For the past six years, I’ve been able to successfully block out the incredibly mortifying and traumatic memories associated with my performance during the merciless cage fight of OCI. But the recent mini-parade of second-round interviewees through the halls of my office triggered a flashback, thereby unearthing my long-buried recollections. So I figured I might as well confront the trauma head-on and hopefully put the pain to bed forever. But in the course of reliving all of the excruciating mistakes I made during OCI, I realized that there were actual lessons that could be gleaned from each of my missteps. Here they are:
1If what you love is criminal law, do not participate in OCI. The notion that you can work in Big Law for a few years “to save up some money” and/or “to pay down some debt” and then leave to work as an assistant state’s attorney is an epic fallacy. If making $35,000 per year seems distasteful when you’re a jobless 2L, imagine how ridiculous it will sound when you’ve been steadily earning more than $125,000 per year for three or four years. Not to mention, by the time you’re a third year (or possibly even sooner), you’ll be so insanely burned out and cynical that the last thing you would ever want to do is take a risky leap into a completely different realm.
2If you go to a second-tier school and you’re not first, second, or third in your class, don’t bother interviewing at more than one top-tier firm. I was fifth in my class when I went through OCI, which falsely bolstered my confidence and led me to believe that I should fill my interview slots with elite firms. Then I watched as my roommate, who was first in the class, received the lone offer reserved for candidates from my school from every single one of those elite firms.
3This isn’t speed dating, even though it sort of feels like it. Your goal should never be to make them like you as a person in these interviews. You need to make them like you as an associate—which is to say, you’re better off conveying the impression that you’re a hard-working, semi-sophisticated, devoid-of-human-characteristics automaton. Don’t try to wow them with your winning personality or interesting traits and experiences, because it will invariably backfire and give them a reason to eliminate you.
4Come up with scripted questions that focus on “opportunities” and “chances for responsibility” and “having an impact on the firm as an associate” and then stick to the script. You’re an idiot if you think that you’re actually going to learn anything substantive about life at these firms during the interview process. You’re an even bigger idiot if you actually think there’s anything substantive to be learned about life at any of these firms during the interview process. These places all suck, and they’re all capable of crushing your soul and deflating your spirit in any number of ways. And even if Big Firm A is less miserable than Big Firm B in one category, please understand that you’re playing a losing hand either way, because “less miserable” is still miserable.
5Don’t ask any specific questions about what life is really like at any of these firms. Moreover, never utter the words “lifestyle” or “work-life balance,” even if you’re interviewing with a firm that makes a lot of hay about its dedication to such things on its website. Here’s why: they’re just going to feed you lies instead of real answers, and they’ll eliminate you from consideration because they’ll infer that you’re naïve and have a weak constitution for having asked such questions in the first place.
6Never ask about whether a firm gives associates ample opportunities for feedback. They expect you to be flawless, and if you’re not, they expect you to be able to figure out how to fix your flaws on your own. They don’t have time to correct you, let alone mentor you or foster your growth. Any suggestion that you’re expecting something from them other than a big paycheck constitutes a red flag.
7Your appearance, conduct, and demeanor at every interview should convey to the interviewers that you are mature, capable, and have good judgment. Even though they’re planning on sticking you in an interior office where you’ll grind away on document reviews for at least two years without any chance of crossing paths with an actual client, they still expect you to be polished enough to not embarrass the firm in front of clients on day one.
8Self-deprecating humor is not a good way to attempt to build rapport with the jerks each firm sends to conduct the on-campus interviews. In fact, it’s best to assume that none of the interviewers have any sense of humor whatsoever.
9If everyone you meet with from a specific firm seems incalculably odd and off-putting, don’t accept that firm’s offer even if it’s the only offer you receive during OCI. Whenever possible, a firm uses its most likeable, personable, and impressive attorneys as interviewers, so always assume that most of the attorneys at a firm are even worse to be around than the ones that were selected to interview you.
10Trust your vibes. If you performed well enough as a 1L to be able to meaningfully participate in OCI, chances are you’re extremely competitive. The urge to beat your classmates and win a spot at the best firm can ultimately end up silencing your logic and squelching your gut feelings, which basically guarantees that you’re going to accept an offer for superficial reasons—and against your better judgment—from a firm which will ultimately ensnare you in the fires of hell. The brief period of gloating and pride over being able to say that you’re summering at Mayer Brown will not sustain you during the years of hell that are sure to follow.