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As firms strive to differentiate themselves through marketing techniques and stave off mergers through network affiliations, they are gearing up alumni programs to net referrals and maintain positive relationships with former employees. Over the last two to five years, large firms have dedicated a significant amount of time and money to creating programs that link current and former attorneys, marketing consultant Micah Buchdahl said. “People that used to work at the firm are actually really good future business leads,” he said. Many former firm members move on to serve as in-house counsel for clients or potential clients, become judges or start their own businesses. The old theory that “once you’re gone, you’re gone” no longer applies, he said. Richard Kremnick, who helps steer Blank Rome’s alumni program, said the increase in more formalized alumni programs is due in part to the increasingly fluid state of the profession. There are more alumni to keep in contact with as lawyers leave firms more frequently than they did a generation before, he said. Alumni programs have evolved into more than an invitation to a holiday party. The online directories have made some of them like a MySpace.com for lawyers. The programs generally include a password-protected online system that gives contact information, job changes and even family announcements. Some include a discussion forum as well. Firms will also use their alumni contact list to send out newsletters and invitations to continuing legal education events. The culmination of these programs is generally an annual event that brings the alumni and firm members together. Buchdahl said many firms, like his Delaware-based client Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, tie the party to a certain event. Young Conaway held its inaugural event to the NCAA March Madness games, according the firm’s marketing director Elise Martin. Martin said that as the firm grew and had close to 90 alumni, it couldn’t keep contact with all of them informally.

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