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November 20, 2012

Innovations in Action: External relations as a purposive strategy

by dan rodriguez

Law schools have traditionally configured their external relations programs within discrete silos.  Alumni relations deals with particular outreach (sometimes ambitious, other times more mechanical) usually in the form of receptions, reunions, and the like.  Development is, of course, about fundraising.  Career services is about placement . . . you get the point.

However, our aim is to think about the larger project of external relations as a coherent, structured, and quite purposive process of engaging with myraid stakeholders in the legal and business community about what Northwestern is about and, further, what is in it for them in partnering with our law school.  During the past year, we have moved in this more comprehensive direction in tangible ways:

  • Earlier this year, we created a new position, Assistant dean of External Partnerships, the purpose of which is to reach out to current and potential partners in law firms and in the business community in order to develop targeted initaitives which create mutual value for their organizations and our law school.  We build on the reputation of key existing partnerships, including the Securities Regulation Institute, the Corporate Counsel Institute, and the Garrett Institute, and we look to leverage nascent connections in order to create new, vibrant opportunities to work collaboratively with important legal and corporate partners.  The ADEP (Juliann Cecchi) and her staff are the point persons for these initiatives;
  • We are working with a prominent law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, to implement one of their principal objectives, that is, the creation of a special law and business forum for business leaders & C-suite executives on developments in law and business.  In this regard, we will be working with our colleagues at the Kellogg Business School to set up this program;
  • As part of our efforts to expand the work and influence of the world-class Searle Center on Law & Regulation, we are setting up an advisory board of prominent legal and corporate leaders to assist our efforts;
  • The Career Strategy office is working closely with External Partnerships to broaden our relationships with law firms, particularly mid-size law firms, in order to improve the employment prospects of our students.  We are working on targeted job fairs, some with other leading law schools, in order to expand opportunities.  Moreover, we are developing strategies to expand relationships with law firms and governmental employers in Washington DC, a major employment location by any measure;
  • Judicial clerkships:  We are ramping up considerably our efforts at judicial clerkships, by leveraging the expertise and energy of key faculty members who have developed successful strategies for clerkship placement.;

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to meet with distinguished law firm leaders as part of a program called the “managing partners roundtable.”  During that meeting, we were able to reflect upon the values of these kinds of purposive external relations strategies.  I am convinced that it is only through these kinds of ambitious, multidmensional, and collaborative endeavors that we can consciously expand the footprint of Northwestern Law School.

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