What Will OCIs During COVID-19 Look Like?
OCIs are an important part of many students’ law school career. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, many students’ summer 2020 positions were altered or even eliminated. Now the questions many students and employers are asking is: Will OCIs during COVID-19 be delayed? And: What will happen with future hiring for next year? This post will attempt to shed light on these questions, but keep in mind that the answer may vary between schools, legal markets, and employers.
What Will OCIs During COVID-19 Look Like?
First, let’s address whether OCIs will be delayed. The most accurate answer is: it depends. A more satisfying answer is: yes. OCIs will likely be delayed because of COVID-19. Nearly every school in the nation moved online for the Spring 2020 semester as a result of COVID-19. Many schools stayed online through the summer on the advice of public health officials. Many law schools across the U.S. are now announcing their Fall 2020 semesters will be either completely remote or a hybrid of online and in-person programming. As with all things related to COVID-19, the situation is rapidly evolving. Still, in many cases, this means campuses will be totally or partially closed and OCIs can’t proceed as normal.
Traditionally, OCIs take place during the summer before students’ 2L year. These interviews are for summer associate positions set to begin in the following summer (during 2L summer). If you’d like more background information on OCIs in general, check out our previous blog post here.
Normally, some OCIs take place as early as June. We’ve heard from many schools and employers stating this simply isn’t a reality right now. Before you feel too discouraged, note that schools and firms around the country are working together to conduct OCIs at a later date. Many OCIs will be delayed until Fall 2020 or early 2021 but that doesn’t mean they won’t happen! We encourage you to stay on top of the policies at your school, so you can be fully prepared.
What will happen with future hiring for next year?
As with many things related to the fallout from COVID-19, the answer is still unclear. Firms altered their 2020 Summer Associate programs by canceling, delaying, or moving completely online. Some law firms bypassed their summer associate programs altogether and gave all their 2L summer associates full-time offers to return after graduation (not the worst thing in the world!).
However, we can only guess what that will mean for hiring now. Again, OCIs take place nearly a year before the job in question is set to begin. Firms’ summer associate programs will be subject to a lot of economic uncertainty. As such, summer associate classes may be smaller. There may also be a smaller number of firms conducting OCIs during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, just because OCIs will be altered or delayed because of COVID-19 doesn’t mean they aren’t going to happen eventually.
Again, it’s important to keep in contact with your school’s career services office. They will be able to offer you more specialized information based on your region and the legal market(s) that typically draw from your school.
In the face of uncertainty, it can be hard to remain hopeful and productive.
Here’s What You Can Do Moving Forward
1. Find out your school’s updated OCI schedule
When does your school normally conduct OCIs? Has your school said that it will delay OCIs during the COVID-19 outbreak? This is vital information you should know. Seek out answers to these questions! It will vary depending on the strength and size of your local legal market and the state of COVID-19 in your region. Even if COVID-19 hasn’t hit your region particularly hard, many schools and employers may not want to risk the exposure of numerous people. Just keep in mind that this is a stressful time for everyone involved. Do your homework and be flexible! Being adequately prepared for OCIs is half the battle towards achieving success.
2. Prepare for remote OCIs
Rather than delaying OCIs, some employers may choose to proceed with virtual interviews. OCIs often involve travel for both employers and students. Even if your on-campus schooling is resuming in the fall, it might still be imprudent to travel. Consequently, some employers and schools may decide virtual OCIs are most appropriate this year. Even if you’re unsure about what will happen at your school, it’s always better to be prepared!
Virtual OCIs will still require the same preparation as an in-person interview. You should still wear a suit, come prepared with questions (and answers to expected questions), and have a pen and paper ready to take notes. Like with any online meeting, you’ll want to make sure your background is presentable, you have a stable internet connection, and you’re in a room free of distractions and noises. If you need headphones, have them at the ready!
Surely virtual substitutes for in-person meetings are already a part of your life. Whether you partake in classes, work meetings, or court proceedings, you mentally prepare for the possibility of adding virtual OCIs to the list!
3. Work on your application materials
Whether you are going to participate in OCIs or not, you need to have top-notch application materials. Perhaps OCIs at your school will be limited, delayed, or both. That doesn’t mean you should put off improving the quality of your application materials.
Follow our resume tips to ensure you make a good first impression with employers. You can also take this time of uncertainty to polish your writing sample and update your references. The ability to be a great candidate on paper is relevant whether you participate in OCIs during COVID-19 or not. And if you do, a polished application will put you one step ahead!