Increasingly, Large Corporations are targeting former employees in their recruiting and business development efforts, and alumni events are a key element in this strategy.

When organizing an alumni event, it's important to get executive buy-in. In planning her firm's first alumni outing, held in June, Vickie Spang, chief marketing officer at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, a Los Angeles — based law firm, ran into a small group of naysayers. But by explaining that alumni who return to work for a previous employer contribute invaluable industry knowledge and are familiar with the organizational culture, Spang got the buy-in she needed.

For the gathering, held at the trendy Dolce Restaurant in Los Angeles, Spang hired a Marilyn Monroe impersonator to greet guests and mingle with the lawyers. “Marilyn” was an instant icebreaker.

However, not all alumni events are strictly social. The law firm of Finnegan Henderson Farabow Garrett & Dunner incorporated a Continuing Legal Education panel discussion into a two-day alumni event held to celebrate its move to a new office in Washington, D.C.

The true element of success for an alumni program is having colleagues who enjoyed their time with the company and want to maintain contact. Entertaining past employees reaches the “low-hanging fruit” for future business development opportunities, and it reduces the time and money spent on recruiting efforts.

Alycia Polley is the event and communications coordinator for the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at