So it's that time of year again, where lawyers and law firms fall over themselves to remind people that they exist. It used to be that every firm paid for expensive, customized holiday cards. (My firm used to.) But it's very time-consuming to print out contact lists, stick labels on envelopes, and run them through the postage meter. It's also not very environmentally friendly. And although it can look nice when you have dozens of cards taped to your conference room's glass walls or arrayed around lobby, they're up for a couple of weeks and then they get tossed in the trash.
Increasingly, law firms — especially larger firms — are turning to email-based holiday cards. There's this industry of e-card vendors who have convinced lawyers that Flash-based cards are exactly what clients, prospects, and other contacts love to receive. Unlike the paper-based analog greetings, these digital wonders afford the opportunity to use motion graphics (essentially, animated words and pictures) and public-domain holiday music to send a stronger message.
So I should have been happy when I received an email from a big-firm lawyer I know, taking the time to wish me season's greetings. I know that she took the time because she told me: "I just wanted to take this time ...." The only problem is that she didn't actually take any time. I know this because the email didn't come from her.
It came from her secretary.
There it was in the email header: from [her secretary's name], to "undisclosed recipients." I guess I should be honored to be one of the undisclosed recipients, but for some reason I'm not.
The email itself had two generic lines about wishing me holiday greetings, followed by the lawyer's name. Then a big "Click Here" icon. I'm not generally interested in clicking anywhere on these things, but I decided to click there this one time. Solely for research purposes, you understand.
This took me to a browser window with a cartoon of a weirdly deciduous tree. Some generic, unidentifiable piano music starts in — not too Christmas-y, mind you — and then the cartoon tree starts to grow leaves, then lose them in a strong breeze, then grow some more, then lose them again, then grow some fruit, then again with the wind, and so on. While this is happening, words appear wishing me more season's greetings (I guess the tree thing has to do with seasons in general), an expression of gratitude (not sure for what; I'm not a client), and then a pronouncement that the firm has donated funds to unspecified charities. Which is nice, I guess.
The music then continues endlessly. Literally. I turned off the sound on my Mac after a couple of minutes. It's on a Flash loop, with no way to stop it short of closing the page or driving your shoe through your computer. I actually ended up forgetting about it, came back hour later, turned my sound back on, and the piano was still going.
And that's not even my favorite part.
My favorite part is that the law firm's name appears on the page (not including the URL) ten times. (And seven more times in the covering email, not including the return address.) Really, guys? Did you think I'd forget whom to thank for this display of genericness? It's always about you, isn't it?
Lawyers, law firms, other professionals: don't do foolish holiday things like this. No one nowhere wants your motion-graphics holiday card. No one thinks for a second that the purported sender did anything more than tell her secretary to hit "send" to the undisclosed recipients. I certainly didn't think that the lawyer whose secretary sent mine spent a millisecond thinking about me.
If you want to tell people that you were thinking about them, do it in a way that shows that you actually were. A handwritten card or note. A small thank-you gift. Even just a phone call or a personalized email (it's better than nothing). But please don't spam people.
Or have your secretary spam people.