Options for Students Beyond OCIs
Though it’s hard to tell from looking out the window, summer is fast approaching, and with it the dreaded question of “Where are you working this summer?”
According to the Career Development Office (CDO), 59 Queen’s students landed summer positions through the Toronto On-Campus Interview (OCI) process. A further 11 found jobs through the Vancouver and Calgary OCIs. These numbers are not tremendously different from previous years.
But if you’re not one of the lucky ones who has already survived the infamous OCI process and found a job, fear not.
Gillian Ready, director of the Career Development Office for Queen’s Law, says that most students will eventually find articling jobs, which she says is the ultimate goal.
“In most of the larger cities, there is a fairly constant rate of summer hiring,” Ready said. In the past 10 years, the recruitment numbers for somewhere like Toronto has remained fairly stable.
The difference now is that the Career Development Office is trying to encourage students to find jobs outside the formal recruitment process through a self-directed job search. In a CDO survey of second-year students (response rate 64 per cent), 13 per cent of students said they found employment with a self-directed job search.
CDO career counsellor, Julie Banting, says she’s worked with students who are conducting that type of search all across Canada.
“The beauty of a self-directed job search is that it’s going to apply to any market,” she said.
“When you leave, there’s no OCI process for fourth-year associate jobs, so if you have some experience in creating a network and trying to narrow your focus, that’s useful,” said Ready.
Though reaching beyond the OCI process can be rewarding, it’s not always easy.
One student who reaped the rewards of a self-directed job search says doing a self-directed job search allowed her to get her foot in the door and gave her an advantage when it came to the cut between applications and getting actual interviews.
“Networking was never my strong suit,” the student said. “The thought of introducing myself to a stranger (or a “friend of a friend”) and asking them for help makes me extremely uncomfortable. I had to move significantly outside my comfort zone to put myself out there for a self-directed job hunt. But the more I did it, the easier it became.”
Here’s her process (in short): I asked everyone I knew if they could put me in touch with a lawyer in my desired location and practice area who they thought would be willing to have an informational interview with me. This included lawyers working in firms and in company’s legal departments (with a focus on firms and organizations who hired summer or articling students). I gathered up these “warm” leads along with my own researched list of “cold” leads. I set aside a week where I could be in Toronto and emailed all my warm and cold leads to see if I could set up informational interviews during that time. I was able to set up seven informational interviews during that week and spoke to a couple more people by phone
For this student, the process was rewarding and she was able to get an in-house position for the 2L summer and additional interviews for other summer positions. She also got an articling interview with every firm where she had an informational interview.
While Ready and Banting said that nearly all students find positions by the end of third year, there are always a few still looking. They said that the proportion of students at Queen’s unplaced is lower than at most Canadian Law Schools.
Unlike past years, students now have the option of entering the Law Practice Program (LPP), which provides an alternative to traditional articling. While the CDO staff didn’t provide exact numbers, they indicated that only a few Queen’s students were attending the inaugural LPP class.
“I think there’s a certain amount of unfortunate stigma attached to it, that students see, but actually the program is terrific,” said Ready.
“It’s quite broad, it’s quite in-depth. People still aren’t going to be lining up to do it instead of articling, but that being said, it’s good as a back-up,” she said.
Sarah Spitz (1L) is a News Editor for Juris Diction.
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