Ropes & Gray’s Director of Alumni Relations Judy Slovin organizes dozens of firm alumni events each year but one of the more memorable honored the firm’s second woman partner, Ruth Reardon O’Brien.
O’Brien made partner in 1978, several years after returning to the firm full-time following a 10-year break to raise her six children, including comedian Conan O’Brien, all of whom attended the event.
But her job largely isn’t about socializing with celebrities or booking big-name speakers. Since joining the firm more than three years ago, she’s been crunching data and building programs that help connect the firm’s lawyers and alums to new opportunities—including new jobs outside Ropes & Gray.
“It’s good for law firm clients because we’re helping them source our attorneys for their job openings; it generates goodwill with our alumni because we’ve helped them at an inflection point in their careers; and it’s good for the firm because it strengthens relations with clients and with alumni, may of whom become brand ambassadors, some of whom become future clients,” she said.
Slovin is an attorney who worked in litigation for nine years before transitioning to business development. She’s based at Ropes & Gray’s Boston office, but works on a wider scale—the firm has around 3,600 alums.
The purpose of Ropes & Gray’s alumni program is to create a community that welcomes attorneys who want to return to the firm and to help current attorneys looking for new opportunities.
“Law firms have evolved a lot,” Slovin said. “It used to be that if you left a firm, you were dead to them.” But there’s now an acceptance and understanding of people’s motivations for leaving, she said.
As their time goes on, many in Big Law wind up leaving their firms to raise families or to pursue new career paths, and it’s been challenging for them to find their way back.
Slovin’s job takes advantage of the improved attitude at firms toward lawyers who leave. She started Ropes & Gray’s “Re-ttorney” program, which brings alumni attorneys back to the firm, soon after noticing that a “critical mass” of people were returning to work there after time elsewhere.
Those who come back have several job options under the Re-ttorney program, according to Slovin. They can re-enter the firm under a traditional work arrangement as a partner, associate, or counsel, or take advantage of the firm’s flexible work arrangements plan, working remotely or on a reduced-time schedule.
Other firms have programs that strive for similar goals. Hogan Lovells’ global alumni program provides a forum that allows alumni to stay in touch with each other and with the firm for networking and career opportunities. Norton Rose Fulbright’s program, which began three years ago, sources jobs for firm attorneys looking to move in-house with clients and contacts of the firm.
Aside from the Re-attorney program, another priority for Slovin upon taking her job was collecting information from the firm’s alumni. “I drowned in data for the first six months,” she said. Information on alumni was gathered “in numerous places” and needed to be organized to make it more accessible, Slovin explained.
The result is the alumni directory, which is accessible through the firm’s alumni website.
The site is only for former Ropes & Gray employees and allows them connect and also access the firm’s job board, which Slovin manages and helped create. The board features jobs posted by clients and alumni for in-house attorney roles as well as staff positions.
Firm lawyers interested in moving on can also access the job board which is confidential—Slovin and other administrators can’t see who’s searching.
In addition to the job board, clients and alumni can opt for a more personalized job search. Slovin and her team have recently worked with 24 clients on a one-on-one basis to help fill openings with their companies. She’s also helped 17 alumni update their resumes and counseled them on how to find the job they’re looking for. This concierge-style service includes placing alumni at jobs with firm clients.