Heading to Your Firm's Holiday Party? 8 Tips to Avoid Making a Legal Career Misstep

It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is just a few days away -- and the annual firm holiday party is right around the corner. If you're like me, you've seen your fair share of less-than-professional behavior at one function or another. So, whether your corporate party is held in the ballroom of a five-star hotel, restaurant or a managing partner's home, you'll want to brush up on business etiquette to put your best foot forward. 

Here are eight tips to help avoid any legal career missteps during this festive occasion:

  1. Dress to impress. Business or slightly dressy professional attire is generally suitable for most work holiday parties. So, unless it's otherwise noted on the invitation, dress appropriately and leave your favorite blinking ornament pin or reindeer sweater in your closet. 
  2. The law office holiday party is a business event. No matter how merry the atmosphere may be, remember to conduct yourself in a professional manner at all times.        
  3. Arrive on time. Office parties are not the occasion to appear “fashionably late” or make a grand entrance. Try to avoid looking at your watch and making plans to duck out early. 
  4. Greet the host first. Make a point of finding and greeting the host(s) soon after you arrive. And when you leave, thank the host as well as others who helped plan and organize the event. You may also want to send a brief note of appreciation. 
  5. Mind your intake. While your practice group's managing attorney might be enjoying his third martini of the evening, don't follow suit. You'll want to drink in moderation -- one or two alcoholic drinks, if at all -- and eat sparingly, leaving all messy food behind. 
  6. Bring a 'plus one' only if it’s appropriate. Check ahead of time if you’re not sure. If you do bring someone to the event, make them feel comfortable and included by staying in close proximity throughout the evening and introducing him or her to your colleagues. 
  7. Mingle as much as possible. Use this time to interact with coworkers you don’t typically talk to on a regular basis, such as the legal support staff from another practice group, and make it a point to introduce yourself to people you don’t know.
  8. Try not to talk about work. Think of a few upbeat conversation starters beforehand and steer clear of touchy subjects like politics or religion. And, if at all possible, avoid lengthy business discussions with colleagues. You'll have plenty of time tomorrow to talk to your boss about your ideas for improving the firm's case management system.

The annual firm holiday party is meant to be enjoyable and, ultimately, it's designed to celebrate the accomplishments of the organization and contributions of each employee. So, try to relax and enjoy yourself. You've earned it!

And while we’re on the holiday theme, be sure to read our tips on law office gift giving.