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Build an Alumni Program at Your Law Firm
The legal industry is continuously growing illustrated by the growth in demand for legal services, which has steadily increased over the last 3 years. This is leading to the creation of new legal jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that between 2018 and 2028, there will be a total of 457,000 net legal jobs. While there has been growth in both demand and jobs, there has also been growth in employee turnover.
The legal industry is not a stranger to employee turnover. In 2018 alone, there was a reported turnover rate of 27% for law firms. Because of this turnover, the top 400 law firms are losing roughly $9.1 billion annually. These statistics have leaders in this industry asking how to create a lifelong relationship with their associates and are turning to alumni networks as a solution.
Alumni networks have become a necessity for the legal industry. These networks give law firms the opportunity to build lifelong relationships with employees, and they continue to produce an ROI, especially after the employee leaves. Law firms around the globe are taking notice of the value of alumni networks, with nearly 70% of the AmLaw 100 firms having a formal alumni program in place.
Implement a Successful Alumni Program
Any law firm can implement an alumni network but that does not guarantee it will be successful. If you do not have a strategic plan in place when starting your network, it will not yield the optimal return. Steps it implement a successful alumni network include:
- Set Objectives and Goals to understand why you are implementing an alumni network and what you hope to accomplish. It’s also important at this time to determine what factors will be measured to determine the success of your network.
- Identify a Dedicated Program Leader to manage your alumni network. This person will be responsible for ensuring the success of your network.
- Assess the Tools you need to effectively manage your network. Many successful alumni networks have invested in alumni software to cut down on time and resources. Implementing an alumni software platform is an important resource for your alumni, to encourage them to connect with their fellow alumni, register for your network events, and view job openings at your firm, among other networking activities.
- Find Your Alumni. Involve your HR department to determine what type of information is retained from past associates and how best to communicate with them. Once you have this information, create a marketing plan that will drive recruitment of alumni to your network.
- Outline your Plan for implementing your network. Set timelines and benchmarks for each person involved in the process. This plan should include the implementation process and the ongoing process needed to manage the network. Don’t forget that engaging your alumni should be at the forefront of everything you do in your network and your processes should reflect that.
- Get Buy-in from the partners in your law firm. Educate them on the value that an alumni network can bring to the firm. Getting their commitment and support and will help promote the program and gain the attention of alumni when you are recruiting.
It’s important that you take these steps to implement your alumni network if you wish to realize its full benefits.
The Benefits of Implementing an Alumni Program
There are several ways that a well-planned, successful alumni network can benefit your law firm. These benefits include increased retention, a pipeline of talent, reduced hiring costs, and a source of new business for the firm. Each benefit brings value back to your firm and helps solve an on-going challenge.
Build a Culture to Increase Retention and Maintain Lifelong Relationships
With 44 percent of law associates leaving a firm after only three years, building a company culture that supports lifelong relationships is more important than ever. An alumni network signals to current and future associates exactly who you are – a law firm willing to spend time and resources to build lifelong relationships with its employees and that stands out in an industry historically seen to mainly value billable hours.
The result is that your top talent feels valued and is retained long-term.
It’s important to also apply this culture to your alumni network. When speaking to the ABA Journal, Rochelle Karr, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility & Alumni Relations at O’Melveny & Meyers LLP, said “Our approach has always been that once you’ve spent time with us, you are part of the community.” With this type of culture, you are ensuring that your alumni will feel right at home in your network, improving engagement and allowing you to maintain relationships.
Win New Business Through Alumni Referrals
Your alumni relationships can be a very good source of new business. With common issues like conflict of interest and specialty-focused practices, it is very likely that the opportunity will arise for your alumni to refer new business to your firm.
Not only can your alumni refer new business, they can also be an ambassador for your firm. The fact that they are no longer actively involved with your firm but are still willing to refer you speaks volumes to potential clients. These referrals can lead to a significant ROI. In fact, some firms reported that their network generated 10 business leads and $500,00 in new business in the first year.
Cut Hiring Costs by Recruiting Your Alumni
The truth is that you will never retain 100% of your associates. At some point everyone will leave, but that doesn’t mean you can’t utilize their talents again.
Carole Sprague, Director of Associate and Alumni Relations at Skadden, once said “Not every associate wants to be a partner at their organization. We are more realistic. We would rather facilitate and have them work with our clients than have them go off and disappear.” This speaks directly to how important it is to utilize your relationship with your alumni to recruit them.
Recruiting alumni to fill your talent gaps is an effective way to cut hiring costs, especially in the legal industry. Instances will arise where you do not have the right associate available to handle a special case. Your alumni network gives you the ability to reach outside of your firm to people that have the expertise you are looking for. Hiring your alumni as a consultant eliminates the high costs associated with recruiting a new employee or losing the client.
At Insala, our more than 20 years of experience have enabled us to create an alumni software solution that meets the direct needs of our clients. Your law firm’s unique objectives are easily achieved as our alumni software excels in capturing your alumni information and utilizing it to engage your network.
Request a Demo to learn more about the value of an alumni network for your firm.
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