Q: Should I Send Christmas Cards?

A: No. For two reasons.

First, because holiday cards are a great example of lawyers doing business just like everyone else. That’s why, between Thanksgiving and a week or so into the next year, nearly everyone sends holiday cards. It’s a great way not to differentiate yourself or your firm in any way. Your card just gets lost in the pile. The situation is worse with e-cards, which last only a few seconds instead of at least sitting on display for a month or two.

Second, Christmas (literally, Christ’s Mass) is a Christian holiday. Almost a quarter of Americans are not Christian, and although many who are not Christian celebrate Christmas as an American holiday, anyway, those who do not are probably sick of having Christmas shoved down their throats every December. Thanksgiving and New Year cards are inoffensive enough, but you are not fooling anyone with your happy generic holidays card that arrives right around Christmas.

Skip the winter holidays. Pick another holiday on which to send cards. Like April Fool’s Day or Presidents’ Day. Or the anniversary of the day of the first moon landing. Or your dog’s birthday. For bonus points, add birthdays to your card list, and send birthday cards, instead.

If you are going to go to the time (you are going to add a personal note, right?) and considerable expense of sending out a bunch of cards, make them memorable. No Christmas cards.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/michellekc/330905621/)

  • Chris Bradley

    Sending a card on the anniversary of the day of the first moon landing is just good marketing. Cheesy or not, it’s memorable.

  • Jeff

    This article is more appropriate for a Bitter Lawyer posting.

  • http://www.bryceaschmidt.com Bryce A. Schmidt

    Great idea Sam. All those losers sending Christmas cards, trying to let people know that they are thinking about them during a holiday season. Reminds me of those idiots that attend bar meetings and take others to lunch. Such sheeple. Doing the things that everyone else does. I for one refuse to abide by such longstanding social norms. I don’t bother with all that personal networking, and my phone rings off the hook. But unlike everyone else, I don’t answer it. Just to be different.

    Seriously, Sam, people send Christmas cards often simply because it is what everyone else does. Being unconventional doesn’t always make a person a cool hipster. Sometimes it just looks aloof and uncaring. Not the type of impression I want to make on either clients or referring attorneys.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      I see what you’re driving at, but there are few things that require less thought than a business holiday card. Most are generated from spreadsheets and signed without any additional thought. The ones that aren’t might as well be, because they get the same reputation.

      When I get a holiday card, I don’t think the person cares about me; I think he or she is just going through the motions. And if it’s a Christmas card, I get annoyed that they assume we are members of the same faith.

  • http://smallsteppingstones.com/ Paula S.

    Ah, this is why I, a non-attorney type, enjoy reading this blog.

    I actually understand your viewpoint, Sam, but I also agree with Bryce. This is really about client rapport and service. IF an attorney, or other professional, provides services as contracted and goes through the motions, then yes, a card – holiday, birthday or other – would seem insincere.

    However, I would send a holiday card (I don’t celebrate Christmas) to my clients who did celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or any other Winter-related festivity, because I would *know* that about my clients.

    It’s the *knowing* that’ll separate me from the mass holiday card blitz this season.

    For the record, I also don’t send cards from the “box of 20″; I pick cards for my clients. It’s how I roll.

    Great topic & discussion!

  • http://www.paunlaw.com Jerome Paun

    Greetings. I am a criminal defense lawyer in Connecticut and I send clients, former clients, and others Holiday Greetings cards. I especially send Holiday cards to all of my clients and former clients who are incarcerated for as long as I know they are incarcerated. Most of them will never retain me again. Not because I didn’t do a good job but because most were court appointments. When I see them after the Holidays in court, in jail, or sometimes on the street after release, they tell me they really appreciated receiving my card. For many, it was the only card or communication they received over the Holidays. They appreciate that. For me that’s a good enough reason to continue incurring the expense and investing the time to send Holiday cards. Happy Holidays!

  • http://constructionlawva.com Christopher G. Hill

    While I understand the fact that others may or may not appreciate the gesture, I send them every year. I also try to make them humorous and hopefully memorable.

    I find that these cards, when they have a personal note, are a great way to thank a client or past client for their business that year. I’ve gotten several “thanks for the card” type responses and seem to get fewer and fewer paper cards every year during a flood of e-cards and do appreciate those that take the time to send them my way with a note.

    That said, the point of making your efforts memorable is a good one.

  • http://Www.jaybrinker.com Jay Brinker

    Sam, I used to be the cynical, contrarian, young attorney who eschewed customs. Somewhere between getting older and having children, I lost that edge. Feel free to not send cards if the process troubles you or if you think they are unappreciated or if it smacks of social conformity.

    As a solo estate planner, I have sent Christmas cards to clients and referral sources since I started my practice 20 years ago. The annual cost is now approximately $1,000 but I learned years ago that I will earn double that expense in January revenues simply from will revisions because clients received my card and call me with their new year resolution to update their will.

    I can not quantify the benefit of remaining in front of the client for future work or handling an estate when they pass but I suspect it is substantial. I do know that when people call me 10 years after I last saw them they will often say thank you for sending cards all these years.

    I receive dozens of cards from my clients with pictures of their families which means that they consider me more than simply the guy who drafted their wills. That type of client relationship is invaluable.

    Finally, I used to send holiday cards. I have been sending Christmas cards for the past 6 or 7 years. After all, it is Christmas that most of my clients celebrate. I assume my non-Christian clients understand the tradition and thought and do not take the effort to be troubled and bothered that their attorney sent them a card.

    Btw, I appreciate your blog, whether I agree with you or not. Keep it up and best wishes for the coming year.

  • David Faulkner

    I understand your point here Sam. I personally do not hate on the holiday card senders as you seem to do. I think the most important thing here as the the card be personalized with a sincere and relevant hand written note.

    For me, it would seem to me to be a good business practice to send two cards to a good client. The first one should be just after the client hires you. That card should include a personalized hand-written note that lets the client know that you sincerely appreciate the fact that they have entrusted their legal matter to you and that you will work hard for them. The second card should have a hand-written note again thanking the client for their business and letting them know you will be there for them in the future if need be.

  • John C

    I really agree with David Faulkner’s comment. I always make a point of sending a client a “thank you” card within a week after finishing whatever it is that I have done for them, whether it’s a will, a real estate deal or what have you. I include a personal note with the card. I get many comments from my clients expressing how much they appreciated receiving them. I also send a thank you card to anyone who refers someone to me, with again a hand written note. Again, I have had many clients express how they really enjoyed getting those cards. And, for what it’s worth, I am also a Christmas card sender – again including a personal note on each card.

  • Sybil Dunlop

    Note to self: take Sam off of firm Holiday card list.

  • John Kennedy

    Well I feel the need to chime in. A computer signed form Christmas card with no personal note is a waste. A real card, with a hand written note is invaluable. I notice those, and in the days of techno-generated, un-feeling, going-through-the-motions marketing I think that we stand out when we send a real, hand-written personal card any day of the year.

  • John Kennedy

    One of my clients told me today that a lawyer sent her a Christmas card with him and his wife in a hot tub in Jamaica. She thought it was not only unprofessional but odd and creepy. They stopped sending him work. So glad to know what some of my competition is doing.