Law Firm Alumni Networks: An Extension Of The Business

by Community Admin in Corporate Alumni   |    Last Edited: 21st August 2020
Attractive young lawyer sitting in a meeting room with some of his co-workers and smiling

Law Firm Alumni Networks have become essential. Law firms know that building a relationship for life with the people who worked for them can open doors, build communities and create a vibrant, mutually beneficial alumni network.

Understanding the Up Or Out Model:

In a hierarchical organization, “up or out“, also known as a tenure or partnership system, is the requirement that each member of the organization must achieve a certain rank within a certain period of time. If they fail to do so, they must leave the organization. In many organizations this is not explicitly stated, certainly not admitted, but widely understood.

This is most prevalent in consulting firms and professional services companies including Accenture and McKinsey and why they place such a strong emphasis on engaging their Alumni given this system does not enable people to “stick it out” in middle management for their entire career.

Law firms much like consultancies, often have an ‘up or out’ model. Under these models, for those staff who do not reach a certain rank and therefore leave will often go to customers, partners or competitors staying in the ecosystem created by their current employer.

Many law firm alumni networks offer perks such as CLE / MCLE courses, access to niche talent and even internal reports on new topics facing the industry.

A recent customer held a series of webinars on topics including “Blockchain” and “Legalizing Marijuana” which both saw incredibly large turnouts from the Alumni population keen to gain knowledge from recognized experts. In this instance both parties win, the firm cements its place as the thought leader and subject matter experts on these topics opening the door for new business referrals, whilst the attorney gains access to bets in class internal knowledge and gains CLE credits.

Needless to say, maintaining this relationship with all former employees of the law firm as they go on to other companies and further their career makes incredible business sense for both the firm and the Alumni.

The Value Of Law Firm Alumni

Capturing leavers is therefore key, with the value of the Alumni being equal to that of an employee. Whilst referrals, partnerships and new clients drive the value of an alumni network, staying in touch with associates who complete their junior years at your firm, keeping track of them as their career progresses, is just as valuable.

Staying in touch with your alumni offers only upside. In addition to providing a competitive advantage to both the firm and the alumni plus a strong new business channel, alumni may one day end up in a position to be helpful. And in providing a flourishing and useful alumni community, those people will likely want to reciprocate and support the firm that supports them.

7 Reasons Law Firm Alumni Networks Are Critical

  1. Lawyers Often Refer Significant Business To Each Other: Whether due to a conflict of interest, a practice area is not covered by their firm or they need to co-counsel with a niche expert, lawyers often refer business to each other.
  2. Lawyers Who Move Firm Gain Experience And Contacts: Lawyers who leave to go to other law firms get more experience and insight and can come back as boomerang hires into more senior positions with new perspectives and clients. Or with M&A activity in the sector, they may work for a firm you merge with and be back under your roof in the future.
  3. Lawyers Move To Corporate Positions And Can Become Clients: Alumni can become customers and evangelists for your law firm, bringing their business, introducing other potential customers and making helpful connections.
  4. Lawyers Start Businesses: Lawyers often leave to start businesses and are potential customers. With referrals being the largest source of new business to most service companies, having alumni who are now in the entrepreneurial community is also a great way to access a potential client base.
  5. Lawyers Can Become Sector Experts: In the case of lawyers moving into business or indeed starting and growing businesses, alumni offer direct access to people creating companies of the future and those creating and dictating market trends can offer invaluable information and insight useful to any law firm – either for commercial strategy, training or lectures.
  6. Alumni Make Great Mentors: Alumni are a useful source of mentoring for current employees. With an understanding of the corporate culture they came from yet no longer working under that roof, they can provide useful career advice through a more independent lens to graduates, rising stars and those wanting some professional support.
  7. Good Leavers Are Evangelists: Lawyers who leave to unrelated posts or with no plans…. Are still evangelists and influencers for your firm. We all intuitively recognize the power of networks and being connected – and law firms are no different.

Expanding professional networks and helping people to reconnect with former colleagues helps the law firm – but also helps alumni – creating a circle of goodwill and benefits from recruitment, cost-cutting, evangelism, new business, comraderie and marketing.

Visit most law firm websites including DLA Piper, Ashurst and Dentons to see the seeds of alumni networks; and as Cooley’s page says, “we are only as strong as our networks.

From the seeds of alumni programs, many running on spreadsheets or legacy software, law firms are now looking at leading Alumni Platforms, that integrate into their InterAction, Oneplace or Salesforce CRM, their HR stack and more to leverage their Alumni and impact the bottom line.