My first law firm job 20 years ago was overseeing the alumni relations program Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP – my favorite former employer). Back then we had a hard copy alumni contact directory and held a fancy alumni networking event once per year.

We also built one of the first law firm alumni microsites. It was exciting to work on such a forward-thinking initiative long before many firms did the same.

I went on to run alumni programs at many other firms, including Sullivan & Cromwell, Morrison & Foerster and Proskauer, and I learned so much on how to create a successful alumni experience from these roles.

Today, alumni programs are much more multidimensional – or at least should be – and firms of all sizes should invest in creating an alumni program.

Your alumni are among your strongest (or weakest) brand advocates.

It doesn’t matter how big or small your firm is, if you have employees who have left the firm with whom you want to keep in touch, then you need an alumni relations program.

A law firm alumni relations program is so much more than a contact directory or events today.

It’s about creating a long-term supportive community throughout the lifecycle of the alum’s career. It is also about creating opportunities for alumni to reconnect with each other.

And finally promoting your alumni and their successes should be at the heart of your law firm alumni relations program.

One of the biggest mistakes I see law firms make with regard to their alumni relations program is excluding certain groups of people.

Sometimes it’s not inviting lawyers who are at other firms to events or not giving them access to the alumni directory for fear of giving away information and not wanting them to mingle with or steal potential clients.

The other group I see law firms leave out of their alumni programs are people who were either asked to leave the firm or who were fired. This is a huge mistake!

Extending an olive branch to be back in the law firm’s community is a way to repair hurt feelings about someone’s departure and massage whatever happened. I’ve seen this work firsthand.

If you want someone to not hate you for firing them, invite them back in to your community. Don’t further exclude them. Especially in the age of online reviews such as Glassdoor, Indeed and others where people can fire off all of the negative reasons about working at your organization.

It’s incredibly shortsighted to omit certain alumni because every and anyone could be a potential client, employee or a referral source.

Also, isn’t the whole point of an alumni relations program to build community? You do that by being inclusive.

If you start leaving out certain groups, you defeat that purpose.

Here’s how to create a successful alumni relations program at your law firm.

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