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As the weather begins to warm, a first-year student’s thoughts turn to final exams, summer jobs, and, in the distance, what many of them think of as On-Campus Interviewing (OCI) season. I prefer to call the season “Fall Recruiting” which more accurately expresses the breadth of opportunities available to second-year students. To prepare them for Fall Recruiting, we meet with our first-year students in mid-April while they are still on campus and we have their attention. We try to get them to see the larger picture. Before law school and throughout their first year students focus too much on the “OCI program.” Admitted students almost always ask “How many OCI employers do you have?” when trying to decide which law school to attend. In our April programs, we explain that while OCI works well for some students (or many students depending on the law school’s rank), students need to think long-term. Our mission is not only to prepare people to be successful in OCI but to be successful in future job searches and in their careers generally. In our presentations focusing on the Fall, we highlight networking and informational interviews and downplay compensation levels of large firms. We encourage students to join local bar associations, contact alums and attend summer law school alumni events. The law student hiring timeline is rich with opportunities after the frenzy of OCI in August. We encourage our students to think about the Equal Justice Works Job Fair later in the fall and exploring smaller firms, and government agencies and non-profits who hire later than the large firms and who may not interview on campus. I love speaking with the rising second-year students after the summer. While in April many of them lament having to work for little or no pay, they uniformly return exhilarated from being able to put their first-year education to use. Many of them are working for smaller firms, externing for judges or volunteering at non-profits and government agencies. These are places where neither a student’s grades nor the rank of her school matters so much as their initiative and maturity. In these varied work environments, students often first fall in love with law. After a year of studying abstract legal concepts and learning to “think like a lawyer,” they rejoice in being able to use their analytical and research skills to help people, help win a case or to negotiate a deal. They pick up key legal experience that they can talk about excitedly with future employers, whether public or private. Many students are exposed to clients with real concerns, real trials and real deadlines–clients who could end up in jail, get evicted or have their children taken away from them. Some students explore areas of law that are difficult to enter right after graduation: ACLU, museum law, sports law. They grow in confidence and learn from experienced attorneys and judges. They fall in love with a practice area (or discover that it’s not a good fit for them). Ideally, students bring this great surge of positive energy to bear on the Fall Recruiting process. They have cogent answers with examples for behavioral and non-behavioral interview questions. They can speak animatedly about their summer experiences. They are better informed as to potential practice areas of interest. They know more about the opportunities in law and their potential “best fit” in the legal profession. To best prepare for the fall, including the ordeal of OCI, here are some suggestions for students and employers: For employers, whether your students are working for free or for $3000 a week, please teach them and provide good role models for the next generation of lawyers. For all first- and, for that matter, second-year students who are working at summer jobs, learn as much as you can-about practice areas, about “the practice” and about the business that is law. The energy from a positive summer experience and the lessons you learn during the summer can propel and guide you through an intense and exciting Fall Recruiting season. William A. Chamberlain is assistant dean, Law Career Strategy and Advancement, Northwestern University School of Law.

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