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Dec 19, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Whether you’re a law student or graduate, you have probably got a lot of commitments in your life. Adding another item to your to-do list may be the last thing you are thinking about.  But the truth is that alumni involvement is vital for a variety of reasons. Read on for a roundup of five ways law school alumni help law students and law schools alike.

1. They act as mentors for current students.

“Ask any successful attorney: Nothing propels a legal career like having a great mentor,” suggests the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD). There’s no better place for this relationship to begin than during law school.

In asserting why every law student needs a mentor for Lawyerist, practicing lawyer and attorney instructor Randall Ryder argues, “A good mentor should [...] tell you how to succeed in law school, how to move past bad law school grades, and how to make the most of your law school experience. Perhaps most importantly, they will pass on little bits of knowledge that can’t be described or categorized -- but they are pieces of wisdom you will rely on for your entire career.”

In other words, while law school will teach many skills, alumni mentors add another layer of learning to the experience.

2. They amplify law students’ professional networks.

Mentorship relationships made during law school don’t end during college. In fact, they form a foundation for a student’s professional network.

The Balance Careers explains, “The people you meet in law school, whether it’s professors, classmates, or alumni, are your professional network when you graduate. Of course, it’s possible to overcome the lack of a network where you want to practice and meet lawyers in the local area, but it’s far easier to keep in touch with law school friends and cultivate those connections over time!”

A recent US News & World Report piece on networking as a law school, meanwhile, provides specific examples of law students whose careers were directly impacted by law school mentorships. Law school assistant dean and career services director Karen Sargent says, “[Networking] is extremely important. It’s maintaining relationships that are going to carry you throughout your career. And you never know when those relationships are going to come into play.”

And even if a mentor can’t hire you, he/she can still change the trajectory of your career. Career services associate dean Michael Ende says, "Somebody can always give you advice, they can always give you information and if the conversation goes well they can always give you a referral."

3. They can provide unique information about prospective schools.

Alumni can even benefit law students before they become law students. Speaking with an alumnus -- especially a recent one -- can give applicants a candid glimpse and useful insights into what experience they can expect to have at a particular school -- information that won’t necessarily be found in any admissions brochure or course catalog.

These conversations can also give you an inside edge in the admissions process. US News & World Report explains that another benefit of speaking with alumni is you gain material to use for a personal statement, interview, and other parts of the application process. This material can help demonstrate to the school in question that you have independently researched it and you are applying for a reason other than that it is a good fit from an LSAT or GPA perspective.

4. Alumni contribute to the reputation of their schools.

Alumni aren’t just graduates of their law schools; they are also their representatives. Alumni participation rates are one of the factors evaluated by US News & World Report when ranking colleges and universities. The Annual Giving Network (AGN) states, “Rankings can affect reputation, reputation can affect enrollment, and enrollment can affect revenue from tuition.”

5. They also contribute funds.

Alumni give back to their universities in many ways. Perhaps the first that comes to mind? Financially. Even small gifts from alumni are valuable -- especially because evidence indicates that alumni who consistently give at modest levels are likelier to become major donors later and or to include their alma maters in their estate plans.

And then there’s the fact that alumni giving inspires others to give, too. “High levels of alumni participation can inspire major donors, corporations, and foundations to increase their own support. People and organizations want to invest in successful institutions that others are supporting too,” adds AGN.

So whether you are one already or will be in the future, alumni matter. Getting involved as a student and after you graduate can help you make a difference -- both to your own life and to the lives of many others. 

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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