'Who needs cash? We have these nifty red hats!'

Over the weekend, I had dinner with a friend of mine who used to work as a paralegal at a small law firm. She told me about how one year, for the holidays, all the lawyers chipped in to get her a gift certificate to a spa, so she could get herself a massage.

I said it sounded like a nice gesture. This was not the reaction my friend was going for in telling the story; she viewed the gift as an insult. Her view: Christmastime is the time to show me the money.

I can understand that perspective for secretaries or administrative assistants. As we’ve discussed before, if you’re an attorney you should give your secretary a holiday gift that’s either cash or a cash equivalent (like an AmEx or Visa gift card). As a legal secretary once told us, “if you decide on giving gift certificates [to specific stores], I sincerely hope your next bonus will be paid in the same currency.”

But paralegals, at least at large firms — my friend who got the massage certificate worked at a small firm — are a trickier proposition. Over the course of a year in Biglaw, a lawyer might work with many different paralegals, on a wide range of matters. Are you expected to give gifts to all of them?

So what should a lawyer do with respect to holiday gifts for paralegals? And, of course, what’s the “going rate” for holiday gifts for secretaries in 2011?

Let’s conduct some reader polls, and open up the comments for discussion….

First, on the subject of paralegals, I consulted with an associate at a large firm who previously worked as a paralegal at another large firm. He outlined one approach, used at his current firm, that struck me as sensible: groups of lawyers who work on different matters get together and pool money for gifts to the paralegals who work on each matter.

(This was essentially what happened at my friend’s firm — all the lawyers at the small firm got together and gave her a joint gift — but she just wished it had been cash rather than a gift certificate to a spa.)

The group gift approach seems logical. But how widely is it practiced? Here’s our first reader poll:

How should a lawyer deal with holiday gifts for the paralegals she works with?

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And for our second poll, here’s a straightforward survey about holiday gifts for secretaries. (The question says “secretary / secretaries” because some lawyers have multiple secretaries — e.g., a primary secretary and a backup secretary — and this question seeks the TOTAL amount of giving, to all secretaries, from a given attorney.)

Approximately how much are you spending in total on holiday gifts for your secretary / secretaries?

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Feel free to explain your votes by discussing in the comments to this post. Happy Holidays!

Earlier: Holiday Gifts for Your Secretary / Administrative Staff: Open Thread (2010)
Making the Holidays Happy for Your Secretary / Administrative Staff: Open Thread (2009)
Further Thoughts: The Time for Giving (to your Secretary/Administrative Staff) (2008)
The Time for Giving (to your Secretary/Administrative Staff): Open Thread (2008)


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