Law School · Work Life Balance

Grow Your Circle: The Benefits of Being an Active Alumna

A common theme I hear from attorneys of color is the disconnect they feel from their law school. It’s a disconnect I have often felt.  While the school never feels purposefully unwelcoming, it’s always very obvious that this is a space that’s not necessarily for us. For most of us, it’s all about getting our JD and bouncing. And because we never felt like that space was for us, we often don’t take the time to come back, in meaningful ways, to make sure the students after us have a better experience.

I get why–you have a real job, real friends, family, responsibilities that take priority. Duh. But I fear that at times our eagerness with saying deuces–as gratifying as it may feel–is limiting us.

We’ve discussed before the impact being an active alumna has on you as a professional. 

But it bears repeating that being an active alumni is beneficial to you. The simplest benefit is that being active grants you access to circles you may not normally be able to access. For example, but for my participation in certain alumni events, I wouldn’t have been able to meet John Lewis.

#namedroppa lol but for real, that’s just a simple thing–a perk, really, but still worthwhile.

The more important support schools can give you for being an active alumni is support in your own career endeavors. Maybe you’ll be an author some day, or run for office, or need an “in” when your prima applies for college–being active alumni is a quid pro quo. Authors, politicians, legacies are supported under these systems. So, don’t be so eager to ghost your school and instead see what further benefits you can receive with a little bit of involvement.

Aside from being able to help you directly, being an active alumni can be empowering. Whether you agree with it or not, your alumni status comes with power (i.e. because it’s expected that you’ll eventually come with dollars/time). Alumni have the ability to exert pressure in administration to address issues or change policies in a way that students aren’t able to do.

I spoke about this last week, when I attended my school’s alumni diversity council. Now, my law school is far from perfect, but I give credit where it’s due and new administrators are committed to create change. We spoke seriously about implicit bias and when I asked how they were going to combat implicit bias in the moot court/journal selection my question was considered seriously–not with excuses as to why change would be too hard. This type of consideration isn’t always given to students (not that I agree with that). But knowing that I can take a seat at the table, across from my Dean, state my piece, and help right some wrongs that I experienced in school helps me feel a little better about everything that was lacking when I was a student.

Finally, seeking out other alumni helps create a community for yourself. I have more friends from my law school now than I did while in law school. That’s because in law school I lived in a bubble where I hung out with the same four people (that I LOVE) and focused on my then-boyfriend (now husband). That was fine for that time in my life, but now I don’t live semester to semester. I have found such genuine friendship with fellow alumnae that I only peripherally knew as a student. Of course, the law school just created a connection–we jive together for other reasons, but it’s so great knowing that someone understand the experience you had–because they went through it too. I wouldn’t have some of these friendships if I hadn’t been an active alumna. Think of all the badass women you may be missing from your life just because you don’t want to go to a few networking events! Make it a goal to get a little more involved. If you hate it, you can stop, but likely you’ll find it worth your while.

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