How to Navigate the OCI Recruit
The law school OCI recruit is pretty different than any other interview process. You can think of it like a career speed dating event. Here's what you need to know.
What is the OCI recruit?
OCI stands for On-Campus Interviews, but the OCI recruit is much more than that. It’s an application and interview process that takes place over the span of several months. The OCI recruit is how most large law firms in Canada do the bulk of their hiring. Through the OCI recruit, law firms hire summer students to work during the summer after 2L, with the hope that they will be brought back as articling students after completing law school.
How does the OCI recruit work?
The OCI recruit is a very regimented process. All OCI procedures and timelines are governed by the Law Society of Ontario (LSO). The OCI recruit in Canada has 6 main components:
An application for the OCI recruit includes:
A cover letter
Law school transcript (1L grades)
Undergraduate and graduate transcript(s)
Letters of recommendation (generally not required)
A list of upper year law school courses
Applications are to be addressed to a primary contact person at the firm, which can be found on the firm’s NALP profile. Applications are submitted on the viaLawPortal. Applications open in mid-July and are due at the end of August before your 2L school year begins. Read our blog post, How to Succeed in the OCI Recruit, for tips on applications.
2. On-Campus Interviews
OCI day is like a career speed dating event. If a firm likes your application, you’ll be invited by your law school to participate in an On-Campus Interview with one or two representatives from the law firm. The interview lasts around 17 minutes, which will involve a conversational-style interview, discussing your resume and other relevant topics. You won’t be quizzed on the law (however, this may be the case if you are applying to a public area of law).
3. Call Day (and intent to calls)
If you left a good impression during On-Campus Interviews, firms will call you to schedule an in-firm interview. Remember, these aren’t additional interviews. They will be quick phone calls to give you the important interview information. That’s it, that's all. Call Day happens in the last week of October but many firms send an email prior to Call Day so that you know to expect their call. This can help a lot when trying to schedule your in-firm week.
It’s important to decide on the firms you’re most interested in prior to Call Day. When firms start calling, you’ll know which interviews to priority schedule for the first day of in-firm interview week. Scheduling an interview for the first day is typically seen as a candidate's first indication of serious interest in the firm.
There are 10 available time slots for in-firm interviews, however you won’t want to schedule more than seven. While you’ll want to keep as many opportunities open as you can, think realistically about how many quality interviews you can give within such a short amount of time. It gets exhausting.
Tip: formalize your voicemail message and turn off call-waiting. If you’re on a call with a firm, you don't want to be distracted by a call from another firm. If you miss a call, they’ll call back or you can call them when you're done.
4. In-firm interviews
In-firm interviews are three days in early November, during your reading week. They begin at 8 a.m. on Monday and run until Wednesday afternoon.
While law firms differ in interview style, most will assign you a host (typically a junior associate) to guide you through the interview process and act as your main contact person. An in-firm interview typically lasts between an hour to two hours, and you’ll meet three or four lawyers as well as articling students.
Depending on the number of in-firm interviews, it can be an exhausting few days and scheduling can get chaotic.
There are many rules set out by the Law Society of Ontario that firms who participate in the OCI process must abide by.
5. Secondary interviews & social events
After an in-firm interview, you may be invited back for another interview, a breakfast, dinner, cocktail or other social event. It’s equally as important to attend these events to show the firm you’re serious about working there. Rejecting an invitation can send the message that you’re not interested and jeopardize your chances of being hired.
These social events give the firm an opportunity to get to know you better and gain a sense of how you get along with others. While these events feel informal, you're still being evaluated based on your interactions with the other candidates. Firms also use these events to sell you on the firm and show you how great it would be to work there.
If you have a scheduling conflict, in many cases you’ll have to decide on which firm you prefer. Many law students have to make the hard choice of cancelling an interview. If this happens, do it as soon as possible, be polite and let them know how grateful you are for their time and the opportunity to be interviewed. If you have made a prior commitment with another firm and still wish to attend, politely let the firm know that you have a prior commitment and ask if there is another time they are available to meet. Firms are often understanding and flexible in this scenario, especially if they are interested in you.
6. Job offers
Firms are not allowed to give you a job offer during interview week. Firms begin calling with job offers on the third day of interview week (the Wednesday) at 5 p.m. When a firm calls you with an offer, you don’t have to immediately accept or reject the offer. You can thank them for the offer and will get back to them shortly. Offers must remain open for 24 hours but you should be as prompt as possible with your decision.
Don't stress if you don't get a call right at 5 p.m. Waiting for the phone to ring isn't fun but do your best to stay patient. Firms have lots of calls to make. If you don't hear from your preferred firm, you can give them a call to express your interest and ask about your status.
If you walk away from in-firm week without a job offer, don't give up. It feels disappointing (and at the time, like the end of the world), but the OCI recruit is not the be-all and end-all. There are many different paths to success. Many great firms hire outside of the OCI recruit and you can still have a very successful career as a lawyer without the OCI recruit. Rejection is just redirection - usually to something much better. Trust that more opportunities will come your way.
What law firms hire in the OCI recruit?
You can see a list of law firms that hire through the OCI recruit here. Keep in mind that your job options aren’t limited to those available in the OCI recruit. Not all law firms in Canada participate in the OCI recruit.
Do I have to pay for OCIs?
There’s no cost to you to apply or participate in OCIs, but that’s not to say you’re not going to spend money during the process.
In-firm interviews can be a big expense for law students. If you don’t live in the city where your in-firm interviews are held, whether it’s Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal or Calgary, you’ll have to pay to travel there. If you don’t have a family member or friend that can take you in for a few days, you’ll also have to pay for a hotel which can get pricey.
You’ll also want to make sure you have a nice suit to wear. If you don’t have one already, you'll need to go shopping before OCIs begin. It doesn’t need to be a fancy designer suit, just something that looks professional and feels comfortable to wear.
To cut costs, you may want to coordinate a carpool with other students and share a hotel.