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It’s that time of year again. The days are getting shorter, the holidays are drawing near and you’re thinking about the perfect gift — the one that tells clients you appreciate their business. But where do you start? During the holiday season, firms traditionally send gifts such as fruit baskets or tickets to sporting events. But according to Terri Pepper Gavulic, a consultant with legal consulting firm Hildebrandt International, “Many firms are making charitable donations in honor of their clients in lieu of giving gifts.” COOL GIFTS Donations are a great idea, according to Robyn Spizman, Atlanta radio personality and author of “Make it Memorable: An A-Z Guide to Making Any Event, Gift or Occasion — Dazzling!” She says, “When [a law firm] gives a gift that helps an organization and a good cause, then it’s very socially meaningful, socially acceptable, and it’s a personal way to honor clients.” Spizman adds, “Maybe you have a particular client whose family has been affected by some disease or problem, or you want to do it in honor or in memory of someone you’ve worked with. The beautiful thing there is that when a firm personalizes it, they add even more meaning to their contribution.” Gavulic says another approach to showing appreciation is taking your client out to lunch or dinner. Spizman agrees, saying, “I appreciate it more than anything. Free time with their attorney — pretty exciting, and meaningful. It’s time off the clock.” While some say that it’s OK to place logos on gifts that are used daily, such as key chains, coffee mugs and notebooks, Spizman warns that “most gift experts do feel during the holidays it’s about the recipient, not about the giver.” She advocates sending “cool” gifts, such as a Starbucks card, a Buckhead Life Restaurant Group card or a Zagat’s Guide. She also suggests sending what she labels “together gifts” — gifts that a client can enjoy with his family, such as tickets to an entertainment event or even a Blockbuster card. Gavulic and Spizman agree there are no hard and fast rules about how much firms should spend on gifts. It’s common for firms to spend less than $50 on each client, with $100 being at the high end of what’s appropriate, but Spizman emphasizes that even in the business context, gift giving is not about how much you spend. Rather, it’s about choosing a thoughtful gift that the client will enjoy. WHAT NOT TO GIVE As for what not to give clients, cash is at the top of the list. It’s impersonal at best and can look like a bribe at worst. Spizman says, “Give a gift that reflects the recipient in some thoughtful way, without going overboard to insinuate that this is an eye for an eye. Once you start giving lavish gifts, you set a precedent. You want to avoid that.” Gavulic advises being careful about sending just one type of gift to all clients. For example, she once had a law firm give clients boxes of grapefruit — but because some of the clients were on cholesterol-lowering drugs, they couldn’t eat the fruit. PACKAGE IT RIGHT Appearances do matter. Use attractive wrapping paper, and be sure to include a personal, handwritten card. Be clever when creating messages. For example, if giving a clock to a client, write in the card, “Thank you for your time. Happy holidays.” Or if giving gifts to other lawyers, to thank them for referrals, Spizman suggests filling an inexpensive briefcase with treats and adding a note that says, “I’ll be brief.” Remember, Spizman stresses, “The most important thing about gift giving in general is finding ways to make it meaningful and memorable.”

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