Ho-Ho-Holiday Cards (Or Not)

So by now the parties are in full swing, the eggnog is flowing, and most of your law firm partners have already taken off for the holidays, while insisting that associates and staff work until the last minute before the statutory closing.

One thing that may NOT yet have ground to a halt, though, is the Dreaded Holiday Card process.

Have you ever wondered how law firm holiday cards get to be so generic? Or how many emails the Marketing Department gets begging for a more creative card this year? Or how many versions they go through, losing creativity at each iteration, until they end up with, yes, a generic, inoffensive, totally forgettable card again? Or why the cards are always sent out so late?

No? Don’t blame you. Here’s how the usual Holiday Card meeting goes.

Partner A: (hitherto the biggest proponent of Kreeaytividdy) “This doesn’t look festive enough.”

Partner B: (hitherto the biggest insister that holiday cards are a waste of time and money) “We’ve got to get these things out earlier! One of my best clients mentioned that he hasn’t received a card from me.”

Partner C: (hitherto the biggest insister that the firm’s card shouldn’t look like every other firm’s card) “What is Blakes doing this year?”

Partner D: “This card is soooo boring!” (Subsequently, his best client sends him a thank-you note for having captured the true spirit of the holidays in the drawing of a snow-covered park with a young couple walking their toddler.)

Partner E: “I can’t send these cards! Many of my clients aren’t Christian.” (The proposed card is all white, with a grey tree bough on which sits a brilliant red cardinal—the bird, not the Prince of the Church.)

Most law firms have been through some form of this fruitless debate. Despite the fact that their marketing departments dutifully began the process in August, you can bet that in mid-December lawyers’ assistants will be panicking: “He’s changed his mind! I need 300 cards, but not this year’s ones because he doesn’t like them. Have you got any of last year’s left?”

Over the years, I’ve dutifully researched all the wisdom put out by my colleagues on the marketing value of holiday cards, which boils down to:

  • Cards are only of value as part of a year-long client communications plan (I agree wholeheartedly)
  • Sign all cards yourself (good luck with that)
  • Send cards at Thanksgiving or New Year instead of Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other of the 29 religious celebrations at this time of year (meh)
  • Make a donation to charity (One of my clients’ clients asked for the tax receipt: “You said you made a donation in my name!”)

Here’s my personal suggestion. Whether or not you send cards, do take the opportunity to send a message to your clients. Think of it as an end-of-year letter where you express appreciation for their business, highlight some important happenings throughout the year, mention what you’re looking forward to in the coming year, and wish them the very best.

Above all, mean it. Be your authentic self. You know how the saying goes: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

And whatever you celebrate at this time of year, with whomever, do it with joy. I wish all SLAW readers peace, health, and happiness in 2017.


  1. I liked Paliare Roland’s this year – no card, just a note saying that this year it felt particularly appropriate to make a donation to the Southern Poverty Law Centre instead.

  2. I like the fancy cards distributed as email, with sincere wishes for seasonal joy, often with animated graphics and music, followed by a notice that the contents may be privileged and confidential and that if I were not the intended recipient, I should delete the message and let them know.