Denver Bar Association
November 2005
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The Ultimate Guide to Buying Holiday Presents

by Matthew Crouch

The holiday season is almost upon us. Holiday lights are already making an appearance on the shelves at Target stores. It’s a season where we, as professionals, find ourselves considering what non-political present or card we can provide to clients, arranging office parties, and thinking of the least offensive presents we can give to the people who really matter in our lives: our secretaries, paralegals, assistants and staff. Oh, yeah, and our families. They seem to matter, as well. Don’t forget the senior partners, junior associates, co-counsel, the security guard who lets you in after you forgot your car keys, and the janitors who don’t mind cleaning up around you when you’re still at your desk at 9:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. See why those Hickory Farms gift certificates look so good and cost-effective after a while?

• Naturally, a monetary bonus for the staff is often highly appreciated (if not anticipated and counted upon). However, we may want to consider going a bit further in search of creative and unique gifts to give. Here are some distinctive, yet meaningful ideas.

• The best gift is often something from you. Coloring a picture for co-counsel’s refrigerator is a bad idea and, admittedly, non-billable time, but generally things from the heart are best.

• Baking cookies for the office. Trust me when I say nothing brings holiday cheer to an office like homemade Christmas (or other holiday) cookies on a Monday morning in December. Throw in some eggnog — the aristocrat of holiday drinks — add some rum for rough Mondays and voila! Your entire office will be amazed at what a great day it is. However, if your office needs to file a pleading with the U.S. District Court that morning, you may want to hold off on the eggnog until later.

• Blood. While your receptionist might be understandably nervous by the fact you donated a pint of blood as a Christmas gift, it is something that will come back to you one day. You can never have too much good karma.

• Gifts that give back are a good solution for those hard-to-buy-for people on your list. You can give a cow, a pig, a llama, or a share of a farm animal in the name of your favorite person by visiting Heifer International provides a program that helps families obtain a means to support themselves through gifts of farm animals, tools and other things.

• Imitate your favorite "helping hands." Yes, your secretary generally doesn’t get paid enough to deal with you. Follow the classic example of holiday spirit by considering the time and effort that goes into the daily grind, and translating that into action to help those in need. Project Angel Heart helps by providing meals for people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses in the Denver and Colorado Springs metro areas:

• The Women’s Bean Project offers a variety of products for the kind-hearted soul to purchase, while providing much-needed financial support as they help women break the cycle of poverty and unemployment.

• There are plenty of toy drives, food drives and other holiday drives each year for you to donate time or money in people’s names. Just look around in your local stores, church bulletins, office e-mails and bulletin boards, or even through the DBA, and you will find something perfect.

• Tickets to The Nutcracker. A favorite idea, especially if the intended recipient has children who would enjoy it. The Nutcracker can be a real treat, unless you’re listening to selections from The Nutcracker Suite while on hold with the IRS.

• For the impossible-to-buy-for folks: Liquor. Your mileage may vary.

• There are always those among us who have difficulty finding presents of an appropriate nature. For these persons, I present a few suggested guidelines of what to avoid regarding holiday gifts.

• Avoid buying gifts with the words "Corpse," "Mutilation," or "Living Dead," unless you really know the recipient. Trust me on this. Do not wrap the present with the eBay receipt showing how much you paid for it. In fact, avoid letting them know how cheap or "affordable" the gift was. Conversely, expensive presents with price still attached is a wonderful way of letting the recipient know just how much better off you are than they are. Finally, do not give a CD of your rendition of "Phantom 409" you did at the karaoke bar. Again, trust me on this.

• In short, the holidays are a time to remind ourselves of the people who surround, and put up with, us on a daily basis. The gift that is usually most appreciated is the one that is the most heartfelt and sincere. Walk up to someone and tell them exactly how much the work they do on a daily basis means to you, both personally and professionally. You may find that this can be a gift that is remembered.

Then give them the holiday bonus.

Contact Matt Crouch at Please note that Matt may be hard to reach, as he will be waiting in line to talk to Santa at Cherry Creek Mall.

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