Your step-by-step guide to making OCI season work for you
Advice from future White & Case associate Saaket Pradhan
You’re an ambitious law student with your sights set on a career in Big Law. The first big challenge of your career is ahead of you: how to navigate the decision-making process and choose the firm that’s right for you. Future White & Case associate Saaket Pradhan shares his step-by-step advice on the application, interview and decision process.
How to prepare before bidding opens
Though you should attend some, don’t get overwhelmed with networking events! Don’t feel pressured to attend every single event for every single firm. Remember—your grades are super-important, and you don’t want those to suffer. While it might first seem that all Big Law firms are the same, they do differ considerably. Speak to current attorneys and research online about each firm. Get your school’s career services office to review your résumé and do practice interviews with you. Your tuition covers this, so you might as well take advantage of it!
Get to know the firms on your shortlist before you apply
Sign up for any recruiting emails and get to know the recruiting team. Even if a firm doesn’t participate in OCI at your school, you can still apply. This is a time when networking with attorneys and the recruiting team to show your strong interest can help you. Talking to upperclassmen in your school who have gone through the Firm interview process is helpful. They can give you tips on the specifics of OCI at your school and also what they would have done differently. Most firms will have information sessions where you can meet current attorneys at all levels. For White & Case, I got to know a couple of attorneys, had coffee chats with them, got a tour of the office and stayed in touch during the application process. Many times, different offices within the same firm specialize in certain areas. At White & Case, the Washington, DC office does mostly litigation, and a lot of work that deals with the federal government. Our Houston office does a lot of work on energy, while the Silicon Valley office is very tech-heavy. For me, I wanted to get not only litigation work, but experience in practice groups all over the Firm, which led me to apply to New York.
Present yourself in the best light at the interview
Anything on your résumé is fair game, so be prepared to talk about even the smallest thing you put on it (like a language or published work). Also, knowing how to talk about skills or experiences and using them in a variety of potential interview answers is a skill you should practice. Know your strengths and try to play to them. Be enthusiastic and excited about the specific firm you’re applying to. Show that you have done your homework about the firm you’re interviewing for and that you’re interested in opportunities there you might not find at other firms. You should make the interviewers feel like you’d be a great teammate. Good questions can really set you apart from the crowd and spark a memorable conversation. Remember that your interviewer will be interviewing tons of other people. Avoid generic questions, or questions that can be answered online, such as what practice groups are at the Firm, and instead delve a little deeper. Usually, you will know the names of your interviewers in advance, so look them up and see what practice areas they are in or what cases/deals they have done in the past. Making your questions tailored to the interviewer can not only impress them, but also help you learn a lot more in the process.
Find out what you can expect as a summer associate
A firm’s website usually has pages for summer associates and insights into the summer associate experience that can be helpful. In addition, one of the best ways to figure this out is to talk to junior attorneys at a firm who have been through the Summer Program very recently. You will definitely have plenty of opportunities to take on substantive work as well as pro bono responsibilities. Remember, you certainly don’t need to know exactly what you want to do on your first day; the point of being a summer associate is to try all different types of things to figure out what you like and don’t like. Personally, I knew I wanted to do litigation, but within litigation, I was open to everything. So, I made sure my assignment coordinators knew this so that I could get a diverse array of work. As a result, I got to work on projects all across the firm and find out what my favorite practice areas were. On the other hand, if you are absolutely certain of what area of law you want to practice, let the assignment coordinators know this so you can get the type of projects you want. And if you develop a new interest during the Summer Program, let the assignment coordinators know and they’ll try to accommodate your preference. At White & Case, each practice gives a presentation on what they do and then tries to entice summers to work in their area. These presentations happen during orientation and can be very fun and informative, so definitely attend them if you want to learn more.
What to do when you have more than one offer
This is the fun part—where the firms start to fight over you! Generally, firms will have events with candidates who have offers or they will connect you to chat with attorneys who can answer all your questions and convince you to join their firm. You have the leverage in this situation, so don’t feel shy to be upfront with any questions or concerns you may have. Use this opportunity to figure out whether your preferences for a firm (e.g., mentorship, pro bono, practice areas, training, location, culture) match up with those of the firms you have received offers from. Once you decide on a firm, it’s important to politely tell the others that you will not be joining them. The legal world is smaller than you think, so it’s important not to burn any bridges!
While going through the networking and interview process, I really enjoyed chatting to all the attorneys I spoke with [at White & Case]. I could tell from these interactions that while White & Case had serious and interesting work, it was a firm with great culture where people want to hang out with each other. When thinking about the type of work I’d be getting, the people I’d surround myself with, and the ability to receive mentorship, choosing White & Case was the easiest decision I’ve had to make while in law school.
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