The end of the year is a special time when the holiday spirit distracts many of us from life’s troubles. Understandably, legal tasks are gladly set aside as focus is put on the joys that the holidays can bring. For lawyers, this season often results in a significant lull in their practice. Fortunately, this respite gives attorneys an opportunity to focus on other important tasks that may have been set aside during busier times.
Making the Most of the Holiday Interlude
There are numerous ways that an attorney can be productive during a holiday slow-down. Showing appreciation for clients, employees, or contacts is one important activity to focus on. Catching up on pro bono hours or education is another. Attorneys can spend some time catching up on end-of-year activities, or on implementing new business software or practices. This time is also an excellent opportunity to build your community presence.
#1 The Modern Approach to Gift Giving
Once upon a time, it was common practice for attorneys to send holiday gifts to current and potential clients, as well as those that have provided referrals. However, today this practice has become rather outdated and rules of professional conduct have developed stricter rules on solicitation and unethical compensatory gift giving.
Gifting customs are particularly challenging for elder law attorneys, as a significant portion of their client base is a part of the old-school culture of such gift giving customs. For attorneys accustomed to gift giving, there are ways of continuing traditions while avoiding ethical pitfalls. Sending long-time clients and contacts a gift during the holiday season is not prohibited per se, however, careful consideration is emphasized. Selecting de minimis, but personalized, gifts for important recipients is a relatively safe way to go in most states.
The key to avoiding the appearance of compensatory gifts or gifts of solicitation is to avoid giving gifts of great value. An ethics option From the Louisiana State Bar Association states that “prospective recipients of proposed gifts from lawyers should not be encouraged or allowed to conclude easily but mistakenly that, in exchange for or as a result of the gift(s), the recipients are expected to try and solicit prospective new clients for the lawyer.”
#2. Behold the Versatility of Holiday Cards
Other old-school practices, like holiday cards, have also evolved into something entirely new. In the day of social media, email, and tech-savvy networking, new and creative possibilities for holiday marketing have emerged. The long-lived practice of sending holiday cards is a common go-to for law firms; especially since many elder clients lack the technological prowess of younger clients. But, electronic greetings are becoming increasingly popular. Elder-focused attorneys might consider a hybrid approach for showing appreciation through the holiday season.
One such approach could be to send physical greeting cards to your eldest of clients, while tailoring electronic greetings to younger clients. While generic “Dear Client,” greeting cards are discouraged, personalized greetings are a good way to remind clients and associates that you appreciate the relationship that you have built. A personal note and genuine signature go a long way in showing sincerity.
The advancements in technological opportunities have opened doors for previously unavailable means of communication. E-cards are a newer way to reach out to contacts on a mass scale; however these can easily be overlooked or accidentally deleted and are simply not as personal as a physical card. But, in a day where e-everything is the norm, the practice has become more accepted.
#3. Pro Bono Proactivity
The holiday season is an excellent time to catch up on pro bono hours. Elder law attorneys may opt to volunteer at a legal clinic or provide services to low-income elders. Not only is this a perfect opportunity to get in those hours, it is also a chance to meet and build relationships with new people and potential future clients.
This is also a useful time to advocate for a meaningful charity through social media, blogs, or newsletters. Such activities draw attention to your philanthropic endeavors, rather than the promotion of your business. Volunteer your time and use social media to share your experiences.
4. Get Educated
The slower holiday months are the perfect time to get caught up on continuing legal education! Get more educated in your current area of law or spend some time delving into other practice areas that could potentially bring in future revenue. Thinking of adding elder law to your practice? Talk to other elder law attorneys, watch some webinars, or attend our Elder Law and Practice-Building Camp in Orlando December 5-7. Thinking of adding probate to your practice? Take a seat in a probate courtroom for a day and get to know local procedures and customs, along with making important contacts.
5. Time to Tackle Internal Firm Tasks
Particularly for small practices, the holidays are a prime opportunity to wrap up business odds and ends. Preparing for the tax season and implementing new software for accounting or client management are excellent tasks to complete during the break. Create and implement new office procedures. Ask the Human Resources Department if any presentations need to be done. Review employee benefits packages to see if any improvements or additions can be made. The slower holiday season may be the right time to tackle that untidy closet filled with random papers and client folders. Get organized!
The slower holiday season is the optimal time to come up with next year’s game plan. Do you have a marketing strategy? Is it effective? Researching, discussing, and preparing to implement next year’s marketing plan is a great way to spend your time that will reap rewards in the coming year. ElderCounsel has an amazing Practice Enhancement Program that offers customizable marketing tools and content for use in your practice. Take a few minutes and get familiar with the program and whether it would be a good fit for you.
6. Beef Up Your Blog
Updating your blog is also a good activity to pass the time during the holiday recess and a way to stay present in the market. Compose educational blogs about holiday elder scams, how to prepare for older out-of-town guests, or how to bring up tough topics while family is gathered together. A piece on navigating family conflicts during the holidays could be particularly useful. Write about topics relating to the season – in northern regions, where snow and ice are common concerns, discuss the importance of safe driving or preparing sidewalks and driveways for elderly holiday visitors.
7. Seasonal Socializing
The holiday season is ripe with possibilities for networking. Between office parties and fundraisers, Bar Association events and friendly gatherings, attorneys have numerous opportunities to rub elbows with new contacts.
Spend this time improving social media presence. Use social media accounts as a way to humanize your practice – sharing photos of office parties, philanthropic adventures, and more. You should be doing this all year round, but it is particularly effective during the season of family and giving.
A wise lawyer will use the holiday intermission as opportunity to build their community presence, get educated, wrap up end-of-year tasks, reinforce present relationships, and build their network. Focus on meeting contacts and building your reputation, rather than drumming up new clients. The holiday season is often a time for people to set aside legal woes for a moment and to focus on happier times with family and friends, but a prudent elder law attorney will use this time to get geared up for the new year.