How Southwestern's Nickel Club Gives Back and Makes Careers
By Robert Glassman '09
Perhaps little known to most in the Los Angeles legal community, Southwestern's Nickel Club is a tight knit group of young lawyers and professionals who have graduated from the school within the past five years (hence, the "Nickel" Club). Since its inception in 2008, we have grown into a powerhouse of resources and networking for its members. With a board of fifteen directors, four working committees with thirty members and a general constituency of over 1,500 lawyers and other young professionals, the Nickel Club is now a living and breathing young professional alumni association unlike any other of its kind. And in a big city like Los Angeles with droves of graduates from several other law schools competing for jobs and business, it is important that we look out for our own.
The Nickel Club's objective is to provide unique opportunities for Southwestern's young lawyers to network beyond the workplace, hone their legal skills and promote community service projects.
We are comprised of private practice attorneys at small, midsize and large law firms, from both the plaintiff and defense bars, sole practitioners, government attorneys, public interest attorneys, young professionals in the entertainment and financial services industries and entrepreneurs. Together, we make up a force to be reckoned with. The Nickel Club bridges the gap between the most recent graduates and those who graduated five years ago and also everyone else in between. So while most of us may not have been friends during law school because of the class year differences, we have developed and cultivated relationships - both professional and personal - throughout our participation in the Nickel Club. And believe me when I tell you that the dividends from those relationships have been staggering.
For a recent case in point, let's take a look at how my relationship with another Nickel Club member led to us working together on a multimillion dollar lawsuit. After graduating from Southwestern at different times, Dan Kramer '08 of the recently formed Kramer Holcomb Sheik LLP, a Century City-based boutique transactional and litigation firm (whose partners are all recent Southwestern graduates and Nickel Club members), and I became actively involved in the Nickel Club. Although we barely knew each other in law school, through our participation in the Nickel Club, we became good friends and took an interest in each other's areas of practice. Our goal was to one day find an opportunity to work together on a big case. That day came towards the end of last year when Dan approached me about a potential wrongful death case. After we discussed it and met with the clients, we decided that it was a case worth working on together. Several months after filing the lawsuit, we reached a multimillion dollar settlement. Not only was the outcome satisfying to our clients and our firms, it kick-started a professional working relationship between the two of us that will hopefully yield more big results in the future. Dan and I used the relationship we formed through the Nickel Club and turned it into a career building operation.
Through listserv-type email communications, quarterly board meetings, and several networking and community service oriented events during the year, Nickels have quick and easy access to getting in touch with each other. Accordingly, case referrals are swapped on a weekly basis and other career opportunities are spread around as soon as they become known. If you're a Nickel member who practices bankruptcy and you happen to stumble upon a PI case, the Nickel Club provides you with a forum to quickly and easily refer the case to the appropriate person. And if you're a Nickel who is looking to make a career change, the Nickel Club can increase your search efforts by helping you find your next job.;
Throughout the year, the Nickel Club sponsors several regional happy hours, continuing legal education classes and other events that provide our young alums the opportunity to network with judges, top attorneys and government leaders. Perhaps most notable and well-attended each year are the 50/50 networking mixer and the Nickels and the Bench event. The 50/50 mixer is an opportunity for new and seasoned Southwestern attorneys alike to mingle and discuss their respective practice areas over drinks and hors d'oeuvres in a nice office setting, typically donated by one of our prominent older alums. The Nickels and the Bench event enables our young alumni base to have up close and personal interactions with esteemed members of the bench in an intimate setting. This past year, the presiding judge of Los Angeles Superior Court, the Honorable David S. Wesley '72 (a Southwestern alum himself), was in attendance and provided invaluable advice about courtroom decorum and the everyday practice of law to the Nickels in attendance.
The Nickel Club does more than network and promote career advancement though. We have several events during the year geared towards community service. In fact, one of our four committees, the Public Affairs Committee, exclusively organizes events for this purpose. Among the favorites is the Hoover Elementary School Mock Trial. During the mock trial event, fifth-graders from Hoover visit Southwestern where they witness a staged robbery and then serve as prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, witnesses, and jurors alongside Nickel Club members in a criminal trial. The Nickel Club's outreach efforts at Hoover are designed to help local youth develop a better understanding of the legal system, as well as develop a sense of responsibility and a desire to continue their education.
And recently, the Nickel Club started its own internal fundraising initiative called Barrister's Society which allows young alumni to give back to Southwestern and receive great benefits including membership in the exclusive Dean's Circle and a complimentary Southwestern gym membership. Our contributions through the Barrister's Society have a big impact on Southwestern by supporting student scholarships, the school's award-winning library, and legal clinics where students gain valuable hands-on experiences.
Although it may have started from humble beginnings, the Nickel Club is now a large society of young and hungry lawyers and professionals looking to help each other out. And in an extremely competitive market like the Los Angeles legal community, it feels reassuring to have the Nickel Club's resources by my side as I continue to develop my practice as a young attorney.
Robert Glassman is an associate at Panish Shea & Boyle LLP in Los Angeles where he focuses his practice on litigating large and complex personal injury, wrongful death and product defect cases on behalf of plaintiffs. Mr. Glassman also serves as President of Southwestern's Nickel Club.