Signs That You Made an Impression at the Firm Christmas Party

(and that's not good)

Terryl Rushing,

Article by Terryl Rushing, Featured Author


So, the holidays have come and gone, and so has another Firm Christmas Party, as far as you remember, anyway. We’ve all been warned not to commit the obvious faux pas – don’t get eggnog-hurling drunk; don’t hit on someone else’s spouse or date; don’t wear clothes that are too revealing. Every year, though, someone forgets and commits one (or more) of those very sins. And then, sometimes, lawyers and their significant others do things that are just ... well ... weird. If you are guilty, the good news is that you’ve stood out; even in a large firm, you now have name recognition. If you committed the last sin, you even have body-part recognition. The bad news is, unfortunately, the same thing.

There are obvious signs that, between you and your firm, the thrill is gone: fresh paint on the sign at your parking place or new locks on the door. Sometimes the signals are more subtle. One of the most poignant books I’ve ever read was A Sensitive, Passionate Man by Barbara Mahoney. Her husband, a Harvard law school graduate, was working for a big Wall Street firm when his ultimately fatal alcoholism began to manifest itself. She described the firm’s New Year’s Day party perfectly, noting the telltale evidence that something was amiss when every partner they spoke with began quickly to look over their shoulders and smile at someone else.

If your memory of the evening gets a little hazy after the tequila shots, you may have missed those subtle cues that, for you, the party is over. There’s still time to pick up on the message, though, and start updating that resume before the axe falls. You might have screwed the pooch at the firm party if you did anything that would have been worthy of an honorary membership in the Delta Tau Chi fraternity at Faber College. Here are some indications that you did just that:

  1. You wake up under the piano, wearing a senior partner’s mink – and nothing else.
  2. A partner stops you in the hall Monday morning, with “Here’s your nametag; it somehow got stuck to my husband’s shirt while you were dancing.”
  3. You enter the break room, and suddenly the conversation turns to the Rule Against Perpetuities.
  4. A runner drops off several boxes of old files in your office, saying “I was told we could start storing these here.”
  5. One of your lawyer buddies sticks his head in your office to say,

    • “So, we were wondering, where did you meet Fifi (or Buck), anyway?”
    • “Man, it must have hurt to get that tattoo!”
    • “I’ve never heard the Hallelujah Chorus on a harmonica before.”
    • “Do you realize whose shoes you threw up on?”
    • Dude, I wouldn’t have posted that on Instagram!”
  6. Your most dangerous rival stops by to say, “Hey, Mr. Senior Partner sent me in here to get all of your AT&T files.”
  7. Everyone in your usual Lunch Posse begs off to work on timesheets.
  8. Your mentoring partner sees you looking at a dealership website and says, “You know, you might not want to buy a new car right now.”
  9. Your secretary tells you, “The hotel called; they were finally able to get your panties out of the pool filter.” Or
  10. The Most Senior of all Senior Partners stops by to hand you one of your hubcaps and say, “My wife wants her parrot back.”

If any of these things have happened to you, it’s over my friend. Aggressive networking is in order. Until you get an interview (preferably with a firm either totally disconnected from, or bitterly at odds with, your soon-to-be former employers), you’d better move back in with your parents and try to get your college bartending job back.

And now for a personal, and true, firm Christmas Party story. My old law firm had a wonderful tradition of throwing a large party every holiday season, where lawyers, staff, and their families were welcome. All of the children who attended received a gift from Santa, played, every year, by the newest male associate. The first year that we attended, my son was two or three years old, and Santa was played by .... well, never mind; he’s now an Assistant United States Attorney and doesn’t need this notoriety. At the end of the evening, Ira announced that he needed a potty break before we got in the car, so his Dad dutifully took him in the men’s restroom. They came out with my husband doubled over laughing, and Ira as white as a sheet. Apparently, the Santa costume was pretty hot, so Darren (oops) had also ducked in the bathroom to change. And that was when “Santa took head off in bafroom.” What a trauma! I blamed Darren for every bad decision that Ira made after that, except going to law school. I guess that one’s on me.