association of Law Placement (NALP). Those employers follow certain guidelines in their interviewing protocol, and expect the same from students. Copies of the NALP guidelines are in the Career Development Library in Room 103, or you may go to their website.

Respect other students' privacy. Do not browse through the resumes in the employers' envelopes, or read the interview selection lists of employers to whom you did not apply.

Rumors about interviewers, employers and the whole OCI process spread like wildfire. Ask US when you are unsure of procedures, and take the rumors with a grain of salt.

Good Luck! We hope that you will find an opportunity that is right for you!