Should your law firm hold a holiday party?

Law firm holiday partyHolidays parties are common in many law firms. The idea behind the holiday party is almost always noble. Everybody is coming together to celebrate the year. The law firm may celebrate their successes. They may reflect on the past year and all the accomplishments. They may look into the future. The law firm will likely thank the employees. The employees should thank the law firm for employing them.

Often, at a holiday party, those who did great things are commonly recognized. Achievements are mentioned and praised. There usually are good food and beverages at the holiday party. The hope for most law firms is to raise morale, promote team building and bring everybody together for a night of fun.

The reality, however, is that the goal behind the holiday party might not come to fruition. Not seeing employees grateful about the holiday party can be frustrating for the law firm manager or owner because planning a holiday party can take a lot of work. A lot like a wedding reception, a lot goes into the event behind the scenes. From the planning of the location, the type of food and the entertainment, it is not easy.

The cost of a holiday party can also be enormous if a law firm wants it to be top-notch. Obviously, the larger the law firm, the more people who are probably coming and bringing their spouse or significant other. The more people that attend, the larger the cost. For those looking for a frame of reference, a law firm holiday party can easily cost the same as a wedding reception. Most realize that the cost of a wedding reception can be extraordinary, but a big holiday party is going to fall in the same range. So, does the firm even have the disposable income to be having this party?

Apart from the cost, is team building and morale being raised? Do employees want to come to the holiday party? Or do they go because they feel like they have to do so? Do the law firm managers and owners want to go to the party? Or do they not look forward to it, either?

What happens when awards are given out, but an employee gets upset that they did not win that award they were hoping to win? Instead of raising spirits and morale, the opposite can end up happening.

Perhaps the law firm thinks the food, entertainment and location are fantastic. They may take pride in the event they planned.  But no matter how hard a law firm tries, many will disapprove of it. Some will think some other food was not that great. Some may think that the entertainment could have been better. Some may think the venue should have been in a different location.

Some employees who RSVP for the holiday party will end up not coming. When that happens, if it’s a sit-down meal, the law firm is likely still paying for the plate. Some people will attend for a while, but may end up leaving early.

If you have an office in more than one locality, travel costs come into the picture. The law firm will likely end up having to pick up the airplane, transportation and hotel costs for the holiday party. These ancillary costs of the holiday party are not cheap.

Keep in mind that many expect that holiday bonus check at the party. Even with the enormous cost of the event itself, some employees who were not productive (and did not meet their goals) will expect a big bonus. Even if the law firm gives a bonus, many will think it should have been more, like the movie Christmas Vacation, and be angry.

Some may drink too much at the holiday party. When that happens, all kinds of bad things could occur from a human resources perspective. Keep in mind many of these employees will continue drinking and carousing after the holiday party itself. What kind of exposure does that bring the law firm?

In the end, if a law firm wants to have a holiday party, it can still make sense for some. But a law firm must understand that the holiday party will not always obtain the goal of raising morale and or enhancing team-work. Employees also might walk away from the party critiquing or criticizing it. So, the expectations have to be realistic.

For many law firms, they ought to consider ditching the holiday party altogether. To the extent the law firm wants to celebrate holiday cheer, perhaps a small, informal gathering within the office itself is a better approach if the law firm still feels like they want to do something.

If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.

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