Out with the Old

by Erik Cummins on December 21, 2010

New Year's Day

In the “old” days, when downtown high rises had windows that opened and people kept desk calendars, there was a New Year’s Eve tradition of throwing all of those loose sheets out of the window. It was a year-end purge that was both exhilarating and hopeful.

Passersby would often pick up sheets that fluttered down and marvel at the random, unattributed notes scribbled on them: “ Standard Oil deal closes today.” “Dentist: 10 a.m.” “Buy new Dictaphone.” “A boy, 8 lbs. 2 ounces.” “Dinner at Alfred’s.” “Call travel agent – Hawaii trip.” “Martinis at The Palace: 6 p.m.” “Take secretary to lunch at Sam’s.”

Today, most of us keep calendars on our smart phones and laptops, so there’s little need to toss those old calendars out on Montgomery Street and insert next year’s refills.

Yet, the holidays are still a great time to reflect on the past year, with its ups and downs and good times and bad, and look forward to the coming year. Doing so helps us celebrate our successes and learn from our mistakes. It also helps us plan for new initiatives in the coming year.

From a PR standpoint, we shouldn’t simply keep these year-end reflections to ourselves. In fact, the holidays are a great time to share the good things that you and your law firm have done in the past year, and perhaps offer some thoughts about the coming year. As opposed to those annoying photocopied holiday cards from Cousin Bess on her toddler’s first steps, a law firm can create a “year in review” letter to clients (and reporters) that won’t offend and will actually be useful and informative.

A year-end letter could go something like this: “Dear Friends – As the year comes to a close, we wanted to let you know about some of the interesting and exciting matters we took on in 2010. In February, we closed a challenging three-tranche financing for a major electronics manufacturer. This summer, we successfully tried three products liability cases to verdict, and this fall, we achieved a complete reversal in a death penalty case for a pro bono client in Alabama . This month, our attorneys and staff took several days off and distributed hundreds of blankets and food to the homeless on Hope Street. … As always we cherish and value our friends and hope to help you find continued success in the coming year, too.”

When I get these letters , I often exclaim, “Really, you did all of that?” Clients, too, will be impressed. Better yet, they will remember why they hired you in the first place and reflect on how they might use you again in the New Year.

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