(PDF Version of FAQ’s)
Is someone in the CSO available to review my application materials?
Yes. Students should forward documents (in Word format) to the CSO for review. Documents should be forwarded to Maria Comas at email@example.com. Due to increased requests to review materials during the summer, please allow one week for the review of your materials.
The CSO will not review writing samples for content, so students should contact the professor or attorney involved with the writing sample with questions about content. Students intending to submit documents written while serving as an intern, law clerk or volunteer must get permission to use such documents as writing samples, either with or without redactions.
How can I research firms and employers?
The firm’s website is the natural place to start your research, but you must do more. Talk with other students who work at the firm or have interviewed with the firm in the past. Some students submit Summer Employment Surveys to the CSO, and we keep them on file in the office. Ask the CSO to identify students who are willing to talk with current students going through the interview process. Thankfully, many students will make themselves available to answer questions for the benefit of those that follow them.
You can use the tools on Lexis and Westlaw to get an in depth look at the types of cases the firm handles. Before you tell a firm that you have been interested in the practice of health law since you were 10 years old, find out how many cases involving health law the firm actually handles in their Pittsburgh office. This not only will prevent you from including incorrect information in your cover letter or an embarrassing situation during an interview, it also allows you to show the employer that you have looked beyond their website while preparing your application materials.
The NALP Directory of Legal Employers, Vault, and Chambers offer detailed information about firms and their summer associate programs. Links to each of these resources are available under the “Research” area on the left menu on this site. Chambers also sends us books that include similar information. The 2017 editions should be delivered to the CSO soon and are free for students.
How can I distinguish myself in my cover letter?
As noted in the previous question, do your homework by learning as much about a firm or organization as possible. When writing your letter, consider your audience. Generally speaking, an employer wants to know how you can help them by furthering their business objectives and addressing the needs of their clients. Cover letters are very often the most difficult document to prepare during the application process. You must convince the employer that you are the best candidate for the job without rehashing everything on your resume or overstating your qualifications. This art takes practice. Consider “Cover Letters: 7 Steps to Creating a Great True First Impression” as you write (and re-write) your cover letters.
Should I tailor my cover letters?
Yes. Each letter should be tailored to the firm to which you are applying. You should include the specific contact information for the firm in your letter (Name, Firm Name, Address) in the appropriate place in the letter. You should address the letter to that contact (Dear Mr. or Ms. ____:). You can find the contact information in the OCI listing. You should let the employer know why you are writing to them in particular. This is where your research comes into play.
Should I include my class rank and/or GPA on my resume?
Yes for OCI applications. Most employers who participate in OCI specify required or recommended class rank or GPA’s. It’s essential to include this information on your resume so the recipient does not have to guess if you meet their specifications; if they have to guess, they’re probably going to guess that you don’t and move on to the next candidate. (Any time an employer asks for a particular GPA or class rank and you meet or exceed their request, be sure to list the information on your resume, regardless of if it’s OCI or not, for these same reasons.)
You should not round your GPA when you list it on your resume. List the GPA as it appears on DORI and your transcript. You may list your class rank as it is listed on DORI (__/__) or as a percentage (Top 30%). If you list a percentage, triple check your math so you do not (unintentionally) misrepresent the information.
Where can I find sample legal resumes and cover letters?
The CSO Handbook includes a chapter about each of these subjects, as well as other topics such as interviewing skills and follow-up correspondence. You can find The CSO Handbook on The Common Plea (under the Career Resources tab) and on DuqLawConnect (under the Resource tab).
How do I get an unofficial transcript from DORI?
Current students may access their unofficial transcript on DORI by selecting “View Academic Transcripts”. Students may print the transcript as a pdf file, which allows you to save the document as a pdf file and upload/submit it as necessary. Unless an employer specifies otherwise, an unofficial transcript is fine to submit with your application documents. The CSO does not recommend ordering pdf files through the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) for use in OCI or other employment applications. Employers have reported difficulties with opening the files from NSC, so we do not recommend that you use them as part of your application materials.
Are OCI application materials sent to employers all at once or on a rolling basis?
The CSO will not release any application materials to the employers before the application deadline. After the deadline passes, every application received by the deadline will be sent to the employer for review. Check out the process at a glance. Check out the process at a glance.
Can I make a change to a document after I submit a bid?
You can update your documents any time prior to the application deadline. However, you must withdraw your bid, upload the revised document, and re-submit your bid. These steps must be done before the application deadline.
Will the CSO forward late applications?
No. Only materials submitted by the posted deadline will be forwarded to the employer. Students who miss the application deadline must submit their materials to employers directly in order to be considered for an interview.
Does the CSO rank or screen applications?
No. The CSO submits all materials submitted by the deadline. The employer then reviews the application materials and provides the CSO with a list of students they would like to interview. The CSO does not use any type of ranking, screening, or lottery system for student interviews.
What does “Total Slots” mean on the OCI listing?
This indicates the number of candidates the employer intends to interview at the time they register for the On-Campus Interviewing Program. The employer may end up interviewing more or less students, but they typically interview the number stated.
How will I know if I have been selected for an interview?
Employers tell the CSO who they would like to interview. After receiving notification from the employer, the CSO sends an email to all students who applied for that particular employer – telling them that they have or have not been selected for an interview.
Are interview times assigned?
No. Students who have been selected for an interview will receive an email notification informing them that they must go to DuqLawConnect to select an interview time. The interview times determined by the employer will be listed accordingly, and times will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
Will I know the names of the people interviewing me?
Most employers provide the names of the people (either attorneys and/or recruiters) planning to conduct the interviews. However, it is not uncommon for a firm to contact the CSO prior to the interview with a change. If time permits, the CSO notifies students of the change in interviewer. Time does not always permit, though, if the change is last minute.
While you are researching each firm or organization, you should also research the interviewers. Lexis and Westlaw provide tools to conduct searches about attorneys, as well as firms.
What should I wear to an interview?
You should wear conservative attire to interviews – this includes your suit, shirt, ties, shoes, and jewelry. Although a firm might have a “business casual” dress policy for its employees, you should wear a conservative suit to all interviews. The CSO Handbook includes a chapter about interviewing skills, including professional dress attire. You can find The CSO Handbook on The Common Plea (under the Career Resources tab) and on DuqLawConnect (under the Resource tab).
Where are initial screening interviews held?
Employers may choose to hold their initial screening interviews at the Law School or at the firm. The location of the initial interview will be noted on the OCI listing. Interviews to be held at the Law School will be held in Rooms 205 and 206.
If the interview will be held at the firm, additional instructions may be sent to you from the CSO or the law firm recruiting office. This may include details about parking, security check-in, and where to report once inside a building. Students should consider a test drive or walk to the firm location in order to give themselves ample travel time.
Where are call-back interviews held?
Call-back interviews most often are held at the law firm or organization. Each firm conducts these interviews differently. These may include a panel of interviewers, multiple interviews with different individuals (1-on-1), or interviews during lunch. Any interaction with the firm’s lawyers, recruiters or employees – from the time you enter the building to the time you leave a cocktail party –should be viewed as being part of the interview process.
How early should I arrive for an interview?
Regardless of the interview location, students should plan to arrive 10 minutes prior to their scheduled interview time. While you are encouraged to give yourself ample time to walk or drive to the employer’s location, you should not check-in at the firm itself (e.g., the reception area, recruiter’s office, etc.) until 10 minutes prior to your interview.
Should I do a mock interview before the real interview takes place?
Yes. The CSO’s formal mock interview with local attorneys takes place in the spring semester. The CSO staff is available to conduct mock interviews by appointment by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Preparation is key. While you don’t want to sound rehearsed, you should verbalize your answers to potential questions before the actual interview takes place so you can rework any answers you think sound awkward or not right. While answering questions, remember that the interviewer is looking for someone who has the professional skills to do the job, who fits the job requirements, and who wants the job. Be engaged in the interview – be sure your nervousness doesn’t outshine your interest in the job and in the employer and take the time to answer the questions asked of you. Think of a few questions you can ask the interviewers when you have the chance.
Are resources available about interviewing skills?
Yes. The CSO Resource Center includes many books and publications about interviewing skills. The two most popular resources in recent years have been Guerilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams by Kimm Walton and An Insider’s Guide to Interviewing: Insights from the Employer’s Perspective by NALP. Multiple copies of Guerrilla Tactics are available for students to borrow from the CSO. The CSO purchased enough copies of An Insider’s Guide for students to have their own copy of this informative booklet.
What else should I read as I prepare for interviews?
On a regular basis, you should read The National Law Journal (www.law.com), The Legal Intelligencer www.law.com/pa, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (www.postgazette.com), and the Pittsburgh Business Times (www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh). Free copies of the Post-Gazette are available in the Student Lounge during the school year, and you can find the daily paper in the Center for Legal Information. The CSO and Center for Legal Information have copies of the Pittsburgh Business Times available for review year-round. Of course, if you are interested in another city or state, you should become familiar with the news in those areas.
Additional information about Fall Recruitment, including on-campus interviewing, can be found in the memo distributed via email on June 20, 2017.