Holidays and Seasons

champagne bottle Christmas party holiday party Above the Law blog.jpgThe New York Times reports on a growing trend in American business: the cancellation of holiday parties. With the stock market having finished its worst month since 1987, and with layoffs running rampant, there’s not much to celebrate. People, this is no time for egg nog.

Law firms that have canceled holiday festivities include DLA Piper (Chicago) and Fried Frank. Financial firms going Grinch include Morgan Stanley, Barclays, and American Express.

But some law firms won’t be bullied into relinquishing the Christmas spirit. From the NYT:

[S]ome companies see holiday gatherings, whatever the style and scale, as an important hedge against sagging morale — particularly at a time when raises and bonuses will likely be scarce.

“It’s important to get people together for a little social event at that time of year, especially when it’s been as tough a year as this,” said Peter Horowitz, a spokesman for the Wall Street law firm Shearman & Sterling, which is planning holiday lunches and dinners at less expensive restaurants this year. “But at the same time, you have to make sure that you don’t go overboard.”

Perhaps this bodes well for bonuses at Shearman? Hopefully S&S stockings will be filled with cash and not coal.

Or are holiday parties the opium of the masses for Biglaw? Throw everyone a big party, with lots of booze, then announce low bonuses the next day, when they’re too hungover to complain?

Forget Caviar: Holiday Parties Feel the Pinch [New York Times]

DLA Piper logo Above the Law blog.jpgIn what could be a trend, DLA Piper has canceled the holiday party for their Chicago office. The move is similar to Fried Frank’s decision to scrap their holiday festivities, but there is no indication on whether DLA intends to donate any of their party money to charity (as Fried Frank did).

Spokespeople for DLA Piper did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It’s not just the legal community that’s scaling back on holiday cheer. Yesterday, Barclays announced they were canceling their holiday party too. For a complete list of the financial firms that have gone Grinch, see our sister site, Dealbreaker.

The holiday party is just one notch on the ever tighter belt. More after the break.

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[Ed Note: Do you have a question for next week? Send it in to [email protected]]

pls hndle copy 2.jpgATL -

I’m new at my firm (small firm in Midwest, not BigLaw), and apparently people here dress up for Halloween. The head partner has sent a bunch of emails reminding everyone to wear their costumes on Friday, Oct. 31 and the secretaries are going nuts talking about it. What should I go as? Or should I not dress up?

All Dressed Up For Nothing

Dear All Dressed Up For Nothing -

Your firm differs little from Biglaw; every shop I know treats Halloween as a day of unbridled merriment and levity. Deals come to a screeching halt, associates throw documents off their desk and set up jack-o-lanterns and duplicating and graphics department mail people cast their bitter feuding aside to hold hands and dance around the cafeteria bonfire. To keep up with your firm’s apparent enthusiasm for the holiday, so you’ll need a costume that projects an image of the associate (and future partner!) they want you to be: bold, slutty and borderline offensive.

If there are devout Latter Day Saints at your firm, consider going as a Yearning for Zion FLDS member. Wear a stunning number from FLDS Crafts and spend the day carrying around a sister wife blow up doll and eight Cabbage Patch Kids. Commiserate with LDS colleagues about the long commute to work in a covered wagon.

Another sure-fire hit is donning a blonde wig and a slutty nurse costume. When your supervising partner asks what you’re dressed as, reply “Your wife.”

Finally, if you don’t want to spend a ton of money on a costume, wear a suit and turn the pockets out. Smear grease on your face, clutch a crumpled Lateral Link brochure with your fingerless gloved hands. Make a matilda using a golf club and tie a Thelen gym bag to the end. You’re all set to go as a homeless person. Now that’s scary.

Happy Halloween!

Your friend,

Marin

Elie’s advice after the jump.

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Nightmare on Main Street”

Scarlet Pumpkin Sign.jpgWe previously discussed Maryland’s Halloween sex offender ordinance, which requires convicted sex offenders to turn off their lights and display the sign (shown to the right) warning children to stay away on Halloween.

Missouri has a similar law. They require sex offenders stay inside between 5 and 10:30 p.m., prohibits them from participating in Halloween related activities, and wants them to turn down the lights and post a “no candy here” sign.

According the WSJ Law blog, District Judge Carol Jackson struck down parts of the law yesterday. In particular, the judge was concerned with the vagueness of the law:

Apparently, Judge Jackson was concerned that in some cases, parents could be punished for Halloween activities with their own children, such as “carving a pumpkin in the privacy of your kitchen with your 5-year-old child.” She questioned whether such parents might have to send their kids away on Halloween to avoid prosecution. “It’s not too much to expect criminal laws to be clear,” she said.

The judge did not note what many of our commenters already have: telling sex offenders to turn down the lights is a terrible idea.

Seriously, the whole thought process behind trampling civil liberties requiring these extra regulations for convicted sex offenders is the fear about sex offender recidivism. If we are truly worried that sex offenders are ticking time bombs waiting to explode all over little children, shouldn’t their houses remain well-lit at all times?

Also, why should sex offenders be forced to stay home on Halloween? It seems like a great time for them to fulfill their Megan’s Law requirements, just like Will Forte suggested.

Halloween & the Law: Targeting Sexual Offenders [WSJ Law Blog]

Earlier: The Scarlet Pumpkin

Fried Frank Harris Shriver Jacobson LLP Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgGiven the list of associate “perks” firms could be cutting back on during these tough economic times, the latest news from Fried Frank seems very reasonable. Associates at Fried Frank were told today:

Dear All,

In light of continued turmoil in the financial markets and the wider economy, and the effect it is having on so many we know, we think it is not appropriate to host Firm holiday parties this year.

The Firm has a strong platform and business with which to succeed in this very demanding business environment and continues to be involved in many interesting and challenging matters for our clients. Instead of the parties, the Firm will be making charitable contributions to certain organizations who rely on donations during the holiday season to accomplish their purpose during this time of year and which are feeling the effects of the slowdown in the economy.

Thanks very much.

Valerie Jacob and Justin Spendlove

Despite the success of last year’s bash at Cipriani on Wall Street, this would seem to help associates in two ways. It saves the firm money — without firing anybody. That is an unqualified good.

But also: who enjoys the firm holiday party anyway? It’s just an opportunity for associates to get too drunk and do something colossally stupid that will no doubt end up on Above the Law. (Please don’t cancel the holiday party Mr. Fried and Mr. Frank!)

Seriously though, saving a bit of cash is a good thing for associates. And not for nothing, but giving some extra money to charities during what is sure to be a terrible season for charitable donations is really a great thing to do. During times of economic recession people tend to give less, precisely at times when charities need more.

But it might not be all Salvation Santas at Fried Frank this winter. More after the jump.

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sexy prosecutor.jpgWith Halloween around the corner, we imagine you may be desperately brainstorming costume ideas for next week. While clients may accuse you of being blood-suckers all year long, we know better.

A few years back, we knew of a paralegal who donned tighty-whities over his suit, and spent the bulk of the Halloween night explaining that he was a “legal brief.”

We went searching for other legally-themed costumes, and found “lawyer costume ideas” on Costumezee, including “sexy prosecuter [sic],” pictured at right.

She looks more like sexy school girl in high heels. Where’s the ever-present cup of coffee and boxes of discovery?

Curious as to what “sexy public defender” would look like? Check it out, along with more Halloween costumes, after the jump. We invite you to offer better ideas for costumes in the comments.

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1163919784-1162668862733.jpgIn last Wednesday’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, we asked you whether you billed over Columbus Day Weekend this year.

We received 1,175 responses, and were pleasantly surprised to learn that 26% of you had a pleasant three-day weekend. Associates in Boston were most likely to enjoy a discovery-free Columbus Day, with offices at Bingham, Goodwin Procter, and Ropes & Gray reportedly closed for the day. Overall, 46% of Boston respondents reported that they had not worked over the holiday weekend, followed by 36% of respondents in Philadelphia.

Of course, not all respondents were so lucky. As one associate commented:

One of the name partners threw a hissy fit when someone asked for the time off, because “Columbus Day isn’t Christmas, and this weekend is just like every other weekend.” We were only absent one associate on Monday. Everyone else not a partner was working.

Nice.

Of those who spent time at the office, though, only 65% said that their office was actually open. Among worker bees whose offices were actually closed, 52% said that they simply had things they needed to get done. Another 21% said that a partner had told them to work over the weekend, while 8% said a client had asked them to finish something. 13% said they needed the hours.

But two percent of respondents who worked over Columbus Day weekend even though the office was closed said that they just “wanted to impress people,” which is just sad roughly consistent with prior holiday surveys.

Overall, about 58% of respondents who worked over Columbus Day weekend believed that the work was worth it.

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this Associate Life Survey.

1159667323241.jpgSo far this year, we’ve found that an awful lot of ATL readers get in the billable spirit over the holidays. Back in January and February, we learned that about a quarter of you worked on Christmas, almost a third of you worked over New Year’s, and more than half of you worked on Martin Luther King’s Birthday. This summer, we found that 42% of you worked over the Memorial Day weekend, and 40% of you put in patriot hours over the Fourth of July weekend. And just last month we learned that 45% of you labored over Labor Day Weekend.

In today’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, we continue our exploration of the holidays. Last week, a number of commenters were even more scandalized than usual when ATL took Columbus Day off. But were all of you really working that weekend?

Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this Associate Life Survey.

Scarlet Pumpkin Sign.jpgTrue story: when I was 8-years-old living on Long Island I went trick-or-treating with my friends without adult supervision. On the way home, my bag full of goodies, I got jumped by a group of older kids. My “friends” were busy running away while I tried to “reason” with the bullies. Sensing the these boys were not going to listen to rational arguments I took my faux briefcase (I was going as Ted Kennedy) and knocked one of the bullies right on the temple. Unfortunately, they were many and I was 8. No candy for me that Halloween.

Since then, I’ve always considered it amazingly stupid for parents to let their kids gambol through the night unattended. It’s a pagan holiday and bad stuff can happen.

If more parents followed this basic safety tip, the sign to the right would not be necessary. Our friend at f/k/a explains:

[It's] the sign that sex offenders must display at their homes in Maryland this Halloween. According to the Times, the bright orange pumpkin is the symbol sex offenders “are required to post on their doors with a warning, in capital letters, to trick-or-treaters: ‘No candy at this residence’.” In addition to posting the sign, the offenders must stay at home, turn off outside lights and not answer the door. Some states prohibit sex offenders from decorating the outside of their homes. But, Maryland is mandating this colorful and “attractive” Halloween decoration.

I’m sure many people can appreciate the practicality of not having your kids sidle up to a convicted sex offender’s house on All Hallows Eve. But should people who have ostensibly “paid their debt” to society be forced to decorate their house because some idiot child might come around begging for food?

More analysis after the jump.

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vacation memo from a turkey.jpgWe here at ATL are big believers in push-back. Tell the partners and your colleagues about your personal needs and desires, and try your best to take some control over your work schedule. The firm can survive without you.

But the theory behind successful push back is that you are not the most important person at the firm. It seems that one first-year associate didn’t learn that lesson. He sent out the following “vacation memo,” after just three days at the firm:

1. I will depart for vacation on Wednesday, November 26th (the Wednesday before thanksgiving). I plan to return to the office on Tuesday, December 2nd (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving).

2. In case of emergency, I will be staying at [redacted]. I can best be reached on my cell phone at [redacted]. I will be visiting my parents, and their house has a landline [redacted].

3. The secretaries in my pool will open my mail. These are [redacted].

4. I will be answering my own phone at the numbers listed above.

5. I currently have received no matters, though this will undoubtedly change by Thanksgiving.

6. I will send out an update and official vacation memorandum with this information a week before Thanksgiving.

Some helpful advice, after the jump.

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