We have all heard it before – the Wabash alumni network is an influential group of men across the globe ready to offer advice, internships, and personal mentoring. Is it true or just marketing hype?
Jacob German ’11, an associate in the Governmental Services and Public Finance Department of Barnes & Thornburg LLP offers his insight into Wabash, Law School, and the alumni who have helped him get there.
How have Wabash alumni influenced and mentored you in your young career?
Bob Grand ’78 has been a fantastic friend and mentor for almost a decade. Kyle ’11, his son, is my pledge brother. Bob always came back around campus and the Beta house, offering advice and opportunities to eager students. Even though Bob’s world moves a million miles a minute from coast to coast, he still took the time to discuss with me the pros and cons of law school and the changing dynamic of the law practice. Bob guided me through the difficult waters of the current legal market, helping me realize the intersection of my passion (government/politics) with a niche of a legal practice.
For years, Scott Himsel ’85 challenged me to an intellectual duel on the nuances of Supreme Court decisions and policy determinations. He is the best at taking a stand on one side of the argument, possibly even agreeing with your point of view, and then completely turning your argument against you. In that moment you realize he has taken you exactly where you did not want to go – the weeds, alone. But it really is a fascinating mental exercise. The great thing about his class is that he cares as much about the students as he does about teaching the students. He is our law advisor – law school, legal profession, applications, letters of recommendation, bar applications, etc. He’s our guy, in our corner.
David Shane ’70 played football with my dad at Wabash nearly 40 years ago. Dave has been a legal professional in Indianapolis for a long time; he sat with me, and strategized about what firms to apply to, what other jobs to look at, what area of the law would I enjoy and excel. He took me under his wing and made sure I had all the information while trying to make my way as a lawyer. He helped me reach out to people all over the city. Without him, I would not have made half of my connections.
Nelson Alexander ’90 took the time to meet with me. I am not sure if he would remember our 20-minute conversation three years ago. But, it made a tremendous impact on me. Every person needs someone in their life to be completely, bare bones, honest with them. Nelson was that to me. He discussed the legal marketplace in a way I had never heard it described. He discussed the number of opportunities in firms around Indianapolis. He was very frank. It helped me see the complete picture.
I worked for Jeff Been ’81 at the Legal Aid Society of Louisville. He takes Wabash guys interested in the law, puts them to work, and allows them to interact with clients. I also worked for Greg Miller ’83 at his law firm. He allowed me to meet clients, research, and help with his law practice. That was the first time I think I fully grasped the volume of work in a legal practice.
I mention all of these experiences to say this – I am a big believer in picking your own board of directors. Pick people around you who you trust and who are “for you.” But, that is not what networking and mentoring are all about. We, as students and rising professionals, need to have people in our life who take us under their wing, or tell us the real truth about the legal profession, or throw us in the deep end and let us work, and finally be our friend when things are tough. My professional life would not be the same without each and every one of these guys and many, many others.
How many Wabash alumni do you work with in your current position?
I work primarily with three Wabash alumni. Jeff Qualkinbush ’88 is our department administrator. I work on a daily basis for Brian Burdick ’91 and Bob Grand. Brian is the Indianapolis managing partner and Bob is the firm managing partner. Both are practicing governmental service attorneys.
How did Wabash prepare you for law school and your current position?
Wabash engrained a deep sense of time management. Law school is unique because nothing really matters until the final exam; however, if you don’t continue to work and read and interpret all semester, there is no way to succeed on the final. Wabash demanded a masterful grasp of reading and writing, not only persuasively but effectively. My job requires a high attention to detail. We use details to form the foundation of arguments, which persuades our different audiences.
What advice do you have for a student considering Wabash?
Wabash College is unique. Be it the all-male institution, our campus involvement, our alumni network, our competitiveness, our swagger. It’s just different. Wabash is not for everyone. We want the do-ers, the guys who are involved, passionate students. Wabash is not some place you go for a passive education. You are one of 900. You matter.
What I tell a student is jump. Come test yourself. Try, on a small scale initially, to remove yourself from safe harbors. Your life will be better because of it. The more you put yourself out there and make that connection, the better you are the next time and the next time. People think certain people are better in interviews than others or are better at networking than others. The difference between people who are good and who aren’t is practice. The people who take the leap and put themselves in those situations grow and mature and find success. That’s why I encourage students to come to Wabash. It forces you to leap.
What’s your number one tip for networking?
Diversity is good. Far too many people confine themselves to comfortable groups. Branch out. Our biggest asset in the beginning of our professional careers are alumni who are older than we are. They know the game and who keeps score. But, don’t forget about your peers. Stay in touch. We are the next group in line to take over, and if you stay in touch with your peer group, they will be the decision-makers of tomorrow.