Law firm alumni are among the most important referral, new business and recruiting sources as well as brand ambassadors.

Law firms of all sizes have alumni – yet many firms aren’t yet investing in creating an alumni relations program. Here’s why and how you should.

My very first law firm job was running the alumni relations program at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP 20 years ago.

Overseeing this program showed me how alumni could be integrated into a firm’s community throughout the lifecycle of their careers.

I went on to run alumni programs at Sullivan & Cromwell, MoFo and Proskauer, and as technology improved, so did alumni relations management.

A law firm alumni program is so much more than planning periodic events and creating an alumni database and web site. It’s about creating a long-term supportive community throughout the lifecycle of the alum’s career.

It’s about supporting their professional development. Most alumni who left your firm to go into another field or go in-house don’t have the luxury of having many pro bono opportunities from which to choose but law firms do. So, extend these opportunities to your alumni – they will greatly appreciate it.

It is also about creating opportunities for alumni to reconnect with each other. You can do this through an online alumni directory as well as events.

Offer alumni a combination of in-person and virtual events that are both social and educational (CLE credit is harder to get when you aren’t at a law firm, so offer your alumni access to your online CLE library or resources for CLEs that you have).

Promoting your alumni and their successes should be at the heart of your alumni relations program. Create an e-newsletter with a “class notes” section announcing alumni job moves, promotions and other professional achievements. Encourage them to send in information about themselves, which will help you capture updated contact information. Allowing them to share their successes will enhance your relationship with alumni.

Tracking alumni and their career progression should be at the heart of your alumni relations program. You can have the greatest content in the world but if you aren’t reaching your alumni, it’s worthless.

If you don’t have internal resources to manage your alumni contact data, there are companies that do this. It’s well worth the investment to outsource it.

There will be some alumni that you will want to keep close to the fold – perhaps clients or prospective clients, judges and in-house counsel. Create opportunities for them to help steer the direction of the alumni program – at one firm we created an alumni board of directors that provided invaluable input on the direction of the program.

Investing in alumni is such a smart investment for everyone involved – so start today.

I have more tips for running a law firm alumni program in this longer article.

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