PUBLISHED:August 11, 2009

OCI and beyond

Aug. 11, 2009 — More than 250 interviewers from law firms large and small, government and public service, will be traveling to Durham through late August and early September to conduct on-campus interviews (OCI) with Duke Law students. Chad Pinson ’98, a partner with Baker Botts in Dallas, will be one of them.

“We’re looking for leaders who exhibit confidence, dedication, and an overall commitment to excellence,” says Pinson, Baker Botts’ partner in charge of recruiting at Duke. “Strong academics and a strong academic background are very important to us because they are indicators of the qualities we’re looking for, but we also are careful to look past GPA and resumes.”

While the number of employers interviewing at Duke and elsewhere is somewhat reduced from years past due to the current economic downturn, Pinson emphasizes that business is good at his firm, and he, like other recruiters attending OCI, will be making offers for a 2010 summer program. “We are being very strategic and being careful stewards of our offers, but absolutely intend to continue to grow our firm by recruiting top talent and making offers and giving them good work,” he says. “And especially in our Dallas office, we’ve found that a lot of that top talent comes from Duke.”

Career Counselor Stella Boswell also predicts Duke Law students will continue to secure fulfilling positions for the summer and beyond.

“With the quality of our academic programs and student preparation and focus, along with the enthusiasm of employers for Duke, we expect OCI to continue to be successful in helping our students land summer offers,” says Boswell. “But our message to students always has been not to rely solely on OCI, as it remains a limited universe of employers who attend. This year, contacting employers, alumni and others for support and opportunities will be more important than ever.”

The Career Center’s July deadline for students to bid on interview slots with employers attending OCI helps launch early engagement with the job-search process, says Boswell. “It gets students thinking about who these employers are, what they do, and where they are. We encourage students to write letters and reach out to those firms and other employers of interest. Or if a student is interested in finding a job in Dallas and is working there over her 1L summer, she should write letters and reach out to them, even interview, over the summer. We also encourage them to look at their hometown markets and others where the student may be extremely competitive.”

Michael Anderson ’11 has taken this advice to heart, describing his approach to finding a job for the summer of 2010 — and beyond — as “organized and persistent.”

Anderson spent a month researching potential employers in his preferred locations and practice areas. Entering all of the relevant available information, from firm size to record of pro bono activity, on spreadsheets, Anderson refined his list taking two key personal priorities into account: practice areas and work-life balance.

“I want to work for a firm that possesses a substantial practice in multiple fields in which I am interested so as not to pigeon-hole myself into one practice area [too early in my career],” says Anderson, who is also researching public interest jobs.

With regular input from the Career Center staff on letters, emails, and writing samples, Anderson has been sending application packets to targeted employers all summer, tracking names, locations, and dates of applications and follow-up communications. Prior to returning to Duke for OCI, he plans to stop in Washington, D.C., his primary market of interest, to interview with a range of firms.

According to Bruce Elvin, Duke’s associate dean for career and professional development, Anderson is following tried and true best practices — and the Career Center’s best advice — with his approach to his job search.

“We want students to be thinking strategically about their goals and acting proactively with their searches,” said Elvin. “The jobs they secure for next summer should be viewed as an opportunity for students to build experience and substantive skills, whether in a law firm, government, public service or other areas of interest.

“We know that many employers will be hiring law students around the country for next summer; the students with the most fulfilling opportunities will be those who look both at and beyond the ‘big firms’ now. Their goals should be to continue the upward career trajectory, irrespective of the exact type employer. And, of course, we will use all efforts possible to help each student achieve his or her goals.”

» Read more about the Career Center's efforts to support students

While quick to note that he hopes that Baker Botts recruits its “fair share” of Duke Law students into its 2010 summer program before they look elsewhere, Pinson also urges students to be thorough and persistent and to think “outside the box” in their job searches. He encourages them to research regional boutique firms that might not recruit on campus and to attend regional job fairs, many of which target diverse job candidates. “Our firm will be at those job fairs and I think our competitors will be too,” he says. He also encourages students to reach out to Duke Law alumni wherever they would like to work.

“Find out what Duke alumni are active with the law school in those areas and contact them with an email or phone call,” he says. “Most Duke alums are proud of the school they went to, feel an allegiance to it, and will reach out and help if they can.”