The holiday season is typically a great time of the year for the legal community. Attorneys and staff can usually look forward to an assortment of parties and other traditions that make “the most wonderful time of the year” even more special. One of the things that I liked about the holiday season when I worked at bigger law firms is that vendors would often give gifts to attorneys and staff. Now that I have my own practice, it is far less likely that a vendor will provide me with a holiday gift (probably since I am less able to throw business their way) and a recent conversation with another small-firm lawyer informed me that it is less common for solo and small-firm lawyers to receive such gifts. This made me remember and appreciate all of the holiday gifts I used to receive from vendors at larger shops.
When I was a street lawyer at a 30-attorney firm, we used to conduct depositions regularly, and we would usually use one specific court-reporting service. Around the holiday season, to thank us for using their service, this business provided every attorney in the office (and some staff) with a gift basket. The gift basket had all of the knickknacks you would expect from a gift basket (like the ones made famous in “The Office”!) and they also included a bottle of alcohol.
Interestingly, the court reporting service knew who was a partner and who was an associate at our firm. For all of the associates, the vendor provided cheap bottles of wine in the gift baskets. For all of the partners, they included a decent bottle of vodka. I knew I would much rather have the vodka than the cheap wine, so I hatched a plan to get a bottle. The court reporting service sent a gift basket to our New York office for a partner who worked in New Jersey. I wasn’t sure if the firm was going to bother shipping the basket to the partner, and before they could, I switched my bottle of cheap wine with the bottle of vodka! All of the associates around the office thought I was pretty badass for my antics, and since the firm didn’t award bonuses that year, none of the associates thought it was too objectionable to pull off the switcheroo. In any event, the gift baskets were a great way to thank us, and all of the associates and myself who went a year without bonuses were happy to at least have some recognition around the holidays.
When I moved to another firm, the holiday gifts provided by a vendor were a little different. This vendor gave associates gift cards with a certain amount of value inside a note thanking us for using that court reporting service the previous year. I was super happy to get anything, and the value of the gift cards was around $50 or more.
Hilariously, we discovered that some of the associates received gift cards for more value than others. In addition, some associates received gift cards to more desirable locations than others. I am not sure how the vendor made decisions about where to buy the gift cards and how much value should be on the gift cards, but oddly, I always ended up getting the most desirable gift cards with the most value! Sometimes the other associates and myself would trade gift cards so people would have cards to establishments that they actually enjoyed.
In any event, legal professionals probably never thank vendors for providing these gifts since the gifts are likely meant to express gratitude to lawyers and staff for using the services of vendors. However, let me just relate on behalf of myself and the countless attorneys and staff that I have worked with over the years that such gifts are much appreciated and mean a lot. Sometimes, lawyers are not appreciated by their bosses, and they may be bitter around the holidays. This might be because professionals did not receive a raise, a bonus, or because of some other issue. As a result, receiving a little something from a vendor can make an impact on increasing holiday cheer and morale around an office. Indeed, you could almost see everyone’s faces light up when gifts were delivered, and I wish vendors were around to witness this reaction. Naturally, vendors need to spend precious money providing such gifts, but such presents are not only beneficial for creating goodwill, they also increase the morale of an office.
Of course, I wish some vendors would be more progressive in the types of gifts they send. Indeed, partners should not necessarily get better gifts than associates, especially when associates may appreciate a gift more and will likely be able to refer additional work as they progress in their careers. Nevertheless, holiday gifts from vendors to attorneys and staff can not only help solidify relationships but can also add to the positive environment around a law firm office during the holidays.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.