Lots of lawyers make a big deal about sending Thanksgiving cards to stand out from the rush of holiday cards. Trouble is, even TurkeyDay greetings have become oversaturated. Starting next week, I’ll receive at least five or six autumn-themed cards with leaves or Pilgrims, wishing me a Happy Thanksgiving with at best, a personal signature inside. I don’t even bother to fully remove these impersonal greetings from the envelop before tossing them into the trash.
The point is that Thanksgiving cards are a great idea…if you’re actually going to take the time to thank someone. If not, you might as well send a regular holiday or New Year’s card and buy yourself another week or two of time to get it out. On the other hand, sending a thank you is always in season – and that’s why I’ve chosen the project of sending four thank you as this week’s last PowerHour.
If you’re not persuaded by the power of Thank You, take a look at this book by lawyer John Kralik, A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life . At 53, Kralik had hit rock-bottom in both his personal life and professional career: his girlfriend broke up with him, he’d lost touch with his older sons following two divorces and his law firm was on the verge of bankruptcy. On New Year’s Day, Kralik decided to make a fresh start by sending daily thank you notes to just about everyone he knew. Although the notes didn’t directly lead to new business, they restored Kralik’s sense of gratitude and turned his life around which ultimately resulted in success.
The same is true here. Four thank you notes won’t convert into a pile of new business. But if you’re feeling down as the year ends, they’ll remind you of the colleagues and friends who have your back; who took time out of their work and lives to share a kind word, do a good deed or defend you. You’ll feel good by making them feel good.
Here are a few tips to an hour’s worth of thank you notes:
Gather up your supplies Although I have nothing against emailed thank you notes, for this project, you’ll want to put pen to paper. Doesn’t have to be fancy – use your law firm stationary or pick up a pack of generic cards at a supply store. Buy stamps in advance as well – again, you can use digital stamps, but commemoratives will make your note stand out. (The Latin American commemorative are one delicious choice.) Supplies also include addresses – be sure you have them before you get started or those thank you cards may never be mailed.
Who to thank Since you’ll only have an hour, I suggest a thank you to four people in different categories rather than, for example, four referral sources. Think out the box – maybe you want to thank a particularly supportive law professor, a former boss, an author or blogger who’s inspired you, an opposing counsel who treated your client well or a co-counsel who made a difference in your case. You can – and should – thank clients as well – maybe a client who trusted you with a huge case even though more experienced lawyers tried to poach the client away, or a client who you felt honored to serve.
What to write Although thank you cards ought to be personal, at the same time, they must still be professional. If you’ve always referred to your client formally, now’s not the time to address her casually by her first name. Likewise, don’t gush too much or punctuate your thank you note with hearts and smiley faces – i.e., the pre-digital age version of emojis.
As for what to say, you can find examples online (as here ) but they’re not particularly inspiring. You’re best off using real life examples of what the person did and how they helped you.
Start and finish Split your hour into four fifteen minute segments, and keep track of time. You want to complete all four thank you’s within your hour. After you’re done, address the cards, slap on the stamp and get them to the post office.
Don’t be upset if you don’t hear back Many times, people don’t know exactly what to do when they receive a thank you note. Some may call or email you right away, while others (myself included) may set it aside to think about an appropriate response and suddenly, six months have passed. Even if your recipient doesn’t acknowledge the thank you, you can be assured that it made their day. And that ought to be enough to make your day too.
That’s the end of the MyShingle PowerHour Theme Week. You can read the past posts here:
Previous Power Hour Posts:
Stay tuned for next week’s theme, Annuals: Holidays & End of Year Traditions.