Skip to Main Content
by Mary Kate Sheridan | March 20, 2019


laptop notes

Bidding on law firms for on-campus interviewing can be an overwhelming process. Many law students are entering the legal world for the first time, and firms can start to look the same as you try to whittle them down to your top choices. Not to mention, the pressure to choose the best firm from which to launch your legal career is tremendous. But with some planning, researching, and networking, the interview bidding process will be a lot less stressful. Below are some tips for narrowing your list of law firms so that you can breeze into recruiting season this summer.

Start Early.

Recruiting season may seem really far away at this point, and you may be tempted to tuck away any thoughts of firm research and bidding until second semester is over and finals are complete. But you should probably rethink that strategy. First, this decision is a big one—the offer you accept through OCI will likely be the firm at which you begin your legal career. This firm will be where you meet your first mentors, gain the foundation for your future practice, and make the connections that will help you pave your path. Take time to carefully consider the options. Also, summer is unlikely to be a free-for-all; no doubt, you will have a busy internship, travel plans, or summer coursework, with limited time for bidding research. And finally, being in school provides access to resources that are essential in navigating this process, including your classmates, the career services office, and professors.

Whatever you do, don’t wait until the day before bids are due and hastily put together a list based solely on rank, location, practice area, or some other factor. Take your time.

Determine your priorities.

The most important first step in narrowing your law firm list is to do some self reflection and decide on your personal career goals and priorities. Key to this step is ignoring the noise around you—what is important to your peers may not be important to you. Some areas you may consider are:

• Reputation.

• Practice area (including whether you must choose one immediately or have an opportunity to rotate).

• Location.

• Compensation structure and requirements.

• Bonus eligibility.

• Commitment to diversity.

• Pro bono opportunities.

• Assignment system during the summer, as a junior associate, and as a mid-level and senior associate.

• Face-time requirements and remote working capabilities.

• Training and mentoring.

• Promotion prospects and exit opportunities.

Tailor your research based on those priorities.

Once you have determined the factors that are essential for your career satisfaction, you can tailor your research to find firms that meet these requirements. For example, if you know that you want to practice in a certain practice area, you can dig into the firms that specialize in that area, review recent cases the firms have handled, read up on notable attorneys who practice at the firm, and get a sense for the types of work attorneys in that practice do. On the other hand, if you aren't sure which practice area is right for you, you can narrow your list to those firms that allow summers and associates to rotate and/or work in a free-market system before committing to a specific practice. Nailing down your priorities will help you find the firms that align with your career needs, and hopefully maximize your career satisfaction.

Research broadly.

While you want to narrow your search by the factors that are important for your future legal career, you should be broad in terms of the resources you consult. Don't limit yourself to one set of rankings, one type of resource, or one person's opinion. Take responsibility for your career by being as informed as possible. For example, if you are drawn to a particular practice area, you should review practice area rankings across multiple publications to see how firms measure up and which ones have recurring appearances. Also, different resources will provide varying information on the firm, so consulting multiple resources will provide a more comprehensive picture. And speaking with a variety of people—from peers to lawyers to professors to recruiting professionals to career counselors—will provide you with a variety of perspectives to make a more educated decision. The key is understanding the value of each resource and bringing them together to help you assess each firm. And in the end, the decision must be your own after digesting all of this information.

Talk to fellow students.

Some of the most valuable resources in deciding on which firms to bid on are your fellow students who previously were summer associates at your target firms. These students went through the OCI process, so they understand exactly what you’re going through. And they have direct experience working at the law firm. They can share insights on being a summer associate at the firm and what the interview process was like. And you will likely feel more comfortable asking fellow students some of your tougher questions (and peers will likely provide the candid responses that you're seeking).

Use Career Services.

Don’t underestimate the value in discussing firms with your law school career counselor. Many of these professionals have been in the legal industry for years—some as lawyers and some as recruiting professionals. By discussing your priorities with them, you can work with them to pinpoint firms that meet your requirements. Plus, they can give you some insights into the firm’s culture and summer program, not to mention interview tips. And—perhaps most importantly—career services may be able to connect you with alumni who work at the firm, as well as current students who were summer associates there. Making these connections are invaluable in gaining real perspectives on life at the firm.

Be positive.

If you don’t get an interview with every firm on your list, stay positive—there are other ways to secure an interview. Many firms conduct resume collections in addition to OCI, so you can still submit your resume to a firm. Also, if a firm has a hospitality suite during OCI, you can stop by to mingle, and while you’re there, submit your resume for consideration. (Sometimes, firms will even squeeze in a promising candidate who didn’t get an interview slot.)

Good luck with your research!