Holiday cheer runs high in law firms this year. Biglaw associates remain grateful for that pay raise earlier in the year, and now firms are following Santa Cravath and stuffing the stockings of young lawyers with bountiful bonuses.
From the partners’ perspective, the Christmas trees remain green — with money. Some firms are killing it, and even the firms that aren’t are holding steady. In an industry where six- and seven-figure incomes are the norm, treading water is no small accomplishment.
Imbued with the holiday spirit, let’s review the eight finalists for our eighth annual holiday card contest. But first let’s give shout-outs to some honorable mentions (click on each firm’s name to see its card):
1. Ballard Spahr: Cheery and charming music (selected by Blind Melon guitarist turned Biglaw associate Rogers Stevens), simple but well-executed animation, and shout-outs to charities the firm supports. A little too safe to make the finals, but a solid effort.
2. Epstein Becker Green: An interactive card offering ten tips for a sustainable and socially responsible holiday. It contains links to some useful resources and to Heifer International, the beneficiary of Epstein Becker Green’s holiday donation.
3. Meyers Nave: From the nominator: “This is an Olympic card! Gold for originality, an impressively unique idea. Silver for cleverness, a very smart way to be interactive. Bronze for bold je ne sais quoi, [spoiler alert!] with talking trees delivering the message. And you can’t beat the zeitgeist use of emoji!” The talking trees reflect the firm’s support of the National Forest Foundation.
4. Parry Pfau: The prior honorable mentions were too tame to make the finals; this entry was too long (over four minutes). But kudos for its deployment of the laugh track to poke good-natured fun at sitcoms, lawyers, and beauty queens.
And now, the eight finalists, in alphabetical order. Again, click on each firm’s name to view its card. Please note that most of these cards have SOUND, so you might want to turn your sound off or down, or use headphones. Explanatory comments come from firm representatives unless otherwise indicated.
1. Akin Gump: It wouldn’t be a holiday-card contest without Akin Gump in the finals, would it? The firm, a two-time winner (2009 and 2013), returns to the finals with the “law firm version of Carpool Karaoke, involving a client meeting with a certain Jolly Old Elf with big legal liabilities.” The concept is great, and so’s the execution — the actors are actual Akin Gump attorneys.
2. Davis Wright Tremaine: DWT boasts a top-flight media practice, so I wasn’t surprised to see its pop-culture-focused entry. “Winter is coming! We couldn’t wait for the next season of Game of Thrones so we let our design team go wild, especially since we’ve been named the Most Innovative Law Firm by ILTA—for the second year in a row.”
3. Fenwick West: This year represents the firm’s sixth year in the finals. Fenwick is famous for its work on behalf of technology and startup companies, so the theme of this year’s offering makes perfect sense. Per chief marketing officer Rob Kahn: “The genesis for this year’s card was a partner walking into my office in May and saying, ‘This year’s holiday card should be in VR [virtual reality]!’ Well, I don’t think the partner understands law firm marketing budgets very well, but it gave us an idea. We ended up with something that fits our brand: tech-focused, and not taking ourselves too seriously. And we heeded your advice from last year, keeping it all under 60 seconds. Hope you enjoy, and sending thanks for all the great reporting and wishing you many good things in 2017.”
4. Gowling WLG: The election 2016 results have some Americans wanting to move to Canada, but for this year’s holiday card contest, Canada comes to us. “Since combining in 2016 [through the merger of Canada-based Gowlings and UK-based Wragge Lawrence Graham], the firm’s goal was to focus on how going global has ‘knit us all together’ for the holidays. The associated print card was done as a holiday sweater, complete with embossing and special details to imitate a knit sweater.” Some readers might find the Gowling card too safe, but it does deserve recognition for execution.
5. Larson King: Will the third time in the finals prove the charm for this St. Paul-based litigation boutique? Like the Gowling offering, it’s far from edgy but quite well done, with hand-drawn illustrations. “We wanted a card that captured Minnesota’s passion for hockey and winter. Hockey is a sport that is gritty but graceful and highlights team work and individual effort. This card connects the ethos of both Minnesota and our law firm.”
6. Manatt, Phelps Phillips: It’s no surprise to see a firm with a top-tier entertainment practice in the finals for a fifth time — with a delightful card that tells a story. From the firm: “This year, Manatt spun a classic holiday poem, ‘Twas the night before Christmas,’ into a relatable seasonal tale.” But I like what fellow legal journalist Katelyn Polantz had to say when nominating the card: “My god, does it make Biglaw look like the worst job ever!”
7. Proctor Heyman Enerio: The Delaware boutique, a frequent finalist and former winner (2010), makes its last appearance in our contest — as “Proctor Heyman Enerio,” that is. “In this, our 10th year of practice at PHE, we say a heartfelt goodbye to our partner and friend, Vern Proctor, who is retiring at the end of the year. This year’s holiday card, which continues our customary invocation of iconic themes (now branching out from music to musicals), is a fitting farewell to Vern – if ever a wonderful wiz there was…. Effective January 1, 2017, the firm’s new name will be Heyman Enerio Gattuso Hirzel LLP. Happy Holidays to all!”
8. Wolf Greenfield: “After winning last year’s ATL Holiday Card Contest, we knew we had to go bigger and better with this year’s holiday card. We tossed around some ideas with Zach Umperovitch, our Rube Goldberg expert who built the machine in last year’s video, and we got really excited about the possibilities: What if we did another Rube, but with cubicle dominos? What if a bowling ball bounced off a trampoline and smashed into a TV monitor? What if we put someone inside a giant zorb ball? We couldn’t resist. The Rube also fits perfectly with our firm’s reputation for technical knowhow; we’re an intellectual property firm, and more than 90% of our attorneys and technology specialists have science or engineering degrees. Our clients work at the cutting edge of science and technology, so we knew they’d appreciate the physics of this bigger, longer, more complex machine.” (There’s actually a lot more that can be said about the firm’s video; see this behind-the-scenes look at Wolf Greenfield’s 2016 holiday card.)
Okay, time for the second-biggest vote of 2016. We’ll keep the polls open through SUNDAY, JANUARY 1, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. (Eastern time). This gives you ample time to campaign for your pick over the holidays (but please don’t cheat — that would be, to quote our president-elect, “Sad!”).
Thanks to all the entrants and nominators, good luck to the finalists, and happy holidays to everyone!
Which law firm has the best holiday card for 2016?
- Gowling WLG (40%, 2,364 Votes)
- Wolf Greenfield (38%, 2,259 Votes)
- Proctor Heyman Enerio (8%, 484 Votes)
- Manatt Phelps Phillips (6%, 352 Votes)
- Davis Wright Tremaine (5%, 299 Votes)
- Akin Gump (2%, 104 Votes)
- Larson King (1%, 43 Votes)
- Fenwick West (0%, 24 Votes)
Total Voters: 5,929
David Lat is the founder and managing editor of Above the Law and the author of Supreme Ambitions: A Novel. He previously worked as a federal prosecutor in Newark, New Jersey; a litigation associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen Katz; and a law clerk to Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. You can connect with David on Twitter (@DavidLat), LinkedIn, and Facebook, and you can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.