Should You Give Holiday Cards the Stamp of Approval?

December is here, the month when a lawyer’s thoughts turn to holiday cards — or more accurately, when lawyers start to panic, wondering whether it’s too late to send cards out or if it might just be easier to send an e-card instead.  So briefly, here’s a quick run down on how to handle holiday cards for 2010.

1.  Should I send holiday cards?  

For some lawyers, holiday cards are a longstanding tradition that goes unquestioned.  If you fall into that group, chances are your holiday card campaign is already underway, so there’s no need to change it now.

But if you’re a new solo on a tight budget or a lawyer who’s been busy and hasn’t gotten around to holiday cards, you ought to consider whether sending them makes sense.  While holiday cards aren’t a big ticket item, they’re not all that cheap either.  Assuming around a dollar per card and 41 cents for postage, that’s $141 for one hundred cards; money that you might otherwise spend on CLE or books for your law practice.

Moreover, that $141 isn’t necessarily money well spent.  Many clients who receive your holiday cards simply don’t notice them in the rush of all of the other holiday mailings.  Roy Ginsburg, a lawyer- coach advisesnot to bother with holiday cards, explaining that when he served as in-house counsel, he received few that were memorable.  In fact, the ones that stuck out most to Ginsburg were those that didn’t coincide with Christmas or New Year’s but rather, celebrated other odd events like Elvis’ birthday.  Other lawyers favor sending clients birthday cards rather than holiday cards, which are also more likely to stand out.

In short, before you jump on the holiday bandwagon, consider whether the effort and expense that goes into holiday cards will pay off either in the form of referrals, or even building more meaningful relationships with colleagues and clients.  If the answer is no, don’t do it.

2.  But if you do send cards, abide by these rules….

If you do send holiday cards, here are a few simple rules to follow fromAll-state Legal.  First, personalize the card with a meaningful, handwritten message.  If you can’t think of anything to say or don’t have the time to personalize, you’re better off shortening the list of recipients.  Second, make sure that cards go out by December 15.  Any later, and they’ll be caught in the downtime between Christmas and New Year’s.  If you can’t meet the December 15 deadline, then wait a couple of weeks and send New Year’s cards instead.

3.  and no e-cards, period

E-cards, particularly generic ones rather than custom design are cheap and quick. But most people don’t like getting them and won’t bother opening them. There’s an even more compelling reason to avoid e-cards: they may be laden with computer viruses. That’s not the kind of gift you want to give to colleagues or clients.

4. What are some alternatives to holiday cards?

If you’ve got the budget, why not send a mini-calendar or notepad in lieu of holiday cards.  The advantage with these items is that recipients will see them year round.  By contrast, holiday cards get filed in the trash can when the new year arrives.

Another option is to host a low key, impromptu holiday get-together for colleagues – perhaps a morning breakfast in your office conference room or at a local coffee shop.  For $141 – the same cost as sending 100 cards, you could comfortably host a dozen colleagues.  And while you wouldn’t reach as many people as with a holiday card campaign, the goodwill that you achieve with a breakfast is far more likely to generate business than a less personal card.

Finally, if you’re strapped for time and money, why not take a few days between Christmas and New Years to call colleagues on the phone and wish them well; perhaps set up a get together for 2011.  The last week of December is fairly relaxed downtime for many lawyers so you wouldn’t be imposing on their time.  Plus, phone calls are cheap and it’s faster to make a dozen calls than it is to address the same number of cards and write personal notes.

5.  A free gift for you!

If you do decide to send holiday cards, here’s a nice freebie. Check out Shutterfly’s promotional deal here: 50 free Shutterfly holiday cards to bloggers who write about the service at their site. The offer is good through Friday December 10, so you’ll need to act quickly if you’re interested.