How I Got My Job in Fall Recruiting-through OCI and OUTSIDE of OCI

In this edition of the Career Brief, PDO features stories from SJQ students and alums who got jobs during fall recruiting—both through on-campus interviews (OCI) and through avenues outside of OCI.  This week, PDO features three members of S.J. Quinney’s class of 2012.  They are Katelynn Farley, who got her job as a law clerk at Ada County Prosecutor’s Office through OCI, and Chris Petersen and Jordan Toone, who got their jobs outside of OCI–as summer associates at Jackson Kelly and Fulbright & Jaworski, respectively.

 

Chris Petersen, SJQ 2012, Summer Associate (2010 and 2011) for Jackson Kelly, PLLC, Charleston, WV

1. What are you doing/for whom do you work?  I worked for Jackson Kelly, a 200-attorney regional firm with offices scattered mainly throughout the east (and Denver). I was in their main office in beautiful Charleston, West Virginia.

2. What was the application process like and what was the interview like?  My application process was a little unusual. Knowing I wanted to return to West Virginia, as a 1L, I looked up and independently applied to just about every decent firm in the state. A few weeks after I emailed Jackson Kelly, I got an email back asking me to explain what ties I had to the state and to the firm specifically.

I guess my response was able to convince them that I really was from the state, so they scheduled an interview with me. They were super flexible with me and actually ended up moving the interview up two weeks for me. I did a video conference interview, which the IT staff here at the College of Law completely set up for me. We had some technical difficulties, and the microphone wasn’t working with their system. So I ended up having to call the interviewer from my cell phone, so I was talking on my phone while looking into a camera. It was really awkward, and I guess the interviewer felt really bad for me, because she gave me an offer later that night.

3. What do you think helped you in terms of their decision to hire you? I think the main thing that helped me was personality. I had no experience at all, and while my grades were decent, they weren’t in the top 20%. I think so long as you can go into an interview and just be yourself, assuming that your natural self isn’t awkward, you will come across well. I did a fair share of research on the firm and was able to ask some relevant questions, which I think is really important to do—all people want their backs patted, so if you can show, without graveling, that you are impressed by the work that they do, I think that they will be more likely to like you. Also, try to get a feel for your interviewer. Mine was very down to earth, so I felt comfortable asking more personal questions about balancing practice and life. I think that worked well in my situation, but in others it might backfire. Some attorneys appreciate honesty. Some despise it.

It also helped that our school is considerably better than the only school in that state. With that said, I think you still need a tie to the state to be competitive. A good old boy from a tier three school will trump most out of staters from a tier one. . . .

4. What advice do you have for those who are going through the OCI process now and looking outside of OCI?  About law school in general?

I think the best advice when it comes to job hunting is to put a lot of work in it, and not to simply rely on OCI. The members of our career development staff are excellent, but they can’t single handedly get each of us a job. Go out and find the places that interest you, and they will help make sure that you are going in the right direction to actually get one of those jobs. Count on them to provide excellent guidance and advice, but not to do all of the work for you.

OCI is great, and very convenient, but I wouldn’t put all of my eggs into its basket. On that same note, if you don’t get any OCI interviews, it really isn’t a big deal. I didn’t get any my first year, and my second year I got one. Then I found out 18 other people had the same interview . . . It’s a good experience and if nothing else, it gives good practice for interviewing. So apply for the interviews, and if you don’t get any don’t worry about it. Because you would have also applied to other external ones.

As for law school advice, I guess it’s too late to tell you not to enroll. So the only advice that I have is to try to figure out why you’re here, where you want to go, and to balance your work load and life accordingly. I’m beginning to see the light now, and I can attest, there is life outside of this building. Don’t lose touch of that.

If you want to talk to me about my job hunting journey, feel free to catch/email me anytime.

 

Katelynn Farley, SJQ 2012, Law Clerk with Ada County Prosecutor’s in Boise, Idaho

 

1. What are you doing/for whom do you work? I am currently working for Ada County Prosecutor’s Office in Boise, Idaho as a law clerk.  I am in the courtroom on a daily basis doing various activities regarding infractions and misdemeanors – sentencing, court trial conferences, court trials, arraignments (both video and pro se), probation violations, etc. I have also been lucky enough to help with several jury trials this summer. When I am not in the courtroom, I work on special projects for felony attorneys. I have worked on projects dealing with evidentiary issues for a vehicular manslaughter case, a memo regarding whether Ada County had proper jurisdiction in a multiple county kidnap and rape case, as well as several others.

2. What was the application process like and what was the interview like?  I applied for the internship with Ada County on OCI. The process was pretty simple – just uploaded my resume, cover letter, and unofficial transcript. The interview was pretty casual, as far as interviews go.  Mr. Dickinson and Ms. Koole came down and did the interviews at the law school. They asked questions about where I grew up and what I did before law school. They were also very interested in why I wanted to be in Boise since I didn’t have any apparent ties to the community.

3. What do you think helped you in terms of their decision to hire you? I truly believe that it was largely based on personality. I have some experience in the legal field and have always been interested in criminal prosecution, but my grades are just average. I believe that they felt I would be a good fit at the office and that my personality would mesh well with the attorneys. Someone once told me in regards to interviews that if the interviewer did not want to hang out with you then they did not want to work with you either. I have found this to be pretty good advice. I also clicked with both interviewers – we had fishing and sports in common. Having something in common allowed us to get comfortable pretty quickly and then the interview went really smoothly afterwards.

4. What advice do you have for those who are going through the OCI process now?  About law school in general?

Regarding OCI:

1)    Do it – even if you don’t think you have the grades for the particular position or firm. Sometimes it’s not all about grades.

2)    Be yourself.

3)    Make sure they will be a good fit too. During one of my interviews for another job the interviews made several comments about the office not being the pleasantest places to work. I knew right away that it wasn’t going to be a good fit. Not only do they have to select you, but you need to select them as well.

4)    Dress appropriately – this is generally more towards the ladies, nothing to short, to low, or to high.

5)    Ask someone that has recently or currently working their what they think of the job and what you should expect. This lets the employer know that you really are interested and are willing to go the extra mile for them. It also gives you inside information about the firm or agency and helps you decide if its where you want to be.

Law School in general:

1)    Be nice to your classmates – you never know when you will run into them again or need their help or advice.

2)    Don’t be afraid to ask questions – all the professor’s and faculty members want each of us to succeed and are willing to help us as much as they can. Upper classmen are also a good source of advice and suggestions.

3)    Always be respectful – no matter who, what, when, or where!

Jordan Toone, SJQ 2012, Summer Associate, Fulbright & Jaworski, Saudi Arabia and Dubai

 

1. What are you doing/for whom do you work?  I recently returned from working as a summer associate for Fulbright & Jaworski, an international law firm based in Houston. I did two weeks of training in St. Louis (where their Middle East group is headquartered) before heading to Saudi Arabia, where I worked for two weeks on a $500 million acquisition involving our client (a large U.S. company) and the target company (a Saudi company involved in the oil industry). I performed due diligence on the acquisition in a city called Al-Khobar (eastern provinces, Saudi Arabia) before heading to F&J’s Riyadh office, where I continued working on the deal in addition to doing some random work for other clients. I then transferred to F&J’s Dubai office, where I worked for four weeks doing a variety of interesting things, including drafting a joint venture agreement for a Saudi-British partnership (interesting), assisting a large U.S. company in registering a Qatari branch (boring), and assisting the partner-in-charge in preparing for a seminar for foreign businesses on the topic of “doing business in Iraq,” with particular emphasis on the legal hurdles that foreign companies must navigate in trying to invest in Iraq (fascinating).

2. What was the application process like and what was the interview like?  Contrary to conventional wisdom, I reached out to a few of the prominent international law firms with an established presence in the Middle East despite having no meaningful contacts with any of them. Many of these firms limit their recruiting to law schools with more established pipelines for producing students who want to work at a large firm with an international perspective. I thus had to do my own work to research, reach out to, and then get my foot in the door at some of these firms.

Interviewing with F&J was an interesting experience. I was expecting the interview itself to be more technical in nature, but both interviews I had tended to focus around the general theme of ensuring I was a good fit for the firm and vice versa. They told me outright that they interview several people each year who think they are interested in the international arena, but who in fact are just looking for an exciting, money-making adventure without any substantive commitment and interest in international legal work. I sensed that they had already made up their mind regarding my technical capabilities/potential (for better or worse!), and they wanted to ensure that my professed interests in the international arena/Middle East were genuine and realistic.

3. What do you think helped you in terms of their decision to hire? I want to say my dashing personality, but my wife assures me that this is not the case. Other than that, I’m sure the fact that I have studied and worked in the Middle East was intriguing to them. Having said that, however, my experience this summer led me to believe that international experience per se is not definitive, as many offices of the prominent international law firms in the Middle East (and elsewhere from what I can gather) are staffed with regular New York, or D.C., or Houston lawyers who want to experience practicing law overseas. In other words, just because you don’t have a lot of international experience does not mean that you should rule out an international law firm, in my opinion. Besides, so much transactional legal work today involves an international component, and, regardless, international business is oriented around U.S. and English business law.

4. What advice do you have for those who are going through the OCI process now and looking outside of OCI?  About law school in general? I can’t comment too much on OCI, as I don’t have a lot of experience with it. Regarding non-OCI approaches, I guess I would just say that reaching out to firms or organizations with whom you have no contacts can be beneficial if you know who to contact, why you want to contact them, and what you can bring to that firm/organization that will assist them in advancing their objectives. I recognize this is rather broad advice (i.e., meaningless), but I’d happy to elaborate on my experience doing this for anyone that wants to shoot me an email. Also, for those of you entertaining a career outside of Utah, my limited experience has led me to believe that there is no reason why Utah students should not feel confident in trying to get their foot in the door in some of the firms and other legal jobs that don’t traditionally recruit here. Whatever your career objectives are, I guess I would just put a plug in for the PDO and the faculty at Utah. There are a lot of resources here that students can take advantage of. I transferred from BYU specifically to take advantage of Utah’s resources relating to international law and the Middle East, and I know that this helped me significantly in enabling me to get my foot in the door at some of these firms.

If my experiences can be of help to anyone, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email. Thanks!