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ElShapo

How important is it to "reach out" to firms prior to applying (2L Toronto Summer 2021 OCI recruit)

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I've heard mixed opinions on this.

Some 3L's I've spoken to called a lawyer at every firm they applied to and made sure to name drop on their cover letter. 

Some decided not to reach out and kept their cover letters relatively generic, with the only personal touch consisting of a sentence or two about their interest in the firm's practice area(s). 

One student I spoke to said the lower your GPA, the more important it is to reach out and differentiate yourself via the connections you make. 

To those who were successful (or unsuccessful) in obtaining an OCI, did you network/name drop? 

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Prior to Vancouver OCIs in 2018 I had coffee with lawyers from almost every firm I applied to. I went to firm open houses, I went on my school's firm tours. I name dropped in almost all of my cover letters. I got 9 OCIs and no offers.

I think my networking helped me secure interviews that I might not have gotten otherwise.

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33 minutes ago, ElShapo said:

I've heard mixed opinions on this.

Some 3L's I've spoken to called a lawyer at every firm they applied to and made sure to name drop on their cover letter. 

Some decided not to reach out and kept their cover letters relatively generic, with the only personal touch consisting of a sentence or two about their interest in the firm's practice area(s). 

One student I spoke to said the lower your GPA, the more important it is to reach out and differentiate yourself via the connections you make. 

To those who were successful (or unsuccessful) in obtaining an OCI, did you network/name drop? 

tl;dr: Networking got me an OCI at a firm I never would have gotten a job at. All my other job offers came from firms where I did zero networking. All of my friends who landed OCI jobs with L&E firms did zero networking at those firms. YMMV, so take all of this with a grain of salt.

--

Of the people I know who got jobs from the 2L recruit, most did not reach out to anyone at the firms they applied to. Note that these were L&E firms, and that may be why.

I had terrible grades in 1L. That said, I got an OCI at a Bay St. firm and I'm sure it's because I knew people there. I didn't get a job, though, so it didn't do me much good. :D I also got in-firms at every L&E firm I applied to, but, again, got no job offers. I got an OCI at a mid-sized full service firm, and I knew no one there either.

When I did get a job, it was at a firm where I knew no one. That said, one lawyer fell in love with my experience and wanted me to work with her, so she insisted I get an interview. For articling, I got a job on the other side of the country where I knew no one at the firm.

I think the most important part of networking is to determine where YOU want to work, or don't want to work. The more I learned about some firms, the further away I wanted to remain. I think I took this approach more to heart for articling and it served me well. I went into the interviews wanting to know if the firm was right for me, and the moment I knew it was (my third interview) is when everything changed for me. Had I known that already through networking, I'm not sure if it would have been a benefit, though. I might have been even more nervous to blow the interview, or the name dropping may have come off arrogant and obnoxious.

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It's worth considering whether you have time to go on 50 coffees with 50 different firms. Back when OCIs were first term, people tended to do it in the summer when they had more time. In the grand scheme of things, going for coffees for the sole purpose of name-dropping or having 1-2 sentences tailored to that firm isn't worth the time if your application is otherwise average or below average. The cost is not worth the hope for a benefit. If your grades are well within the GPA cut-off of most firms, you'll likely get an OCI regardless.

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3 minutes ago, Luckycharm said:

Do lawyers really have time to 'coffee" with strangers? 

It's usually associates or articling students that go on coffees.

As well as recruiters... sometimes.

Edited by Psychometronic
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33 minutes ago, Luckycharm said:

Do lawyers really have time to 'coffee" with strangers? 

I've been reaching out to lawyers for phone chats (not coffees, but still time out of their schedule) in part to do an initial "vibe check", but mainly because I get curious about legal practice from time to time and just want to learn from lawyers.

For the most part, I feel like they have time (otherwise, they would have just ignored my email). Most times the chats end near the 30 minute mark,  but occasionally a lawyer seems chill and the conversation is pleasant enough that they are willing to talk for an additional 30. The longest convo I had was a 1.5/2 hour conversation (during the summer) with a really bubbly associate! That was fun, though it was a rarity. I also had an hour long, socially-distanced coffee with a senior, big-shot corporate law partner that was very humbling and inspirational.

I am sure doing so is flawed, but I made a note of which firms seem to have lawyers who are anxious with their time, versus those who seem more relaxed. I do so not to judge the "busy" lawyers (because all lawyers are busy, I understand this), but because I think it is a good sign when a junior associate or senior lawyer can just drop an hour or two to talk with me.

With respect to the "practicality" of these conversations, I am not sure how helpful these talks actually are in getting OCIs, but I feel like I have a better picture of legal practice (to the extent that a student can, which is probably minimal), which will allow me to craft appropriate responses to standard OCI questions. At least that's the hope. 

Edited by Twenty
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It might help if you're on the fence. You're right, there are people who spoke with a person from every firm they applied to. There are others like me who only spoke to a few people from a couple different firms, and sent in mostly generic cover letters for most firms. I did just fine and it wasn't detrimental to me. I did however speak to a student from every firm I in-firmed with (between the OCI stage and in-firm stage).

If you have the time and it isn't detrimental to your grades, then go for it. It won't hurt. But if it'll affect your grades, then don't do it. Grades are ultimately most important in the recruit, and networking won't get you around poor grades.

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38 minutes ago, Luckycharm said:

Do lawyers really have time to 'coffee" with strangers? 

Apparently! I've never been turned down for a coffee. I think there's this general sense of responsibility to be welcoming/inclusive to law students about to enter the profession.

A couple of the coffees I set up were turned into lunches at the last minute, and both times were with senior partners.

Edited by canuckfanatic
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46 minutes ago, Luckycharm said:

Do lawyers really have time to 'coffee" with strangers? 

I don't know anyone who is doing that now. Why would a busy lawyer meet with a stranger in the midst of a pandemic?

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I went on zero coffee chats, spoke to no lawyers (outside of one firm tour, at a firm I don’t work at). I had a few phone calls with some articling students so I could hopefully learn something to put in my cover letters.

If you’re worried because other posters are talking about lunches with partners, etc., don’t be. You can get hired doing none of that. 

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I never contacted a single person from any of the firms and got 12 OCIs - I think it helps more to contact after OCI day, if you get an in firm. No one I know who landed a position contacted someone at their firm before getting an in firm offer.  

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8 hours ago, canuckfanatic said:

I think there's this general sense of responsibility to be welcoming/inclusive to law students about to enter the profession.

Exactly right. I have met with many students for this precise reason. 

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10 hours ago, WindsorHopeful said:

I never contacted a single person from any of the firms and got 12 OCIs - I think it helps more to contact after OCI day, if you get an in firm. No one I know who landed a position contacted someone at their firm before getting an in firm offer.  

Same here- 22 OCIs

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55 minutes ago, Luckycharm said:

Same here- 22 OCIs

10 hours ago, WindsorHopeful said:

I never contacted a single person from any of the firms and got 12 OCIs - I think it helps more to contact after OCI day, if you get an in firm. No one I know who landed a position contacted someone at their firm before getting an in firm offer.  

If I may - what was your GPA?

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A common trend among those who didn't contact firms is likely that they had a really high GPA, making it unnecessary to reach out. I think the better question is if reaching out makes sense for borderline applicants (ex. low B+ average) 

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3L here, I had very average (B to B+) grades going into 2L OCIs, spoke to only articling/summer students at firms, did not speak to any associates or partners leading up to OCIs. Personally I think the actual number of OCIs matter less than the conversion rate of # of OCIs that turn into in-firms, and # of in-firms that turn into offers. Even with only 1-2 OCIs, people who are well-prepared and know clearly what unique value/skillset they can bring to the table to differentiate themselves from other candidates nonetheless have a very good shot at converting those opportunities into actual offers. 

I wrote more about my experiences with the 2L formal recruit here: 

 

Edited by cherrytree
added a bit more context
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I'm currently preparing for the Vancouver OCI recruit right now, and I have definitely been doing a lot of networking. I go to a different BC school and live in a different city so all of my calls have either been phone or video, which I've found is a blessing in disguise because I can keep them to 20-30 minutes in between classes. I have a lighter course load so I don't think the amount of networking I've been doing is going to cost me too much grades wise. My GPA is also borderline, and I feel that because networking is something I can control and can only help my job prospects I do as much of it as I can. Whether it ultimately results in a job remains to be seen, but it's definitely given me an insight into all of the firms, the types of people who work there, and who really cares about their students. A couple times I've lucked out and reached out to an associate who by coincidence happened to be on the student recruitment committee, and they explicitly told me they'll keep an eye out for my application.

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