It doesn’t matter how big or small your firm is, if you have employees who have left with whom you want to keep in touch, you should consider creating an alumni relations program.
Many firms aren’t investing in creating these programs or the programs they have may not have yielded real ROI quite yet.
Alumni relations programs provide several important benefits and can help law firms with:
- Recruiting initiatives – Alumni are an excellent source for identifying and engaging potential recruits. Your alumni are often considered by prospective employees as a credible source of information about what it’s like to work at the firm. Consider inviting alumni to speak on career panels and join you on the on-campus recruiting process.
- Lateral pipeline activities – You never know from where your next lateral will come and engaging with your alumni to help you find qualified candidates is a smart and efficient move. In addition, there are conversations going on behind the scenes every day where candidates are asking around about a lawyer’s true experience at a firm before they make a job move – especially given that you can find this information online almost instantaneously, so engaging with your alumni in a way that is beneficial for them can help bolster your reputation with them.
- Business development – It’s no secret that the main reason why law firms create alumni relations programs is to get business from those lawyers who have gone in-house to a client or a potential client. This is why it’s so important to make your alumni program about your alumni – not your firm – so that you give them incentives to engage with your firm and opportunities to build your relationship with them over the course of their careers.
- General positive brand building for your firm – Your former employees are among your strongest brand advocates – keeping them close to the firm is a win-win for all involved.
- Boomerang employees – Many alumni return to your firm after going in-house, into public service or discovering the grass isn’t greener somewhere else. It’s easier to re-onboard than to hire from scratch.
Today, a law firm alumni relations program should be so much more than a contact directory or networking events. It’s about creating a long-term supportive community throughout the lifecycle of an alumnus/alumna’s career. It is also about creating opportunities for alumni to reconnect with each other.
Creating an effective alumni relations program involves several key steps and considerations. Here’s a guide to help you establish and develop an alumni relations program.
Define Program Objectives
Identify the goals and objectives of your alumni relations program. This could include fostering a sense of community among alumni, promoting lifelong engagement, facilitating networking opportunities, and supporting alumni’s personal and professional development. It’s important to understand the specific needs and expectations of your alumni community. Conduct surveys or interviews to gather feedback and insights that can help shape the program’s direction.
Stay in Touch (with Accurate Information)
Gather and maintain accurate contact information for your alumni. This should include email addresses, phone numbers, current employment details and other relevant data. Your CRM is the ideal place to house this information.
CRM can enhance the success of your alumni program by changing the methodology of aggregating data and helping identify who-knows-who relationships. In addition, CRM integrations can make updating and maintaining the data quality of alumni lists a more manageable task.
Establish a system for tracking alumni engagement and interactions. This can help measure the program’s effectiveness and tailor communications to specific segments of your alumni community.
Develop Communication Channels
Communication is the foundation for engaging your alumni network. Plan for consistent communication to engage alumni and expand your organization’s access to information as well as support your brand. Alumni engage when they feel like they are valued, so invest in them by personalizing communication to fit their needs.
Create a dedicated alumni website or online portal where alumni can access resources, updates and connect with each other. Ensure the platform is user-friendly and provides a seamless experience.
Utilize social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, to connect with alumni and share updates, events and relevant content.
Create an email newsletter or regular email communication to keep alumni informed about news, events and opportunities. Personalize messages when possible to increase engagement.
Plan Engaging Events and Activities
Organize networking events or social gatherings where alumni can reconnect with each other and with the firm. Consider both in-person and virtual events to accommodate alumni in different locations.
Offer professional development opportunities, such as workshops, webinars or mentoring programs, that cater to the career needs and interests of your alumni community.
Provide opportunities for alumni to engage with current employees through guest speaking and mentoring as well as pro bono and community service initiatives.
Alumni Recognition and Awards
Establish an alumni recognition program to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements and contributions of notable alumni. This can include awards, honors or alumni spotlights featured on your website, social media and in firm publications. Recognize alumni who support your firm through philanthropy, volunteering or advocacy.
Collaborate with Alumni Volunteers
Recruit and engage alumni volunteers who can assist with program planning, event organization or mentorship initiatives. Consider creating an alumni board of directors to oversee the direction of the alumni program. Alumni volunteers can bring valuable expertise and strengthen the connection between the institution and its alumni community.
Provide opportunities for alumni to serve as ambassadors or advocates for the institution/organization. Encourage them to share their experiences, promote events and refer others.
Measure and Evaluate
Set key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your alumni relations program. This can include metrics such as event attendance, engagement levels, volunteer participation and open rates of alumni communications. Regularly collect feedback from alumni through surveys to gauge satisfaction, identify areas for improvement and assess the program’s impact on alumni. Use the data and insights gathered to refine and adjust your program strategies and activities.
Keep in Mind
You can have all the networking and educational events in the world, send out targeted communications, and offer terrific perks to your alumni, but if they aren’t reaching the right recipients, this time and effort will be wasted. So, don’t forget to focus on the data first – and if you need help, outsource it!
Remember, building a robust alumni relations program takes time and ongoing effort. Stay connected with your alumni community, listen to their needs, and continuously seek opportunities to provide value and meaningful engagement and you will strengthen your ties to them.
Want some more tips and tricks for managing your alumni program? Watch a replay of Chris and Stefanie’s full alumni relations best practices webinar.
Chris Fritsch is the Founder of and CRM Success Consultant at CLIENTSFirst Consulting, where she and her team help hundreds of top organizations succeed by delivering services, solutions and strategy for CRM, emarketing, data quality and data cleaning.
Stefanie Marrone is the Founder of Stefanie Marrone Consulting (Stefanie oversaw alumni relations programs at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, Morrison & Foerster, Proskauer, Mayer Brown and Sullivan & Cromwell).