Ultra Vires


Four Ways to Improve Your OCI Mindset

By Hailey Lonsdale (2L, Thompson Rivers University) 

Originally published on the Law School & Beyond blog

Much like my preparation for the LSAT, my work to ready myself for OCIs has included a significant amount of self-care and mental work. Here are four ways I’ve been mentally preparing for OCIs and ensuring that I enter into the process with positivity and confidence. Even if my resume is polished and my cover letters are flawless, my mind and spirit must be tended to and nurtured if I am to perform at my very best.

I hope to bring the mentality that even if my efforts fall fruitless at the end of the process, I will have learned and grown because of it.

1. Celebrate the bravery

After I submit all of my applications, I plan to celebrate. Much like my celebration after I first wrote the LSAT, it will be a celebration of bravery and strength. It takes guts to put yourself out into the world, especially in a way that leaves you open to criticism and rejection. I encourage you to celebrate the work you put into your resume and the tireless effort to perfect every cover letter. Everyone who applies to the OCI process should be commended.

Take a moment (brief if you wish!), and acknowledge your path to this point. Through all of the law school applications, the LSAT, 1L, and now 2L in a global pandemic, you have persisted. There have been countless waves of uncertainty and struggle, and yet, you have once again proven your determination.

I hope to not only use this celebration as a congratulatory tool but to remind myself that even if I am not successful in this process, I have demonstrated the resolve to once again, weather the storm. That is an achievement on its own.

2. Introduce positive affirmations

When online learning first started, I ensconced myself into my study. Quickly, I realized I spoke to myself aloud more than I ever had before, likely because there was simply no one around to hear me!

In the fall, I started a new habit. Whenever something felt difficult, confusing, or stressful, I would say aloud to myself, “I can do this,” That habit started to spread to the gym, and during a particularly difficult workout I would sometimes (quietly) say, “I can do this.” During a tough serving shift, when I simply could not remember what one table’s drink order was, I would pause and say to myself, “I can do this.”

Recently, I have started to add more affirmations. Every morning when I turn off my alarm, the first thing I see is my phone background. Three simple phrases appear.

“I am smart”

“I am kind”

“I am brave”

I’d encourage you to do the same with an affirmation that you feel suits your intended mindset. It may be a few sentences that affirm your preparedness for the challenge or your ability to present articulately and confidently.

Try to say these phrases aloud at least once a day. If you’d rather, write them out onto Post-Its and place them on your bathroom mirror. It may feel silly at first. You might even feel yourself initially disagree with the phrases in your mind (I know I did). Push through those blocks. Speak with intention, and your mind will follow.

3. Have non-job-related goals for the process

In my opinion, the most common goal of the OCI process is a job. Therefore, if someone is not successful in obtaining a job from the OCI process, they have not succeeded.

This binary philosophy is unnecessary and damaging to mental health. I would rather like to frame OCIs here as a process that has the opportunity of providing many other benefits, besides a job.

For example, much of my time spent networking with firm representatives, and other legal professionals who have taken the time to speak with me has been helpful in the preparation of my applications, but it has also been a sincere pleasure to learn more about them and their fields. Moreover, it has been a fantastic opportunity to practice my conversational skills and has provided me with great insights into niche areas of law. In the summer, I set a goal for myself to speak on a personal basis with 10 firms. I am happy to report I have achieved that goal.

Secondly, the interview process itself is an invaluable experience. The chance to practice the “selling” of ourselves to someone else, especially in a high stakes environment, is a reason to participate in OCIs in itself. As lawyers, we will be required to sell ourselves and our services to potential clients. Learning how to articulate one’s unique qualities and attributes is a worthwhile endeavor.

4. Take time to unplug from OCIs

This year, the OCI season will span nearly the entire Winter 2021 semester. To spend three months in constant stress and anxiety would be an insufferable experience.

I plan to section out weeks of my semester that will be OCI-free periods. A few weeks between application and interview cycles, I will work to put my mind elsewhere and focus on classes and my own mental health. I hope to include extra self-care activities and will be taking up some new hobbies to help shift my focus during particularly difficult periods.

Additionally, feel free to set boundaries with friends and loved ones. If you would prefer to not talk about OCIs during certain periods in an effort to reduce anxieties, say so. Open communication regarding these stress points can provide a more supportive environment. It will allow for the space and room to experience the stressful process in a manner that is most suitable to you.

To all those entering this difficult process (and even to those who are not), I hope my tips have encouraged you to be kinder, gentler, and more considerate to your mental health.

The courage to open yourself up to rejection is commendable. As much as your inner critic may disagree,; you are smart, kind, and brave. Take time to disconnect from the world of legal recruiting, and reconnect with the outside world. FaceTime with a family member, or start a new hobby. And finally, remember to take a moment in between calls to remind yourself, you CAN do this!


Law School Life & Beyond aims to demystify the law school experience through first-person commentary on Canadian law school life. Every week, our wide range and ever-growing team of student writers from law schools across Canada provide their own individual and real-life experiences, stories, advice and tips on a variety of law school-related topics. Read more online at: medium.com/law-school-life-and-beyond

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