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JD/MBA OCI Interview Skills Panel Session – presented on October 2nd, 2019 by the JD/MBA Students’ Association

Lana Kharlip

JD/MBA OCI Interview Skills Panel Session - presented on October 2nd, 2019 by the JD/MBA Students' Association

By: Sara Siddiqi

JD/MBA’2023, First Year Representative, JD/MBA Students’ Association 

In mid October 2019, law students will go through the exciting and challenging process of OCI’s (On-Campus Interviews). The Osgoode-Schulich JD/MBA Students’ Association were fortunate to have a panel of four JD/MBA Alumni currently in practice and fifteen JD/MBA students attend the skills workshop to gain insight into the nerve-wracking OCI process and more.

Alykhan Rahim JD/MBA’21 and Alexandra Misurka JD/MBA’21 moderated our panel, asking the questions most relevant to JD/MBA students for the upcoming OCI recruit:

How did you prepare for the OCI interviews? What worked and what didn’t?

The panelists confirmed that nerves are natural and the best way to combat them is to prepare in the right manner. Those preparations included knowing your resume inside out. Davies Associate Dajena Pechersky stated: “Don’t put things in there that if you were asked about, you wouldn’t be able to speak to.” This point was echoed through the panel where they advised students to have stories and talking points in reference to their resume, and focus on having a meaningful conversation with the interviewer (or banter as referred to by Miller Thomson student Paul Sahota) .

Preparation advice also included having mock interviews with upper-year students, friends and, the career development centre, to ensure you are getting practice talking out loud alongside feedback from others. One question that was mentioned throughout the panel was the unnerving and open-ended: “tell me about yourself.” This is a common starting point where firms will give you the floor, and a great place for you to plan what you would like to get across to the interviewer. While there was consensus on the panel regarding researching firms before OCI’s, there was also cautioning to refrain from delving too deeply into the details of deals the firm is working on, as likely, you will not know the full depths of the case and may create awkwardness within the interview.

Finally, all panelists reiterated the importance of preparing good questions that are relevant to what is important to you as opposed to general questions that may show a lack of interest to the firm. Dajena Pechersky also reminded students that “this is not a business interview, the questions won’t be ‘tell me a time when you showed leadership,’ nor will they ask you financial modeling questions—rather, they are trying to gauge your fit.” Being well prepared will allow you to exude confidence and refrain from coming across as overly rehearsed.

How did you manage your stress during OCI’s?

This question brought on a lot of laughter from our panelists thinking back to their stress levels throughout OCI’s. The general consensus was hindsight is 20/20 and though they now know OCI’s are not the be-all and end-all of your career, they understand it is in the nature of law students to take on the stress of this time. They offered tips on how to plan for the day and reduce the number of things that can go wrong to control stress and anxiety. These included:

  • Planning your route
  • If you live far, consider staying downtown the night before so you aren’t a slave to the TTC or Toronto traffic
  • Bring water and snacks (it’s a jam-packed day!)
  • Consider what you are bringing with you (you may not have a place to put things)
  • For women: if you are wearing heels, bring flats to get you from place to place

How did you choose to speak about your JD/MBA degree in the interview? How has it brought value to your practice?

This question was on the minds of all the JD/MBA candidates who were worried that law firms may be concerned about their dedication to the field of law. Though some members of the panel who had a background in business before the MBA felt this may be a flight-risk question, others felt it was genuine curiosity on behalf of the firm. Dajena Pechersky who completed her BBA at Schulich before returning for her MBA felt that since her resume was quite business-focused, she would handle this on her own terms during the “tell me about yourself” question. Jeffrey Pang decided to wait until it was brought up and answered honestly stating that he didn’t have a background in business and believed it would be a great supplement to his legal education. All of the panelists summed up their decision to do the joint degree into three main points:

  1. Gain an in-depth understanding of business (lingo, concepts, etc.)
  2. Gain networking skills as well as an MBA network upon graduation
  3. Gain practical skills in Excel, PowerPoint and more

All four panelists agreed that the skills they learned in their MBA studies are practical and are in fact skills they use on a day to day basis (surprisingly a lot of Excel and Powerpoint). Dajena Pechersky stated, “I use my MBA all the time as a competition lawyer.” They mentioned that the ability to understand business jargon and concepts allowed them to have more context while dealing with clients and structuring deals. Paul Sahota advocated for the soft skills that the MBA teaches students, like group work and networking, all relevant skills to a career in law. There was also a gentle reminder for students to understand that the MBA does not weigh on their shoulders; rather, it offers them the opportunity to provide more value to firms.

Final Thoughts…

The most important thing at OCIs

One piece of advice that rung true for all panelists was the importance of having a genuine and relaxed conversation during the interview. Paul Sahota mentioned that while “50-70% of the conversation is about you and your interests,” remember to think about how to involve the other party in the conversations and not get too bogged down and rehearsed in order to have a free-flowing discussion.

Panelists reminded students to go in with a relaxed and positive attitude, as BLG associate Jeffrey Pang said, “it’s a long day, you’ll refine as you go on the fly.” Another panelist reminded students that interviewers are looking for a colleague, so focus on being professional, relaxed and genuine.

We understand this is a stressful time and we hope these insights were helpful. JMSA wishes you all good luck next week!

The Osgoode-Schulich JD/MBA Students’ Association would like to thank everyone for their participation.

We would especially like to thank our panelists and their respective firms for donating their time and wisdom. We hope they will come back to help future students as they did for us. We would also like to thank Bennet Jones LLP as well as Miller Thomson LLP for sponsoring our event!