Ed. note: This is the first installment in a new series of monthly posts, brought to you by Corporette’s Kat Griffin, which will deal with topical business and lifestyle issues that present themselves in the world of Biglaw. Send your ideas for future columns to us by clicking here.

In just a few weeks, ’tis the most dreaded time of year for law firm associates: the time for holiday parties. What do you wear? What do you drink? Do you have to dance with your assistant? Can’t you just stay at the office until the after party gets started?

Keep reading for some tips and tricks on the dos and don’ts for law firm holiday parties….

What To Wear

As the founder of Corporette, this is, of course, my preferred topic. The first thing is to know the difference between the three main kinds of holiday parties you’ll encounter:

  • Intimate. The partner you’re working with invites a few team members over to his incredibly swank apartment to celebrate the end of the year. If it’s a weekday, go in whatever you wore to work that day (if you’re a woman, perhaps look into a festive blazer — the guy version of this is a nice corduroy blazer). If it’s Saturday night, women may consider something more like a conservative cocktail dress. (Consider bringing a hostess gift.)
  • Staff party. Everyone from the firm is invited — staffers as well as lawyers. This is probably held at a public spot, and most likely on a weekday. Nine times out of ten, you wear what you wore to work (again, perhaps with a festive blazer) — check with your colleagues before you pull out a strapless dress or rent a tuxedo for the event.
  • Lawyers-Only Party with a Ballroom. At my old firm, we jokingly called this the “Prom.” Here is where you may want to start thinking more along the lines of wedding guest attire. Ask a few of the older associates — you may want to rent or buy a tuxedo for the event, and ladies, you may actually need to break out a long evening gown. (Over at Corporette, we have some advice on how to look professional in an evening gown, as well as some tips on how to save money on black-tie attire.)

What to Drink

Regardless of which kind of party you’re at, the answer here is the same: Very Little. Do not be the person who’s drunk before the after party. There are three main ways to do this: 1) Nurse one drink all night long (choose carefully — what you drink does say something about you); 2) Drink one water or soda for every alcoholic drink you consume; 3) Fake-drink: order things like a lime and soda with lots of ice, so it looks like you’re drinking a vodka soda.

Party Etiquette

You don’t have to dance with anyone (again, this may be the kind of thing that is saved for the after party), but do try to circulate and talk to everyone at the party. Don’t just huddle with your lawyer friends in the corner.

What If There Is No After Party?

Trust me on this one — there is always an after party. (And sometimes an after party to the after party.) Ask around. (And in theory, SURE, you can stay at work until the after party — but you’d better send at least one timely email during the party to make it look like you were actually working.)

Got any other tips for surviving this holiday season as an associate? Feel free to sound off in the comments.


Kat Griffin is the founder, publisher, and editor-in-chief of Corporette. She received her JD with honors from Georgetown University Law Center, and then returned to New York to work at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, where she worked as a litigator for six years; she then worked as a staff attorney at the Media Law Resource Center for two years. You can contact Kat here.


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