Law School Outreach--We Want You"
By Jocelyn Gabrynowicz Hill
Jocelyn Gabrynowicz Hill is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and practices with McCarter & English, LLP, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Recruitment and retention are recognized as keys to a successful volunteer organization. But where can you and your young lawyer affiliate find prospective members—especially those with energy and fresh ideas? Law schools are the perfect answer because they are a fertile, but underutilized, hunting ground for new members. They should also be seen as feeder teams for your affiliate.
Having been on the receiving end of law school outreach efforts, Scott Reid, President of the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia, knows that law students are extremely receptive to law school outreach programs. “[When I was a law student], I remember thinking—wow—they want me to be involved,” Reid says. “Law students are so eager to learn about the practice of law. They want to feel like they are a part of the bar. Outreach events provide students an opportunity to mingle with real lawyers.”
Get Them While They’re Young
Dean Jennifer Rosato, Senior Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Professor of Law at the College of Law at Drexel University, sees “outreach as vital, from the beginning of students’ legal education.” Students should think of the bar association as a resource and its members as mentors. It is a great “habit” to involve law students in bar activities early on so these activities become a natural part of their professional lives. Cassandra Georges, President-Elect of the National Bar Association Women Lawyers Division, Philadelphia Chapter, agrees: “Life is much simpler in law school, even if you don’t know it at the time. Once you graduate to the real world you are pulled in so many directions.”
The Philadelphia Bar Association Young Lawyers Division has seen very tangible results from its law school outreach efforts. Attorneys who were once involved in the YLD as student members have stayed involved upon graduation. Cassandra Georges is one shining example. Georges was “outreached” when she was a second year law student. “Someone sought me out and made me feel special. It was like Uncle Sam’s ‘We Want You’ but much more warm and fuzzy.” Georges served as a law student liaison to the Philadelphia Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and is now very active in the Philadelphia YLD, the Pennsylvania Bar Association YLD, the ABA YLD, and is President-Elect of the Philadelphia Chapter of the National Bar Association Women Lawyers Division. “I am what you call a bar junkie,” declares Georges.
As a result of its law school outreach efforts, the Philadelphia YLD has acquired dedicated and involved student liaisons and law student bloggers. In addition, law students join the YLD as active members and attend YLD events. Student organizations at Philadelphia-area laws schools have even begun to request the Philadelphia YLD to assign lawyer-mentors to their respective groups.
So How Can Your Affiliate Plan Outreach Events?
Coordinate with other area and specialty bar associations. Concerted and coordinated outreach efforts among multiple organizations can be more effective than piecemeal events scattered throughout the year. By partnering with another organization, Reid says, “we all benefit from working on this project together because in most cases there is significant overlap of our memberships. I think [specialty bar organizations] do a great job of attracting people who might not otherwise get involved [in bar activities]. And once you are involved in one organization, chances are you will get involved in others.” According to Reid, “it is good for law students to see us all working together and that we want them to succeed.”
If your organization already has law student liaisons, be sure to use them to generate student interest in your events. Law students will feel invested in your organization because they have a significant role to play. “Our outreach success last year was due in large part to the energy and enthusiasm of our law student liaisons in planning the events. We used our liaisons to put us in touch with the school administration and to organize and publicize the on-campus event,” said Reid. If your organization does not currently have law student liaisons, consider contacting your area law school administrators to select representatives.
“Develop a relationship with school administration—they stay around a lot longer than the students—so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every year,” Reid advises. “They can also suggest potential liaison candidates.” If you are wondering who to call, Dean Rosato suggests that you contact a Dean of Students, the Student Affairs Office, or the Assistant Dean or Director of the Career Development Office. “We think that outreach is about professional development and student activities and not just about networking for jobs,” suggests Dean Rosato.
Provide food and beverages. It may seem simple, but law students are always looking for free food and a diversion from studying. Holding a cocktail party type event provides a relaxed atmosphere where students feel more comfortable asking questions one-on-one and are more likely to develop a personal relationship with young lawyer members. According to Dean Rosato, holding a reception with casual conversation between lawyers and students and a low-key introduction to various groups, was a great way for Drexel law students to begin thinking about the bar association as a career resource.
Invite alumni judges and area lawyers to participate. By showing law students that your association provides tangible benefits, such as the opportunity to network and develop mentoring relationships, you are sure to attract repeat attendees.
For more information, visit the websites of
• Barristers Association of Philadelphia, at www.phillybarristers.org
• National Bar Association Women Lawyers Division, Philadelphia Chapter, at nbawldphila.org