Before starting my own practice about four years ago, I worked at several different law firms. Each of the shops I worked at had a holiday party, and each firm spent varying amounts of money to throw such events. One of the firms at which I worked had a holiday party at a country club — a really swanky affair. Another one of the law firms I worked at had a holiday party at a bar, which must have cost much less money. Still another shop held its holiday parties at restaurants, which afforded a solid atmosphere. Although holiday parties may cost thousands of dollars that could go into the pockets of partners, law firms should consider going all out when throwing holiday parties.
Perhaps the main reason why law firms should host an incredible holiday party is that it can be crucial to developing a law firm culture and connecting attorneys and staff to the firm. People who work at a law firm rarely interact with each other outside of an office. Most of the time attorneys and staff see each other, it is in the rigid environment of an office. A law firm holiday party might be the only time each year that attorneys and staff interact in a more casual setting, and this can be crucial to forging connections that can be important when completing work and forming an attachment to a firm.
One often-underrated reason for hosting a law firm holiday party is that it can be the perfect occasion for firm alumni to mingle and reconnect with people who they used to work with. I have discussed in previous articles how law firm alumni can be powerful when developing business, building connections within the legal profession, and for other reasons. When people leave law firms, they often go in-house, enter the judiciary, or pursue a number of vocations that can all be helpful to a law firm if they are able to keep contacts alive.
In my experience, it is common for law firm alumni to attend law firm holiday parties if the alumni do not have scheduling conflicts. Indeed, I distinctly remember meeting my predecessor at a firm during that shop’s law firm holiday party, and this person was welcomed back by all of the partners. It was great to talk to this person about issues we both faced, and I am pretty sure that this alumni of the firm threw some work to his old bosses if he could not handle the work himself in his new role. With all of the responsibilities people have, it might be difficult to invest time in law firm alumni or host a dedicated event for these individuals. However, by hosting a law firm holiday party, law firms can not only create a great event for people who currently work at a shop, but can also have a way to reconnect with lawyers who have left a firm for other jobs.
Lastly, holding an epic holiday party can be a source of pride for some law firms. People who work at a shop, and even those who do not work at a firm and only hear about the holiday party, might judge a firm based on how awesome their holiday party is.
For instance, there is a plaintiffs’ firm in my area with many people at a shop where I worked interacted. This firm apparently had an epic holiday party each year, and everyone wanted to be invited to the party and swapped stories of the crazy things that happened at the event.
Even within a firm, past epic holiday parties can be a source of pride for partners. I once worked at a shop that had seen better years in prior decades since the partners were close to retirement, and the law firm had been downsizing. The partners glowingly talked about past holiday parties, including an event that took place at Windows on the World, an amazing restaurant and event complex that occupied the top floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. If law firms throw an epic event, it can be something they might be proud of for decades, and this is worth the expense of hosting such an event.
Apologies for publishing this article so late in the holiday season! Since holiday parties are already occurring, law firms likely cannot heed the advice in this article during the current holidays. However, when it comes to planning law firm holiday parties, shops should consider investing in such events since it can yield dividends in how it positively impacts law firm culture.
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 [email protected].