Last week, I attended the Georgetown Law alumni luncheon at the University Club, the first such event they held since the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was a solid means to connect people to our mutual alma mater, which could hopefully be important to fundraising and making connections for job placements and the other help that alumni can typically give to a college or law school. This got me thinking about how law firms can also similarly reach out to people who used to be connected to a shop to build business networks and potentially generate more leads for a firm.
Law firms routinely rely on former associates and partners to provide business development opportunities for people who stay at a law firm. For instance, it is not uncommon for associates to go work for clients, and this can reinforce a bond between a firm and the businesses it serves. Moreover, lawyers sometimes head to companies with which a law firm does not have a connection, and that lawyer may look to lawyers they know from a firm to handle legal work for the company.
It is not uncommon for law firms to spend time on alumni engagement. I sometimes see portions of firm websites that are dedicated to people who used to work at a shop who might wish to get a newsletter about a firm or keep their contact information current in case someone wants to reach out to them. It is also fairly common for former associates and partners to attend the holiday parties of firms they used to work at, but this is usually only the case for a few years after someone departs the firm.
I once worked at a Biglaw shop where management was really good at keeping everyone connected with one another. Of course, this was mainly because it was great to keep in touch and everyone enjoyed each other’s company, but this was likely also because law firm alumni can be a powerful business development tool. For instance, one time that firm held a party marking five years since they opened a given office. A significant number of law firm alumni were invited to the event, and I remember the partners talking about whether people left the firm on good enough terms that they should be invited to the event to keep business development options on the table.
It is not uncommon for lawyers to meet up with people with whom they worked years after they leave a firm in a variety of circumstances. For instance, one of my bosses had a huge party to celebrate a milestone birthday, and he invited pretty much everyone we used to work with to the occasion. This was years after I stopped working at the firm, but I wanted to see people I knew, so I made sure to attend. Moreover, the event was at Keene’s Steakhouse, and up to that point, I could only afford to eat in the pub room there! The event was a fantastic time to catch up with people, and it was also a solid personal and business event for the birthday boy. Not only did he get to celebrate his big day in style, but he also got to connect with people who had a connection with him and were in all kinds of legal roles at that point.
Seeing the power of hosting a law firm alumni event, I organized a meetup for people who used to work at a law firm that employed all of us a few years before the pandemic. I scoured Facebook for dozens of people who had connections to our mutual firm, even people who worked at that shop before I got there, and a solid group of people met up for the event. It was great to kick back with people with whom I used to work in a more casual setting than an office. In addition, connecting with all of these lawyers, who were by then in all sorts of legal roles, definitely helped me expand my business network and may have led me to originate some business when I eventually started my own practice.
All told, many people just view a firm gig as a job, a means to an end to pass the time as they move through their careers. However, many people forge a close connection to the law firms that employ them, similar to how people feel about colleges and law schools they attended. Law firms can do more to build networks of people who used to work at various shops not only because it is fun to reconnect with former colleagues, but also because this can be valuable for business development.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at email@example.com.