I was watching TV about a week ago (yes, live TV!) and to my surprise and, I’ll admit, to my chagrin, a holiday commercial flashed on the screen. I thought that there was an unspoken rule that holiday commercials could not play before Halloween, but apparently, the advertisers in question did not get the memo and decided to capitalize on the 2.5 months before the holidays to hawk their goods. This got me thinking to how the holidays were right around the corner, and whether law firms would return to their normal festivities this year. Although people have said it before, I am hoping that this year is finally the time when law firms can have holiday parties like they did before COVID-19.
In 2020, pretty much every firm went without a holiday party. The COVID-19 pandemic was raging, and cases were rising because more people were indoors around the holiday season due to the cold weather. In addition, COVID-19 vaccines were just being rolled out, and only a small amount of healthcare workers had vaccines at that point. Law firms wisely chose to maintain social distancing by not having holiday parties, and it is clear that holiday parties could have been super spreader events.
In 2021, the situation was a little different. COVID-19 vaccines had been around for quite some time, and they were relatively effective against the virus. Against this backdrop, many law firms decided to host holiday parties. However, right after Thanksgiving, news broke that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 had been discovered, and it was much more transmissible and vaccine-resistant than other variants. Some law firms decided to cancel their holiday parties while other law firms decided to go ahead with their plans. Around the holidays, COVID-19 case counts reached levels never seen before, and it was usually a solid idea not to host a gathering against this backdrop.
However, this holiday season may finally be different. There is so much natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity in the population that perhaps case counts will not rise too dramatically around the holidays. Moreover, the bivalent vaccines are now widely available, and they are more effective against the Omicron variants than other vaccines. I have been wrong before about a return to normal when it comes to the holidays in the legal profession, but hopefully this year, things will be more like they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.
I hope companies will organize a variety of holiday events this year that were typically held before the pandemic. Top of mind is the Above the Law holiday party I have attended almost every year it was held for the past decade. This event was an amazing time for individuals across the legal profession to get together, take it easy, and make new connections. The event was always well-attended by people from across the legal profession. Not to out the great folks for whom I write, but I really hope this event makes a return sometime soon.
I also loved attending holiday parties hosted by various vendors. Some service companies within the legal industry, like court-reporting agencies, held holiday parties frequently before the pandemic. Some of these events were legendary “can’t miss” affairs according to numerous industry insiders. The events were a good way for the companies to advertise their servicews and were also a solid way for attorneys to meet people who did not work at their firms. Of course, such events probably cost a pretty penny that can impact the bottom line of these companies, but the events are a great way to build good will for these companies with many different kinds of lawyers.
Lastly, of course, some of the greatest holiday parties within the legal profession are hosted by law firms themselves. Every single firm I worked at had a holiday party. Some of the holiday events were huge affairs at country clubs or other exclusive venues at which the firm likely spent tens of thousands of dollars. Other holiday parties past firms hosted were smaller affairs at a local bar. No matter the size or venue, law firm holiday parties can be a great way for individuals who work at a law firm to forge connections outside of an office. This can also be the perfect time for alumni of the law firm to reconnect with people with whom they used to work, which can be helpful toward business development efforts.
All told, the legal industry has had to sacrifice a number of traditions over the past few years because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully, this year can be the first year in a while in which lawyers and staff within the legal profession can enjoy a mostly normal holiday season.
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.