OCIs: An Environment of Heightened Anxiety

In-Firm interviews can be an ordeal, overshadowed by the daunting prospect of trying to convince the country’s elite law firms that they should give you one of a vanishingly small number of summer jobs. I have several friends for whom this was a harrowing process. From the beginning, my experience was different. I had more in-Firm invitations than my schedule could accommodate. My experience was a privileged one. But an abundance of choice is both a blessing and a curse.

I was assured by everyone I spoke to that, once I got to Toronto, both the firms and I would get an intuitive sense of whether or not we “fit” with each other and that this would help me make my decision. I was skeptical, but it was comforting to think that there might be something subjective to fall back on. Because, by this point, all of the firms I was interviewing with were objectively desirable.

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OCIs, In-firms and Beyond: An Honest Account

The OCI process can be a very rewarding part of any 2L’s law school career. But the process is stressful and can get under your skin. This is my no-frills, brutally honest account of the OCI and in-firm process.

I entered the process with a very focused mindset: I told myself I wouldn’t become consumed by it, whatever the outcome it would be a teachable moment. If anything, I’d become great at writing cover letters and improve my interviewing skills. I still feel this was the right mindset to have going in. I was protecting myself should the process go awry in the early stages. The reality of OCIs was touted repeatedly by career services: very few students find jobs through this process. The vast majority of students find employment through other avenues (whether it be an independent job search, or articling recruitment).

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Learning to appreciate who you are

University of Toronto Law Student, Class of 2016

“First year of law school was tough”, you’ve probably heard that a million times. For me, the hardest part of first year was the feeling that no matter how hard I try, everyone else is still ahead of me. Regardless of how many hours I spent reading cases and writing case briefs over the weekend and during late nights, I would arrive at class or overhear conversations that indicated to me that other students just seemed to “get it” more than I did. I’ve met a variety of people at law school, some of who will stay life-long friends. I’ve also met people who seem to have memorized the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by the time they were 5 and seem just as comfortable in a suit as I feel in my sweatpants. I’m sure you’ve also met these students, these are the students that just seem like they’re born for law.

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Coping with the 1L blues

Ontario Law Student, Class of 2015

I really struggled through parts of my first year of law school. During the months of December and January, I was upset most days. This was mainly due to the anxiety that came from my sense that I was being given more work than I would ever be able to get through. We were repeatedly told that first year marks were extremely important and as much as I always have a “do what I can” mentality, that pressure got to me. I was also getting a strong message that success equates to a career as a corporate lawyer on Bay Street. That view did not suit my interests or desired lifestyle. The disconnect between these two visions made me feel isolated and unsure of my decision to attend law school.  While my close group of friends was very supportive of one another, I also found the class as a whole very competitive.

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“During my time in law school, I have developed increased stress and anxiety around my grades, my career, my finances, etc”

Ontario Law Student, Class of 2014


In many ways law school has been beneficial for me; in terms of the education I’ve received, the career opportunities I’ve been able to take advantage of, and some very wonderful and like-minded people I’ve met. However, in other significant ways law school has changed me from a person who was relatively healthy to a person who is unwell.

During my time in law school, I have developed increased stress and anxiety around my grades, my career, my finances, etc. The structure of law school is one that fosters competition, exclusivity, and contentious behaviours among students and sometimes even professors. It takes students who are all accomplished in their own right and accustomed to over-achieving, and puts them in classes where only a handful of them will get A’s. It subjects students to the pressures of OCIs with few alternatives (and the alternatives that are presented are made to feel second-rate). It advertises the names of prominent downtown law firms on its walls, classrooms, and even on the back of t-shirts that first-years are told to put on the minute they arrive, all of which serve as a daily reminder that those careers are our goals and anything less is a failure.

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