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The Latin noun alumnus means “foster son or pupil” and is derived from the verb alere “to nourish.” The word alumnus appears in Roman law to describe a child placed in foster care or fosterage. According to historians, the word is not defined in relation to status, privilege or obligation.
Today, the word conjures the time you spent typically at a higher education institution and after you joined the ranks of a network that is rooted in the culture and history that proceeds you. It’s no wonder that many alums feel a commitment to their alma mater and a connection to the people who will follow in their footsteps.
That is the case for many ASU Law alumni.
“It didn’t occur to me to not support the school,” said Kindra Deneau, an ASU and Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law graduate and Tempe attorney, who believes in giving back to the college by providing as many opportunities to help ASU Law students through hands-on guidance such as being a mentor to clerkships at her firm.
“I want to nurture people that want to grow and are open-minded. A law firm isn’t built on how nice your office is or the plaques you have, it’s built on the people and how they treat the clients and how they handle the cases.”
And Deneau couldn’t be more pleased with the quality of students she gets. Deneau has two law clerks from ASU Law and one of them will becoming a full time associate when he receives his certification. “It’s amazing, I’ve seen a lot of well qualified candidates come from ASU Law. Their experience, intelligence and the drive is top notch.”
Jonathan Negretti couldn’t agree more with Deneau’s sentiment. “The caliber of students that come out of ASU Law are really good. If I’m able to work with these folks, I feel like I just enrich my own practice.”
For Negretti, also an ASU and ASU Law graduate, being an attorney wasn’t his first career choice. He started his professional journey in advertising and marketing and was looking for another challenge. Then his friend, who is an attorney, encouraged him to try law school. And through blind optimism, Negretti applied and got into law school.
“I’ve got to tell you that I’ve never felt so intellectually challenged in my life. I never wake up thinking is this going to be a groundhog type of day – where it’s the same rinse and repeat. Every day is a challenge, every day is a new legal obstacle, every day is a new way of looking at things. And I really enjoy helping people. The biggest compliment I get is that I don’t act like an attorney, I don’t talk like an attorney, I don’t sound like an attorney,” Negretti shared.
When asked why he goes to ASU Law to recruit and mentor, Negretti said “they took a chance on me and I needed to pay that back.”
It’s clear when you speak with Negretti, his sense of pride for his alma mater. “I still feel like I am a part of the community. I could walk back on that campus tomorrow and still feel as welcome as when I was a full time student.”
Running a small firm, Negretti understands the competitive challenges and that’s why he feels allowing his associates to do “real lawyer work” from day one is important. “It’s not like a big firm where you are relegated to certain work. We have the opportunity to do all sorts of stuff. You get to see the full scope of what we do in practice.”
“But I would put an ASU Law grad next to a Harvard Law grad any day and bet all day long that an ASU grad can hold her weight in whatever task she is assigned, whatever legal work she has to do. I really believe we all learn very much the same things. Harvard has its selection process and it differs from ASU Law, but I really think the quality of ASU Law grads are that good,” Negretti said.
For Doug Christian, who runs a local boutique law firm, getting people to apply can be a challenge. “Recruiting is expensive and I’d rather spend that money on a new hire than the headhunter. You hire the recruiter to find you a good employee, only to find out the headhunter has been calling your associates to see if they want to work for a firm also looking for an associate. It can be an insidious practice. That’s why using a headhunter isn’t my favorite way of hiring.”
Christian has also tried recruiting in other parts of the country. He would spend a week or two in the Midwest visiting schools like Notre Dame, University of Indiana-Bloomington, Wisconsin, and Iowa. “We had very poor luck getting students interested in a small firm in Phoenix, Arizona.”
So when Christian saw success at his alma mater, it was a no-brainer. But he knows it’s not possible if the school doesn’t invest in it. “All law schools should be interested in what good they are doing for their legal community and society in general. Are we teaching students to actually be good lawyers in the community or churning out diplomas?”
Christian believes when schools are invested in the success of the students beyond the diploma, that’s how you truly measure the school’s success.
“By working with the law school and providing career opportunities and schools introducing or connecting students to firms, that’s the synergy that we want to capitalize on. That’s good for the school, the student and the firm.”