July — invitations for college and other fall school reunions are arriving. If you can attend your college reunion without great effort or expense, go. If it takes more effort or expense than is easily comfortable, you should at least think hard about going.
Apart from the inherent pleasure of these events, there are several good reasons for rainmakers to attend their college reunions. Most of your college classmates did not become lawyers: many of your classmates hire lawyers occasionally; some of them hire lawyers regularly. A few of them hire lawyers often, or work in or operate companies that have in-house counsel. Everyone you meet at your college reunion has friends who fall into these categories. You get the idea.
So far, I have described people who could be at many sorts of gatherings. Why are college reunions special opportunities? Generally, people who attend reunions want to help their fellow alumni. It is likely that you and your college friends had some serious bonding moments. Even in the case of people you did not know in college, if you believe your college served you well (or if you just feel good about the place), you probably also want to help fellow graduates regardless of whether you knew them or were in their class. Except in unusual cases, we want to help our college friends, and one of the best ways to help is to send work.
At college reunions classmates and friends from adjacent classes visit, reminisce and catch up. We re-bond. This bonding enhances what social scientists refer to as the “cohort effect”, in this case in the context of career trajectory. People of similar vintages who know and like each other want to help each other’s careers. People of roughly the same age tend also to have similar levels of responsibility within their respective organizations, and people of roughly the same age tend to trust others of their cohort, and particularly if they shared another common experience, such as going to the same college. As a junior lawyer, the best client development advice I got from partners at my law firm was to become friends with the financial analysts at the investment banks — the analysts don’t hire lawyers, but they are likely to do so in the not too distant future, and the cohort will move up in his or her career on parallel tracks.
As in all rainmaking, start by giving, not asking. Offer what you can in a simple conversation. If possible, do some preliminary research about the people who will be attending. Many colleges will share their RSVP list with attending alumni. Once you have seen your “besties”, you can seek out the people whose work you understand. It is even better to arrange to meet particular people, at particular times and places. Simply transmitting information or an educated opinion about someone’s professional life is helpful. (An earlier VLS blog discussed offering information, http://victorls.com/teach-what-you-can-and-give-generously-of-your-time/.)
There is special warmth between people who helped each other grow up or had a common experience in a common place. That warmth extends to wanting to help the adults we have become. When you share what you have, it often comes back. At worst, you will probably have a good time.