Young Alumni Get on Board
GW Law Alumni Association board members (l to r) Nick Nikic, JD '12, and Lindsay Tasher, JD '05, catch up with Christian Kerstetter, JD '12, at the spring Board Weekend reception and dinner at the elegant St. Regis in Washington.
Though she'd only graduated from law school a handful of years ago, Lindsay Tasher, JD '05, jumped at the chance to join the GW Law Alumni Association Board of Directors last year.
"I absolutely loved every minute of my GW Law experience," says Ms. Tasher, who practiced law for three years and is now director and senior counsel at Wyatt Partners LLC, a New Jersey corporation, where she focuses her time on attorney-fee expert-witness work and management consulting. Highlights of her time at GW included serving as a Dean's Fellow for the Legal Research and Writing Program during her third year and teaching/mentoring first-year students starting out on the path toward a legal career. "You're their go-to person if they have questions about classes, exams, jobs, and anything a terrified 1L wants to know," explains Ms. Tasher.
A strong desire to help law students find their way is one reason many young alumni are circling back to join the alumni association board, bringing fresh insight and energy. Of the board's more than 30 members, 11 graduated (or will graduate) after the year 2000.
"There have been a lot of strong young members who have been working really hard to make the school a better place," says Corley Hopkins, director of development and alumni relations at GW Law School. "Their unique insights into the Law School are invaluable and add immeasurably to our work."
Board member Jonathan Willingham, JD '06, at the spring GW Law Alumni Association Board of Directors meeting
These young lawyers bring with them knowledge about social media and the globalization of law practice, explains John Lewis Jr., JD '90, who serves as anti-bribery and international compliance counsel at the Coca-Cola Co. in Atlanta.
"The young members of the board bring a completely different perspective than those of us who have been practicing law for a long time," says Bradford Irelan, JD '86, founding partner at the general civil litigation law firm Irelan Hargis PLLC in Houston and the new president of the alumni association board.
That fresh perspective sheds light on the harsh realities of today's job market, as well as the level of competition to get into GW Law School.
"Because their law school experiences and challenges entering the legal market are more recent, they can more closely identify with the students of today and advise on how the alumni board can better serve its future alumni," Ms. Hopkins says.
Though the Law School excels at teaching future lawyers how to think, argue, and communicate, many board members feel that there needs to be more training in the day-to-day realities of being a lawyer in the working world.
"Lawyers certainly have to come out with skills that are marketable if the degree is to justify itself economically," says Mr. Lewis, who still seeks wisdom from his 76-year-old father as well as his teen daughters and believes that a mix of ages helps the board make informed decisions.
Board member Mike Silver, JD '04, chats with former Dean Paul Schiff Berman and Director of Development and Alumni Relations Corley Hopkins at the Board Weekend reception and dinner.
A strategic planning committee recently surveyed alumni to find out what they most wanted from the alumni association. Using 585 responses, the committee created a three-section report on how to best serve GW Law alumni.
One section of the report suggests developing and organizing a more effective alumni network that puts students in touch with alumni throughout the world. "Alumni are in a position to help students with employment," says Jonathan Willingham, JD '06, chief of staff for D.C. Council member Mary Cheh and adjunct professor of Legal Research and Writing at the Law School, as well as co-chair of the strategic planning committee. Recent connections between alumni and students have already paid off: Across the country, alumni are meeting with law students to help them get a feel for legal careers in different regions and in particular practices.
"Some can't make a large financial contribution, but they can mentor law students and help them find jobs," says Mr. Irelan, who has worked on getting the alumni database up to date. The database will also help alumni connect with one another, which is critical in the current job market. This active network is one element that sets GW Law School apart and encourages GW alumni to stay involved after graduation.
"Certainly the thing that made the GW experience unique was the national scope and breadth of the Law School in terms of the student base, the subject-matter expertise of the faculty, and the rich pool of adjunct faculty," says Mr. Lewis, who joined the board after years of hosting the admitted student reception in Atlanta.
Board member John Lewis, Jr., JD '90, at the spring GW Law Alumni Association Board of Directors meeting.
The Law School fosters a collegial environment and positive community that graduates want to stay involved in, explains Eric Koester, JD '06, who practiced law for five years before co-founding the start-up Zaarly.com, a year-and-a-half-old online marketplace that has facilitated more than $30 million in sales. Mr. Koester became a part of the alumni board as a student when he was SBA student president in 2004, and stayed on afterward. That student experience encouraged him to interact with other alumni and stay connected.
"I think one of the unique things about GW is the collegial environment that it fosters—and that carries on into the alumni community," Mr. Koester says.
When Mr. Koester was student body president and Mr. Willingham was vice president of finance, they helped hammer out a strategic plan to make improvements to the Law School that included enhancing the students' relationship with the alumni community, especially concerning employment issues. "It called for a more holistic approach to the student experience," Mr. Willingham says, including having the same career development officer guide a student through all three years of law school. That interest in getting alumni involved with bridging the school-to-job gap synced with the association board's momentum.
"There are regional and social opportunities for alumni to get together with current students, and we've helped make those happen," says Mr. Koester. "It's important to help start the career-development process earlier in a student's career."
Viva GW Law!
Latino Law Alumni Association on the Rise
GW Law Latino Association leaders met with Diploma Ceremony keynote speaker Carmen Ortiz, JD '81, during a Commencement Weekend brunch.
Law's strong Latino presence was brought to the fore at this year's Commencement, when Diploma Ceremony keynote speaker Carmen Ortiz, JD '81, the first Hispanic and first woman to represent Massachusetts as United States attorney, spoke of her hardworking parents who moved from Puerto Rico to New York City seeking better opportunities for
One of a growing group of successful GW Law alumni with Latin American roots, Ms. Ortiz was highly supportive of the recent revitalization of GW's Latino Law Alumni Association during comments at a recent meeting, says Claudia Gwilliam, JD '01, a member of the association's executive steering committee.
"She really encouraged us to move forward with the effort," says Ms. Gwilliam, who is the managing director of the D.C. Volunteer Lawyers Project. "She compared it to her undergraduate alma mater and what a close-knit group they are. She really commended us on the effort."
A group of GW Law School alumni decided to scale up the activity of the Latino Law Alumni Association in the fall of 2010 after seeing activity in other Washington, D.C.-area Latino alumni and bar associations, explains Sam Jammal, JD '07, the alumni group's fundraising chair and a trade policy adviser in the Obama administration.
"We've really tried to formalize the infrastructure by creating bylaws and working in partnership with the Law School to identify key capstone events that we can plan around," Mr. Jammal says. "We're also trying to bring alumni back and finding ways we can get fellow Latinos to re-engage with the Law School."
In the past 12 months, the alumni group has increased membership and hosted networking events with other alumni groups, including GW Law's Black Law Alumni Association and Asian Pacific and South Asian American Alumni Association, says Andres Castrillon, JD '07, who handles the group's external affairs. The group's official relaunch event was hosted by Congressman Pedro R. Pierluisi, JD '84, of Puerto Rico on Sept. 17, 2011.
"Our goal is to host more substantive events focused on professional development, like 'how-to' workshops, panels highlighting various practice areas and career paths, and receptions featuring keynote speeches by accomplished Latino alums," says Mr. Castrillon, an international trade associate at Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP in the District. "We also want to focus on expanding our network beyond D.C., to increase our footprint nationally."
The GW Latino Law Alumni Association is in the process of creating a scholarship fund. The scholarship will help support Latino students, particularly in a "difficult climate with the rising cost of tuition," says Mr. Jammal.
The scope of the annual scholarship will depend on the group's fundraising efforts, already under way, but the ultimate goal is to establish an endowment, he adds. For now, the group has a page on LinkedIn—the professionally oriented social media platform where GW has many official presences. "We've seen steady growth on the LinkedIn page," says Mr. Castrillon, who notes that the page helps "get our name out there and let people know that we're back up and running." As of press time, the LinkedIn group has close to 50 members, 57 percent of whom are based in D.C. and 67 percent of whom work in the legal profession.
Attendance at the group's events has also been "steadily improving," says Mr. Castrillon, who notes that 48 people, including three GW Law professors, signed up for a recent event.
"We're really focused on stability and continuity. We think we've gotten the organization to a point where it's going to continue to be vibrant and active for many years to come," he says.
He notes that the group's "very committed" steering committee has a diversity of levels of experience. "Our steering committee includes highly regarded partners at prestigious law firms, like Raul Herrera, JD '84, partner at Arnold & Porter LLP; senior attorneys in private practice and government, like Sergio Oehninger, JD '02, counsel in the Insurance Litigation & Counseling practice group of Hunton & Williams LLP, and Leonor Velazquez Davila, JD /MA '05, attorney at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission; recent graduates, and a student representative," he says.
"We've got people from different professions and backgrounds. With this core group of committed members and a revamped, focused mission, we think GWLLAA will continue to grow in numbers and influence and be around for years to come to advance the interest of our Hispanic students and alumni."
For more information on the GW Latino Law Alumni Association and their initiatives, please visit their webpage or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Save the date for the following GW Law Alumni events:
Fri., Feb. 22, 2013 – Government Contracts Luncheon
Sat., Feb. 23, 2013 – Law Revue Reception
Tues., Feb. 26, 2013 – Baltimore Alumni Reception
Tues. Feb. 26, 2013 – Orange County Alumni Reception
Wed., Feb. 27, 2013 – L.A. Alumni and Admitted Student Reception
Thurs., Feb. 28, 2013 – San Francisco Alumni and Admitted Student Reception
Tues., March 5, 2013 – Philadelphia Alumni Reception
Weds., March 6, 2013 – Arlington, Va., Alumni Reception
Tues., March 12, 2013 – Boston Alumni and Admitted Student Reception
Wed., March 13, 2013 – New York Alumni and Admitted Student Reception
Sat., March 16, 2013 – Salt Lake City Alumni and Admitted Student Reception
Tues., April 9, 2013 – Atlanta Alumni Reception
Wed., April 10, 2013 – D.C. Alumni and Admitted Student Reception
Wed., April 17, 2013 – Chicago Alumni Reception
Thurs., April 18, 2013 – Miami Alumni Reception
Fri., April 19, 2013 – Palm Beach Alumni Lunch
Mon., May 6, 2013 – INTA Reception in Dallas
Tues., May 7, 2013 – Houston Alumni Reception
Fri., June 7, and Sat., June 8, 2013 – GW Law Reunion Weekend 2013
* More alumni events will be added throughout the year, so be sure to regularly check the alumni community website at www.law.gwu.edu/Alumni.