I’m a San Francisco Bay Area native, and proud of it. It was a tough decision to come to law school on the other side of the country, but in the end I realized it was time for a change. Why not give actual seasons a try for once?
Weather aside, one of my biggest fears about law school in New York City was facing the daunting task of making my way back to California for my 2L summer job. Summer associate positions at big firms typically turn into post-graduation full-time offers, so I knew that the real test would come during the On-Campus Interview (OCI) process that falls just before the start of 2L year.
What I didn’t know was that some of the features of bicoastal interviewing I feared most would turn out to be strengths masquerading as flaws.
Take NYU’s alumni network. Of course it’s stronger in New York in terms of pure numbers. New York is the largest legal market in the US, so even schools that are not based here likely have decent New York networks.
But the fact that NYU alumni are spread more thinly in the Bay Area actually translated into a near-100-percent response rate to the cold emails I sent out to them in the weeks before OCI. Because fewer rising 2Ls apply to firms in California or anywhere outside of New York, alumni in those areas may be even happier to dispense advice than alumni in higher-density areas who receive, or fear receiving, a correspondingly higher volume of requests.
Prepped for OCI in this manner, I dove into the three-day interviewing event at the Midtown DoubleTree. The conventional wisdom is that callback invitations are issued more quickly to students applying to New York firms. This makes sense—as mentioned, it’s a large market, and no one making decisions at those firms has to hop on a flight hours after concluding interviews.
But I had one advantage over my New York-centric peers. As soon as I got one callback invitation, I was able to leverage it into a handful more just by telling firms I was en route to California. New York firms have no reason to give weight to the fact that a student has other callback invitations at that stage. It was only by applying out of state that I was able to wield that kind of leverage.
Even the cross-country flights weren’t so bad. I did two trips, and in each I walked into my first interview and out of my last with suitcase in tow. Its presence was often an ice-breaker and conversation-starter with recruiters or other candidates, few of whom had traveled as far as I had.
Another huge benefit of being across the country for callbacks was that I had no choice but to focus on them. As I watched my friends applying only in New York rush out after class to get to a callback on time, I was thankful that all my travel stress was bookended into a few long flights. I felt totally in the zone on callbacks—free to slip into interview mode without the risk of a cold call distracting me.
Once I was in the post-offer stage, being back here in New York City increased the number of dimensions in which I could interact with the firms I was considering. Multiple firms with San Francisco offices arranged meetings for me at their New York branches, which helped me add another cultural data point to my overall assessment.
Earlier this month, I accepted a summer associate position at Sidley Austin in San Francisco, and I couldn’t be more excited to work there next year. Being a law student in New York, but seeking employment in California, didn’t hold me back at all—if anything, it was an asset that made me more interesting!