Alumni Leader Spotlight: Karen Cheung, Sullivan & Cromwell
Karen Cheung is the Associate Director, Client and Alumni Service at Sullivan & Cromwell, where she manages the global law firm’s alumni network of 4,000+ former attorneys, which was launched in 2016.
C.L. Karen Cheung is the Associate Director, Client and Alumni Service at Sullivan & Cromwell, a global law firm that advises on significant litigation, corporate investigations and complex regulatory, major domestic and cross-border M&A, finance, corporate and restructuring transactions, tax and estate planning matters. Karen leads the alumni relations initiatives for the firm.
Prior to her current role, Karen was the Associate Director of Business Development also at Sullivan & Cromwell. Karen obtained her PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of East Anglia, UK and her MPhil and BA from the University of Hong Kong. Karen writes literary fiction in her spare time and is a keen hiker. Karen is a 2024 fellow of 92NY Women in Power.
It’s been amazing to see the Sullivan and Cromwell Alumni Network flourish with Karen’s leadership, and we sat down to ask a few questions and get to know her better.
PeoplePath: Tell us about yourself & your professional background.
Karen: I’ve been with the firm since 2011, held several roles within Business Development, and now am Associate Director of Client and Alumni Service.
I lead alumni relations initiatives, provide career placement services to alumni to increase client engagement, coordinate directly with clients to understand their hiring needs, conceptualize and execute on new alumni programs to increase touch points, and create new business development opportunities through alumni outreach by looking at the financial health of alumni companies.
PeoplePath: What’s your favorite part of your role?
Karen: Providing career placement advice to our alumni and friends of the firm is one of the most gratifying and rewarding experiences I have had at work.
Our department provides tailored, confidential career advisory services to our former and current lawyers, who often come to us during difficult times and appreciate any help that we can offer. When we successfully place them in roles that they want, it is the most satisfying feeling as the service we provide adds value to their lives and establishes a long-lasting relationship based on goodwill.
PeoplePath: How did you start working in corporate alumni networks?
Karen: The Head of the Talent Network Department was leaving the firm and there was an urgent need for someone who knew the firm and the partnership inside out to step in and support the department.
The firm leadership called on me to move laterally and I took the opportunity to expand my horizon and use my business development skills to increase client engagement within our alumni community.
PeoplePath: What would you like people to know about you?
Karen: I am also a fiction writer and am completing my first novel, which I am hoping to sell. One of the best jobs I have had was teaching creative writing at the University of East Anglia, UK, just after I completed my PhD in Creative and Critical Writing there. It paid nothing so I decided to go into corporate communications and later legal business development. It was a decision I have never regretted, as I still write in my spare time.
PeoplePath: What do you think is the biggest roadblock for companies who are interested in starting a formal alumni network?
Karen: The success of an alumni program depends heavily on partner buy-in. The partnership needs to believe in the value of maintaining alumni relationships and understand their importance as a long-term investment. Without a positive direction and messaging from the top, alumni managers would not be able to garner resources to provide the level of support that alumni programs need.
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