The perfect partner’s Christmas speech
By David Pickup
David Pickup takes a tongue-in-cheek look at lawyers' Christmas party speeches
There is nothing quite like Christmas – it seems to come round quicker and quicker every year. Then there is the frantic rush to get everything done before the holiday – sending Christmas cards to the legal aid contract manager, the accountants (despite the fact they never send you one) – and don’t forget the bank! Clients are frantically wanting last-minute wills to be written – and there are always Christmas bail applications and disputes over contact with children. You have to try to fit in getting the things you need for home – yes, you still have a home!
Then the annual Christmas party looms – whether a lunch, a party, or an evening do. However you celebrate, it is the duty of the senior partner to make the Christmas speech. I write with experience of having made many – and listened to more. It is a delight to do this… oh yes it is! (Forgive me for going into panto mood there.) I always offer give an annual talk on the challenges and opportunities for the year ahead – and hold this at 5pm on Christmas Eve. Disappointingly, it is not well attended.
My early years in the profession were marked by Christmas meals that didn’t always go well. Lots of edgy people – whose only thing in common was they worked for the same employer. Many firms ask for volunteers to speak at the meal. The newest member of staff is volunteered to say something. The idea is they’re so nervous then whatever the senior partner says will sound good.
Don’t assume a professional advocate who is trained to appear in the highest courts of the land can string two words together at a social event. No offence, but it can be true. Trying to get a hardened criminal bail, or a dubious parent contact to a child who they have never paid a penny for, is not always good preparation for a witty seasonal speech. There is a risk of sounding like your school headteacher giving the end of term address at the assembly: “Sadly Mr Bloggs has breached his probation again and will not be back in New Year, sorry the toilets are blocked, didn’t the Upper Sixth rugby team do well, and the pupil who drew the poem on my Ford Anglia is to report to my study.”
- Beware of saying things like, ‘we have turned a corner’. Say that four times and you’re back where you started.
- Everyone likes a surprise at Christmas. Why not surprise your partners by announcing the closing or opening of a branch office, or you may not come back after Boxing Day, courtesy of the client account?
- Avoid amusing obscure legal anecdotes such as being appointed under rule 11(7)a when everyone knew it was rule 11(7)b – or the divorcing couple who got a Tree Preservation Order instead of a Transfer of Property Order. Humour is a refined thing.
- Keep it clean.
- Keep it short and simple.
- Don’t drink alcohol before the speech.
- Look back over the year and welcome new people.
- Don’t slag off the opposition/local/judge/police/legal aid/bank in case they are in the same restaurant.
- Keep it short (I know I said that before but I meant it!).
- Say something positive. There must be something you can say.
- Practise in front of a colleague.
A (spoof) script
Here is a rough idea: Thank everyone for their hard work – and it would be nice making some money next year. Remember the limits on our indemnity/SRA/cyber and contents insurance when the head of dispute resolution is dancing to ABBA later. Thanks to the person who organised the party – and you want to see them in the New Year to discuss if they really think the legal profession is for them, as they do not seem to be able to run a bath let alone a party… Oh, and wish everyone a happy Christmas!
David Pickup is senior partner of Pickup & Scott, and head of the mental health department: pickupandscott.co.uk