I trust that after last week’s column, all my small-firm spinsters are well on their way to finding meaningful, romantic relationships with their co-workers (read: New Year’s Eve booty calls). After waking up at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, I realized that I forgot to suggest one guaranteed way to meet your small-firm suitor: the office party.

While Tannebaum may hate the office holiday party, I believe that it is one of the main — if not most important — reasons to work for a small firm. Or, for that matter, to be a law firm lawyer at all. Indeed, I may be drowning in debt come graduation, but at least I will be able to drink cheap boxed wine with a rainmaking partner once a year. It is worth the investment. (Take that, Wall Street Journal.)

As much I love me a holiday party, however, I do believe there are certain rules one must follow. I cannot promise that I observe these rules myself, but as the saying goes, those who cannot do, teach. And with that, here is a guide for how to behave at the office party….

1. Don’t get wasted.

This rule is the most important — and most difficult. For some reason, office parties have way more drink then they do food. And this disproportion is magnified when it comes to food that one would want to eat. Small-firm party planners, let’s lose the phrase “heavy appetizers.”

Unfortunately, it falls to you to use some self-discipline. According to one holiday party guide, do not drink more than two alcoholic drinks. Why not?

Face it, you’re not a co-ed at Mardi Gras, and you don’t have the tolerance of when you were. Also, showing your tits is not appropriate for the person you have to show your annual review. It’s just not.

Or, as eloquently stated by my girl Patti Stanger, “if you f*** with tequila, you get babies.”

2. Don’t dress like a pimp or a prostitute.

It is natural to want to shed your sad work clothes for something flashier at the office party. Indeed, at my last firm, support staff left the office an hour early to get their hair did and change into their party attire. It is one thing to look a little flashier, and another to, well, flash your co-workers. Ladies, hide your jugs. Fellas, button your shirt and press your chinos. And don’t dress like this guy.

3. Don’t hook up at the party.

No, hook up after, when nobody knows. At the party, it is all business. This is important for several reasons:

  • your boss is watching you (and hopefully so is HR);
  • all of your co-workers have a camera phone; and
  • per Gawker: “[W]hat is more cliche than getting wasted and doing something dirty with someone you work with in the bathroom of the party. That is so sad. That is like Cathy cartoon sad. Don’t be that guy, and don’t be that girl.”

So, avoid making inappropriate comments or exhibiting unwarranted touching. That goes for you, Managing Partner, who insists on hugging all the female associates for much longer than necessary (or hugging us at all).

4. Don’t bring a guest.

It is inhumane to force non-employees to listen to stories about discovery battles or opposing counsel’s body odor. Also, without having to worry about the well-being of your guest, you can maneuver much more easily and get out of the office party before things get weird. And you do not want to have to explain to your guest why the partner you work for brought a professional guest (yes, I was informed by a small-firm attorney that a partner brought an escort to the holiday party).

5. Mingle with a purpose and have an exit strategy.

Let’s face it, office politics matter — especially at small firms. So, it is important to schmooze with the important (and not important) partners and their spouses. Don’t get stuck in endless conversations, however; have a plan for how to get out of there. Just remember, if your way out is to tell a lie, use the same story on everyone.

Do you have any office party survival tips? Or, better yet, do you have any office party gossip (and/or documentation!)? Email me.

10 Tips to Survive Your Office Holiday Party [Gawker]


When not writing about small law firms for Above the Law, Valerie Katz (not her real name) works at a small firm in Chicago. You can reach her by email at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ValerieLKatz.


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