Most lawyers make enough money that, when there’s some consumer product they want, they just go out and buy it without giving it much thought. So, when birthdays and holidays roll around, a lawyer’s friends and family are often left wondering what to get someone who already has everything—or at least everything they can actually buy. This year, however, there’s a good chance those people will be trying to pick out the perfect gift for the lawyer who has nothing—or at least nothing new since finding himself/herself in an involuntary career transition.
As a recently laid-off lawyer myself, I’m offering some tips on what not to buy the laid-off lawyer in your life. Remember, their fragile ego has been put through the grinder, and you definitely don’t want to think it was your crappy gift that put them over the edge and sent them on an eggnog-fueled ghost-driving farewell down I-75.
A traditional fallback for people who need to buy a gift for a man and have no clue what to get, but a terrible gift for the laid-off lawyer in your life. We have plenty of ties already. And have already figured out what shirts they work with. Were we still employed, we wouldn’t need any new ties, but being laid off just makes the gift even more useless. Some of us are even hoping to never wear a tie again. Everything business-wear is off limits. No dress shirts, no gift cards to Pink or Brooks Brothers.
What to get instead: Running shoes or athletic gear (Iron Gym pull-up bar, heart rate monitor, etc). With a lot of free time on our hands for the foreseeable future, we have a chance to get in the type of shape many of us haven’t seen since 3L year/bar review (even if we didn’t take advantage of it then). Plus, getting fit will give us a better shot at a new job than a tie anyway.
Normally a gift that reminds someone of their doughy physique is a bad idea, but for a laid-off lawyer, thinking about problems that aren’t related to our job is a welcomed change of pace.
2. Recession Media
Even if we’re the type of person who would normally find a book on contemporary economics interesting, we don’t want it this year. Same goes for any books or other resource providing career guidance. We don’t want your half-assed attempt at helping us get work. We want a freaking gift. You should also avoid any sort of law-related fiction, like Lawyer Boy or Boston Legal DVDs. We didn’t find lawyers that interesting when we were working as one. They’re far less fascinating now.
What to get instead: Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life by Neil Strauss. This is the new book by famed author, Rolling Stone writer and author of The Game. After his years in the underground Hollywood seduction community, Strauss has moved on to preparing himself for survival should shit ever hit the fan. He studies how to survive any sort of attack or natural disaster, fend for himself in the wilderness, and escape to a foreign country should this one collapse. It’s a book that the unemployed can find inspiring without the risk of being condescending. Plus, Strauss is a master of his craft; it’s a great read on its own.
First, let me say, I love this game. One of the only well-crafted board games to come along in quite a while (and beats the shit out of Pictionary Man). But, Catan requires at least three people to play, which makes it a bad gift for the unemployed lawyer. Not that the unemployed are lacking in friends, but they are going to be more reclusive than they were in the past. For many of us, our jobs provided a lot of our social network, and that network is quickly fading. Others are moving and leaving their current social networks behind. And many are just going to crank up the bitterness for a while, likely driving away even the most loyal of friends. Any sort of board game would end up setting on a shelf, occasionally reminding your unemployed lawyer of just how solitary his life has become.
What to get instead: Fairytale Fights for XBox 360 or PS3. You play as a classic fairytale character—like the Emperor (with no clothes)—and hack up other fairytale favorites (gnomes, woodsmen, and the like) with a fun variety of weapons (giant toothbrushes!). It’s quick to learn and offers non-stop carnage. Perfect for releasing stress. The multiplayer mode is great, but it can be just as fun playing solo.
4. Gift Certificates to Fancy Restaurants
You might be thinking that your laid-off lawyer would appreciate a night out at a place they used to love, but now it’s out of their price range. Unfortunately, most people get too small of a gift card to cover a full dinner for two. Did you remember to factor in the price of a couple drinks, appetizer, dessert, tax and tip? No one wants to go back to their old favorite only to do it on the cheap, so odds are using your gift will end up costing a laid-off lawyer cash out of their own pocket.
Maybe you’re thinking she’d be happy to get a $150 night out for just $50 after using your $100 gift card. Wrong. She’s going to be kicking herself for spending $50 when he could have just eaten off one of the dollar menus she’s finally developed a taste for.
What to get instead: If you really want him to be able to go to a place he misses, take him there yourself and pick up the entire check. But, I’d suggest avoiding this all together, unless you’re sure he won’t feel like it’s a pity dinner.
Or the better gift is a Keurig Coffee Maker. They go for as low as $90, but right now he can’t justify to himself spending that much on a coffee maker. You can. Yes, he will end up shelling out some cash for the coffee, which might seem like it breaks the rule about not giving gifts that cost him money. But, K-Cups go for about $.60 each. Compared to figures like $1.50 for a Starbuck’s cup of coffee, it will save him money and end up replacing his trips to cafes. This gift is best for people who live near a Starbuck’s and can’t break the caffeine addiction. Not so great for suburbanites who already brew their own coffee. If they like Folgers, don’t ask them to upgrade.
Are you thinking that some wine might help your unemployed lawyer relax? You’re on the right track, but wine isn’t the way to go. It’s depressing to drink wine alone, so she’ll want to share it. Split with another person, a bottle of wine will only get him 2-3 glasses—not even enough for a buzz. If you give it to her in a social setting, there’s a good chance it will be opened then (especially if she’s the host), and she’ll make out with little better than a single glass. That’s hardly enough to cry into. If she does decide to drink it by himself, she’ll remember that wine doesn’t keep well and probably down it in one sitting. (Waste not, want not.) Your gift will be gone, and she’ll be left even more depressed and only slightly tipsy.
What to get instead: Whiskey. A handle of Jim Beam will keep your unemployed lawyer feeling no pain for a good time to come. If you want a more upscale choice, go for Jameson Gold. At about $60 for a 750ml, it doesn’t provide the same dollar-to-buzz ratio as other liquors, but it’s still far better than most decent bottles of wine.
Yes, I said it’s depressing to drink wine by yourself, and it’s depressing to drink whiskey by yourself too. But there’s something more dignified about crying into a grain alcohol aged in charred oak. The tears will actually open up the flavor.
If this list didn’t cover what you were looking for, just keep in mind the two basic principles:
1. Don’t give a gift that will end up costing money;
2. Don’t give a gift that is condescending or depressing.
It sounds simple, but I’m sure the new year will be filled with stories of wildly inappropriate gifts given to laid-off lawyers.