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December 23, 2011

“Yes, Virginia, there is a good way to handle law firm holiday cards.”

The following article was published in the December 9, 2011 edition of "The Legal Intelligencer," the oldest law journal in the United States.

"Yes, Virginia, there is a good way to handle law firm holiday cards."

By: Jamie Mulholland

Recently, I received the following e-mail from a law firm managing partner: “Are holiday cards worth the money we have been spending each year? Do you think anybody looks at them or even notices who they are from?”

The question of how to handle law firm holiday greeting cards is as perennial as, well, the holidays. And the answer to that question lies within the firm’s motive for sending them in the first place.

In the ideal scenario, “Scenario A,” the idea is to send a personal message of thanks and remembrance at a special time of the year to a client, referral source or other important firm contact.

However, in the typical recurring scenario at many law firms, “Scenario B,” it is something that takes on a tax-return-filing kind of feel – the reminder to order cards pops up on someone’s calendar in October. When attorneys are polled for a quantity of cards, they give a number that corresponds to either the exact number of people in their contact list, or the quantity of last year’s greeting card list. This scenario is later made even worse if the execution also contains one or more of these variables:

  • The attorney’s secretary signs the attorney’s name to the card
  • The attorney has a stamp made with his/her name to replace a physical signature
  • The card bears no signature at all

To be fair, while this scenario is not a “thoughtless” one, it is reflective of a process done without considering the potential impact. Something to get checked off the “to do” list, as opposed to Scenario A, where you send a personal message of thanks and remembrance, etc.…

So how do attorneys make this marketing expense a worthwhile one? It starts by asking yourself these two questions: Who do I personally get holiday cards from? Does it impact my choice to do business with them? In doing so, you recognize that the action is not necessarily a “given,” and can be adjusted or even eliminated. After all, not every attorney or every firm sends out holiday cards.

Having said that, you cannot dispute that clients and colleagues actually like to feel appreciated and thanked. And, depending on the amount of business they send to the firm, they do, actually, expect to receive an acknowledgement of that business (and, of course, your gratitude).

So if you determine that you the expenditure is, indeed, a smart business development move and worth your time and effort, here are a few ways to keep it a painless, streamlined process with maximum impact:

1. Order customized cards with your firm logo. Yes, there are a gazillion “Best Wishes for Peace and Happiness in this Holiday Season” designs out there in any number of catalogs for pennies on the dollar, but in all honesty, it isn’t terribly expensive to create custom cards for your firm. Plus, the more you order, the less you pay per piece (an opportunity to order next year’s stash now). And the impact of a well-designed, custom-printed card is far greater than the generic dove-with-a-bow-in-its-mouth and [YOUR FIRM NAME HERE] inside.

2. Make the order a coordinated (read: economical) effort: designate a single person to be the keeper of the holiday list. Instead of a quantity, ask attorneys for a list, which can be submitted in any format that they prefer: in writing or electronically as a group of v-cards or Excel spreadsheet. This way, the card coordinator can combine the lists, noting duplicates where they exist (so that the same person doesn’t receive multiple cards from several people within the firm), and print the names/addresses right on the envelopes (or the printer can do this, if the firm is going the customized card route).

3. Have a Signing “party”: Upon delivery, the cards can be sent to each attorney for singing, personalization and mailing, or, a single day can be designated as “holiday card signing day.” The cards are set up in a conference room and attorneys can visit the room throughout the day (with donuts or lunch served in that room as an added incentive to attend) and add their signatures to however many recipients they wish. And imagine a recipient’s perspective when they see two ore more personalized greetings in their card: “Wow. How nice. I rank!”

And after all, isn’t that the idea? That, no matter how busy you are, you have stopped what you are doing to take the time to remember the people who have supported your practice with their business, referrals, or services. And sometimes the greatest act of holiday giving isn’t the five tier chocolate covered macaroon tower, but the simple act of saying “thank you.”

Jamie Mulholland has helped law firms in the Philadelphia region achieve their marketing, PR and business development goals for over ten years.