Callbacks, Offers, OCI: When Should I Panic?

So early interview week is over and perhaps you do not have as many callbacks as you would like. During this time of year, career offices across the country are known to get a lot of students asking “When should I panic?”

The honest answer is well…never…because as Notre Dame law students, with an amazing alumni network, there is nothing to panic about.

Before I launch into explaining what I mean, I will answer the question underlining the “why should I panic” question. How long do firms typically wait after a screening interview or callback interview to extend a callback interview or offer?

The time it takes to get a callback interview after a screening interview and the time it takes to get an offer after a callback are generally pretty analogous to dating.

That’s right. When you go on a date with someone and you are waiting to hear back, sooner is better. When it comes to waiting for that second date, no news is not good news.

Generally, if someone likes you on a date, they will follow-up for that second date as soon as possible, often the day after but sometimes 3-4 days after. Some people are more laid back and may take one-two weeks but that is pretty atypical. When you go on a date with someone and they have not reached out to you within three weeks, you need to accept that you are likely being given the silent no.

The same is true when it comes to job interviews. Silence after three weeks very often means a silent no. I understand that it is not fun at all.

But rather than dwell on something that did not work out, it is time to stay positive and start applying to jobs that will result in an audible yes!

That is easy for me to say but how do you go about doing that? It starts with your attitude.

In my five years at Notre Dame, the belief that my experience here has most strongly convinced me of is that to be successful in your job search, the #1 most important thing is your attitude. Not your grades. Not your journal. Not your placement in the moot court tournament. Your attitude.

If you stay positive, create a solid plan of the types of jobs you’re planning to apply for with a clear geographic area pinned down, relentlessly network, and participate in externships and activities consistent with your job plan, it will be difficult for you to fail. This is true if you have a 3.9 and it is true if you have a 3.0

I know attorneys who got zero callbacks through OCI who are now in high-paying jobs that they love.

I also know attorneys who got zero callbacks, become downtrodden, never launched a serious job search in law school, and ended up deciding not to pursue legal careers at all. (Even they have successful careers in other fields so there truly is no reason to panic.) The difference in their outcomes was not due to some magic formula. In fact, the attorneys I know in the second group all had awesome grades. The difference came down to attitude and how they responded to some setbacks.

As a Notre Dame student, you have every reason to be positive. Let me remind you that every year, Notre Dame students get great jobs, really great jobs outside of the OCI process. You can read about 5 of them here.

Now that you know the mindset necessary to launch a successful job search, what actual, practical things should you be doing now?

The first thing you should do in your job search is to concretize it. When the job search is this amorphous, ungraspable blob, it feels too overwhelming to tackle. Put your job search on paper.

Make a spreadsheet for each city you are interested in working in. Within each spreadsheet, create a list of organizations in that city that you are interested in working for. You can divide the spreadsheet into types of jobs such as government, small and mid-sized firms, public interest organizations, companies, etc. If you are looking for some spreadsheet templates to get you started, email the CDO.

Once you do that, your job search will instantly feel less overwhelming because it will be on paper instead of in your head.

If you do not know where to get started in making your list, contact the CDO. There are tons of great resources out there that we are happy to show you. Some of my favorites include:

  1. For mid-sized and small Chicago firms, the Chicago 4 or more list
  2. PSJD’s advanced employer profile search for public interest organizations. You can search for all of the public interest organizations in your city and you can search by practice area or type of law.
  3. The Government Honors and Internship Handbook (password GoIrish)

Once you have compiled the list of organizations that you would potentially be interested in working for, ascertain how their 2L summer and postgraduate hiring works. This can be as easy as looking on the organization’s website or can be more involved, requiring you to call the organization directly. (Some organizations do not make it clear how they hire or even if they are hiring on their website.) Note the organizations’ due dates for 2L summer applications in your spreadsheet. If the due date is looming, work with the CDO to get your application materials together and apply.


Start building contacts at each and every organization. Why? A rule of thumb I live by is:

Never apply for a job again without knowing someone who works there first.

I do not know about you but I have always found that when I applied for a job online without knowing anyone working for the organization, I felt as though my resume was just going into a black hole and worried that my application would get lost in the sea of job applicants.

The way to avoid having that feeling ever again is to make sure you know someone working for the organization you are applying to so as soon as you hit send on your application, you are then emailing your contacts within the organization to let them know that you applied. Then you can have some confidence that your application is getting the attention it deserves.

Putting yourself in a position to know someone at every organization you intend to apply to after law school is much easier said than done. It requires a tremendous amount of planning. But you have already done the planning with your spreadsheets so now it is time to go out and build those contacts.

Meet people working at the organizations in person if you can but there is a lot to be said for a good phone call as well. Building these contacts is as simple as going to the organization’s staff page, finding someone you think does interesting work there, and emailing them to meet for coffee or to talk with you on the phone.

If you start this process right now, by next year, it is not insanely ambitious to think that you could have a contact at every organization on your spreadsheet.

If you have questions about what your outreach emails should say, how to have a successful networking meeting, or anything else related to building contacts, come to the CDO.

Olympic motivation:

If you are feeling less than thrilled with how OCI went for you, channel April Ross and Kerri Walsh Jennings, the 2016 Olympic Beach Volleyball bronze medalists. Having won three gold medals in a row, broken the the career record for most wins by a female professional volleyball player, and lost only one set in her entire Olympic career, Kerry Walsh Jennings came to Rio to win the gold again, this time with a new partner, April Ross.

But things did not go as planned. Walsh Jennings had one of the worst matches of her life against the Brazilians and found herself in the bronze medal match, hoping to just hang on for a medal.

In that bronze medal match, Walsh Jennings and Ross lost the first set and were losing the second set. It started to look like they were going to go home without a medal at all. But they stayed positive and calm and roared back to win the match. Walsh Jennings said that the bronze medal meant so much more than her three gold medals because she had to work so much harder to get it.

I felt the same way about my public interest job when I got it.

So OCI did not go as well as you would have liked? Do not panic. Come see a CDO counselor to create a strategy, make your spreadsheets, and stay positive.




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