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BigLaw Hiring for Students: Navigating Pre-Recruitment and OCI

Published: Jan 16, 2024

In BigLaw, the hiring process can seem daunting, fast-paced, and overwhelming—especially for law students. This process has especially accelerated in speed and size in recent years, with summer associate jobs on the rise across the industry with no signs of slowing down. That is why we would like to help demystify the hiring process. In this blog, we focus on two processes that law students should be aware of—pre-recruitment and on-campus interviews (OCI)—and how to navigate them as part of the path to BigLaw.

Pre-recruitment versus OCI

Pre-recruitment is the process in which law firms extend summer job offers to law students before the traditional OCI season begins.


• Takes place as early as the spring semester of students’ 1L year

• Can be advantageous to job seekers, but may also reduce the number of available summer associate positions during the traditional recruitment season

• Is something that BigLaw firms have leaned into more and more as a way to fill a portion of their summer associate classes early on

• Comes with certain parameters; if a law student accepts a pre-recruiting offer, it’s important for them to understand the offer timeline and conditions, including any restrictions on participating in other recruiting opportunities

Pros of pre-recruiting:

• It’s a fluid process that provides law students with early job security, peace of mind, and some alleviation of stress associated with the traditional OCI season

• Some students may know exactly what type of law and which firm they want to pursue, so pre-recruiting allows them to get ahead of their career aspirations

• It allows law students to focus on coursework, extracurriculars, and career development without the distraction of job applications or interview preparation

• It gives law students the opportunity to build strong connections with their future employers from the start of the process, which is beneficial to both short-term and long-term career prospects 

On-campus interviews (OCI) make up a structured and formalized interview program organized every year by each law school across the country.


• Takes place throughout July and August

• Is a traditional process; though still a largely relevant process, BigLaw firms have started to move away from it in recent years

Pros of OCI:

• Students can interview with a wide variety of law firms in a very structured and formalized way

• It exposes law students to different practice areas, cultures, and locations during a set timeframe

• The later timeframe may help law students feel that they are making more informed decisions further into their law school career

• It allows students to receive multiple job offers and compare each offer at the same time to best decide which firm aligns with their interests, values, and career goals

• It gives students more time to prepare and develop their interviewing skills

Advice for 1L Students

Law students can set themselves up for success in the recruitment process by considering a number of factors and best practices.

Start Early: The legal market is competitive, which makes it is essential for law students to start their search as early as possible. Many employers begin connecting with law students during the fall and early spring semesters, so it is important that law students familiarize themselves with the hiring timelines and start their research at the start of their 1L year.

Envision the Road Ahead: Law students should reflect on their own personal goals of what they want to do and where they want to start their career. This will help frame which recruitment process is the right fit for them.

Focus on Grades: It is important for 1L law students to prioritize their grades, especially because many firms factor your grades into hiring decisions. This is especially important for those who choose to participate in the early recruitment process since employers only have one semester of grades before they make their decision.

Network Strategically: Networking is often the most effective way to find job opportunities. 1L law students should gain exposure to different firms by attending networking events to build connections and get a foot in the door. This includes:

• Attending firm-sponsored events

• Connecting with former summer associates

• Reaching out to legal recruiters

• Engaging with personal networks

• Updating professional profiles such as LinkedIn

Stand Out Through Authenticity: It is essential for law students to be their authentic selves throughout the hiring process. To set themselves apart in their applications and throughout the interview process, law students can use their resumes, cover letters, and interviews to highlight their unique backgrounds and show how their perspectives can positively contribute to the firm’s business and culture.

Embody Professionalism: It is imperative that law students maintain a professional presence both in person and online. Law students should (1) ensure that their social media profiles are clean and professional, (2) answer employers in a timely manner, (3) prioritize interview preparation and etiquette, (4) seek mentorship and networking opportunities, and (5) show overall active engagement and interest.

How to Apply

Once law students are ready to apply, there are a number of ways to get started:

• 1L Summer and Diversity Fellowship Programs

• Online Summer Associate Applications

• Law School Early Interview Programs

• Law School OCI Programs

1L Summer + Diversity Fellowship Programs are amazing opportunities for law students interested in more hands-on legal experience in the summer following their first year. 1L summer associate positions are temporary, yet often paid, opportunities for law students who want to gain practical legal experience, exposure to different legal practices and firm culture, and networking opportunities. In conjunction with 1L summer associate positions, many firms have diversity fellowship programs that aim to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within the legal profession. These programs play a vital role in creating a more diverse and inclusive legal community. Diversity fellowship programs often provide financial support, including scholarships and stipends.

In addition:

• 1L students do not need to know exactly what area of law they wish to practice and should use 1L opportunities to explore their interests as much as they can while building relationships with colleagues and supervisors

• 1L positions can serve as a great stepping stone to secure 2L summer associate positions, especially when it comes to BigLaw

If law students are interested in working at a particular firm after they’ve done their homework, they should reach out to the appropriate legal recruiter and look on the firm website for application openings.

Good luck, and happy applying!