Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Holiday Party

Last night, HP attended a firm holiday party.  HP thought, this is a useful topic for a new post.  Many of  you will be attending holiday parties over the next couple of weeks (btw, I mean those associated with work, not the regular type with family or friends).  Some may be invited as summer associates, others as lawyers with the firm.  Actually, this advice really applies in professional settings generally.  

Let me start out by noting that none of this is rocket science. It is pretty much common sense.  But no matter, we will still see some holiday party train wrecks.  

Top 10 things to do/not to do at firm (or company) holiday party (not necessarily in order, but HP has a lot to do today:

10. Fail to RSVP -- in a large organization it may not be noticed, but in smaller ones, it may be noted as rude or especially inconsiderate if, say, someone is hosting at their home.  

9.   Dressing inappropriately.  Unless it is black tie, suits are fine for men.  The women tend to get into more trouble here since there's more ambiguity.  Low cut (read: bosoms hanging or more than a bit of cleavage) will get you noticed in the wrong way.  For guests, you may wish to advise similarly, since for years, people at one firm I know discussed a partner's wife and her hanging boobs and the xmas party of 1999?

8. Sitting/hanging with people you always hang with.  You guys and gals know that HP wouldn't like this.  The point is to get out and mingle.  Introduce your guest; make polite small talk.  It helps to have a guest who is outgoing but at a minimum, seems pleasant and don't say anything to piss off someone (e.g. ,a guest once insulted HP's spouse).

7.   Wild dancing.  At some parties, everyone is dancing. At others, just staff.  You need to kind of judge this for yourself.  The safe side is probably not to dance since so many of us look dumb.  In any event, NO DIRTY DANCING.  Yes, I have seen this one myself.  Of course, alcohol can be a factor; you know that is coming later.

6. Bringing your kids  Unless kids are invited (sometimes there are kids holiday parties), do not bring your children -- small or big -- to a firm party.  I am still perplexed by colleague who brought teen son (and wife) to black tie party. Teen son then proceeded to best-friend bartender and drink illegally.  Seemed odd and was very noticed.

5. Hook up with co-workers.  Please do not do the heavy flirt/obvious pick up at the holiday party. We may not know what goes on after hours, but attorneys and staff cavorting in front of us do not help your profile.  Co-attorneys may be a different issue and of course many issues involved there -- supervising attorney or not, etc.  The bottom line is, keep the sexy stuff out of the holiday party.

4. If clients are attending, be on special guard.  Pleasant, cheerful, stay away from controversial topics, etc.  

3.   Do thank the organizers of the party if you know who they are, it never hurts.  

2. Don't gossip about others in the mens/ladies restrooms; you never know who is in the stalls!

1. You knew this one was coming -- don't get toasted.  DON'T DO IT. People, remember.  It is unprofessional and can lead to a violation of several of my no nos above (e.g., hookups).  Just because the liquor is complimentary does not mean this is the frat house.  You can drink but take it easy and stop early.  A DUI would be a very bad career move; being a loud drunk is also a bad career move; hurling at the holiday party similarly not the best career move.

-- I should have made number 1 to Attend -- but this varies -- assuming lawyers do go and it is not a 98% staff function -- yes, you should attend. 

Have fun, be safe, and network!


Anonymous said...

Not sure how many holiday parties took place last night, but I think you might be the HP at my firm. At least I hope so -- I would look forward to this summer even more.

Anonymous said...


Two questions, one general, one more specific to this post. (I am a law student who has never worked in a large firm setting so I am not sure if these are dumb questions -- my apologies if they are)

1) How does one go about meeting attorneys in other practice areas that one does not usually work with? When I have worked in other companies, I knew the people in my section. That was who my desk was near. That was who I could consult with. What is the best way to expand my network?

2) I am a bit shy, and especially at large parties, am very nervous about approaching groups -- what is the best way to get in and mingle with others without looking like you are butting in?

Thank you for your answers, and thanks for the blog. As a 1L, you've given me some great advice.

Anonymous said...

And people wonder why law firms are referred to as "places where fun goes to die".

Hiring Partner said...

re: Anonymous 2:14

If you want fun, call up some friends and plan your own party. Though I have made some terrific, long-lasting friendships at law firms, the basic rule is this: THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS. They are your bosses, your colleagues, your support staff. Do not assume they are looking out for you. Do not assume you can let your guard down. Be courteous and friendly; however, this is still your job. If you want to party like there's no tomorrow, save it for after hours with your real friends.

f-3 said...

1L who asked about networking - the key is taking initiative and practicing. When I started working (career before law), I was incredibly shy, but the more I practiced, the easier it got. This summer when I worked at a firm, I was meeting attorneys left and right even though I never worked with them. Bottom line - it will become natural, comfortable, and easy if you practice.


1) Meeting folks outside practice group - look up the attorneys' bios on the Web site, note their practice / biographical details, and then write tailored e-mails asking to discuss their work and experiences. Reference things specifically, so that they know you've done your homework. E.g.:

"Hi ___, I'm spending my summer here at the firm, and I am very interested in finding out more about the various practice groups. You've built a practice around Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. Would you be willing to chat over a coffee break about your experiences, and what it takes to do well in that practice?"

Always assume people are busy, and let them decide on the time, date, and format of the meeting. To put you at ease: if they hire you for a summer position, attorneys expect summers to be curious and to ask for these kinds of conversations. You are not intruding, and you are not out of line, as long as you are respectful and courteous in asking for that meeting.

2) Party Conversations:

Again, takes practice. Just google "initiating conversations at a party" and you will find many articles with tips. People at parties expect folks to approach and join the circle, unless they are huddled in a corner whispering. You can tell which groups are open or closed. Walk up to a group that seems open, observe and make eye contact, then introduce yourself.

Remember this too: If a group refuses to acknowledge newcomers, **they** are the ones who lack social graces. People standing around at an open party should not be exclusive, period.

If you are still too nervous, then find a group with at least one person you know, and they can facilitate introductions. If that fails, walk up to groups with a friend. It's harder for people to ignore more than one person.

It's a cycle - the more you do it, the easier it gets, and the more confidence you have, the more people will include / accept you. Take it from someone who started out being just as nervous and shy as you are!

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Can you please write a post recommending strategies that judicial law clerks should take in their job hunt. When should we start? Where should we look? How does the current economic crisis affect this strategy?

Conn Q said...

HP, I am a new reader to your blog. After reading your previous posts and attempting to digest them, I wanted to let you know I am ready for more. I look forward to your next post and kernel of advice for an aspiring attorney. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

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