Friday, 17 July 2015

OCI Applications: Finding a 'Good Fit'

As the application deadline for the On-Campus-Interview (OCI) process approaches, second-year students begin to eagerly research firms and speak with fellow students. As an applicant, I found it easy to gain superficial information, but difficult to decipher what exactly makes each firm unique.

Here are seven things to consider when gathering information about the firms that interest you.

A heavy emphasis is placed on finding a “good fit”. The OCI and Summer Student Program is, for everyone involved, an investment of time, effort, and resources. So, in the search for compatibility, here are seven things to consider when gathering information about the firms that interest you, the applicant:

1. Practice Areas
Check each firm's website for information about their practice areas. Looking for a niche? Or just want to keep it general? How about litigation? Are students exposed to all firm practice areas? Or restricted to a few?

At MB: As the website indicates, McCague Borlack is a civil litigation firm that focuses on insurance defence. Our cases pertain to any and all losses that would be covered by insurance. This includes motor vehicle accidents, fires, floods, and other property damage. Plus the firm has over 30 listed practice areas, and there is work to be done in all of them. If a student is interested in a specific field, the lawyers are more than willing to get the students involved.

2. Students' Work
Ask current students or check their program materials to see what type of work is assigned. Are you going to be doing mostly research? Sitting at a desk all day? In the library? Working online?

At MB: We are asked to prepare motion records and affidavits, client letters, and memos. We conduct engaging research and compose summaries of our findings. There is a balance of mindful work, administrative tasks, and exciting assignments. The deadlines are often very reasonable, allowing us to manage our daily schedule and allocate our time accordingly.

3. Field Trips
Do students get to leave the office? Perhaps to watch motions? Attend meetings? Go to court? How much interaction is there with the firm's clients? Do you spend a lot of time on the phone?

At MB: Students do not spend all day, every day at our desks. We are given the opportunity to attend out-of-office discoveries, mediations, and settlement conferences. We are also included in client information sessions, Professional Development seminars, and Practice Group meetings - all of which typically come with catered treats… ;)

4. The List
Ask how work is distributed to students. Do they follow a list? Is it a round-robin? First come, first served?

At MB: Our students receive work from lawyers through a list - an email group - through which we take assignments in alphabetical order. The list ensures that each student receives a variety of work, from a variety of lawyers. It bolsters teamwork and helps to eliminate competitiveness among the group.

5. Open Door Policy
You need to know about the environment of the firm. Where do you go if you need help or have questions? Can students approach lawyers directly? Or do students speak to lawyer's assistants instead? It is one thing for a firm to say they have an open-door policy, and another to actually put it into practice.

At MB:  Our lawyers encourage students to drop by their offices with questions or comments, or even just to chat. It allows everyone to build relationships and establish connections with formal and informal mentors. Since many of the lawyers were once articling and summer students, they are empathetic and very supportive. This speaks to the atmosphere of our office.

6. Hire Back Rates
Does the firm typically hire back their articling students? Is there competition to get hired back? What does it take to stand out?

At MB: Our firm is inclusive, supportive, and uncompetitive. This is evident in the firm’s attitude toward hiring back their summer students for articling positions and then as associates. As it was explained to us, we are invited to become long-term members of the team. We are not treated as visitors because we are here to stay.

7. Work-Life Balance
Ask current students what a typical week will look like? What kind of hours do they keep? Do they work on the weekends? How often?

At MB: The lawyers and students at McCague Borlack recognize and practice a work-life balance. This is somewhat uncommon to come across when speaking of a Downtown Toronto firm. As students, our workload allows us to take advantage of our well-deserved summer break, and to have personal time on the evenings and weekends.

Marla R.