Biglaw, Holidays and Seasons, Money, Paralegals, Secretaries / Administrative Assistants, Shopping, Shopping For Others

Assistants and Holidays: Some Hints on Gift Giving

Ed. note: This is the second 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.

Feeling like Santa Claus yet? If not, it’s time to dust off your best red velvet suit and get in the mood — because it’s time to give gifts to the people you work with. Hooray, said no one ever. Relax, it isn’t that hard….

Secretaries. In general, think “holiday card filled with cash,” not “a weird scarf I PERSONALLY knitted JUST for you.” When I was in Biglaw, the general rule around the office was to multiply your class year by $100. (So: A fifth year would pay his secretary $500.) But this secretary gift amount is very much a Know Your Office kind of thing, because when I suggested this ratio to my readers over at Corporette, they pretty much fell on the floor laughing — but then, they’re from all around the country. So ask around — the bottom line is that you don’t want to your secretary to be wildly undergifted compared to everyone else and get upset about it. Odds are very good that your secretary is going to want cold, hard cash much more than he or she will want gift cards, a gift, or, God forbid, something homemade. If you’re feeling nice (or you actually like your assistant), throw in a plant, a bouquet of flowers, or perhaps a lunch out.

Colleagues. Again: know your office. If your office is doing a “Secret Santa” kind of thing, I think an iTunes or Amazon giftcard is always a safe way to go. If you still haven’t sent out coworker holiday cards, check out our advice — who gets ‘em, what kind to send, what to write inside, and how to address them.

Paralegals. I tend to agree with the Above the Law poll consensus from last year — holiday gifts are not expected for paralegals (but then, I would hope that’s because they’re getting a bonus the way lawyers do, but that probably varies widely from firm to firm). If you worked closely with one paralegal, consider taking him or her out for lunch.

Other Staffers. Ah, but a law firm is so much more than just lawyers, secretaries, and paralegals, isn’t it? Consider passing a general card around the office for the guys in Duplicating, the Steno staff, the Library crew, the mail room — all the other departments that keep the business running (and who can wreck your life if they happen to hate you), and possibly having one trustworthy soul collect money to eventually be placed in the card. (Although I seem to remember just interofficing around a card filled with a growing pile of cash — not the smartest.) You will be remembered if your name isn’t on that card. If you regularly lean on any particular department (“I know I just asked for these 50 boxes of docs to be copied yesterday, but could we please do it AGAIN and by tomorrow morning? Thanks!”) then consider personally gifting something.

Readers, what do you give to secretaries, coworkers, paralegals, and staffers?


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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