Five Gifts Not to Give a Laid-Off Lawyer for Christmas


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, his fragile ego has been put through the grinder, and you definitely don’t want to think it was your crappy gift that put him over the edge and sent him on an eggnog-fueled ghost-driving farewell down I-75.

1. Ties

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.

3.  The Settlers of Catan

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 he used to love, but now it’s out of his 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 his own pocket.

Maybe you’re thinking he’d be happy to get a $150 night out for just $50 after using your $100 gift card. Wrong. He’s going to be kicking himself for spending $50 when he could have just eaten off one of the dollar menus he’s finally developed a taste for.

Same goes for tickets to most events. The concessions at sports games can pile up quickly, and concerts can lead to shelling out cash for a hotel room to bang that hipster chick who only wanted to hook up with a young professional because she thought it’d be ‘ironic.’

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.

5. Wine

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 he’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 him in a social setting, there’s a good chance it will be opened then (especially if he’s the host), and he’ll make out with little better than a single glass. That’s hardly enough to cry into. If he does decide to drink it by himself, he’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 he’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. Extremely smooth and probably something he hasn’t tried before. 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.  His 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 him 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.

Read more from BL1Y.

11 Comments

  1. Willem Uboutu

    December 2, 2009 at 2:56 am

    I would like to suggest two very practical gifts for lawyers (employed or not).  Because of the lack of attractive female lawyers, male lawyers should be given lfe size female blow-up dolls with realistic features.  This thoughtful gift will provide the male lawyer with something warm that will be of good service without yapping all of the time, the way real women lawyers on this site do..  For female lawyers, who always seem to bemoan the lack of decent male lawyers, I suggest a 10” lithum battery powered vibrator.  The women lawyers can use this handy utensil at home, on the commute to work as well as at their desk.  It also can serve as a valuable defensive weapon on the subway, as virtually no would be robber will want to get any where near it.

  2. Carl

    December 2, 2009 at 6:38 am

    I tend to agree with William, though I personally would prefer a lap dance.

  3. Craig

    December 2, 2009 at 7:38 am

    Really funny article.  NIce work, BL1Y.  Keep submitting.  Restaurant gift card and Wine were the best sections.

  4. Big Jim

    December 2, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Nice work, BL1Y.  Gift ideas: Scotch, cash, massage (legit) gift certificate.

  5. Sharikov

    December 2, 2009 at 9:45 am

    How about a dictionary, so he or she can learn to spell tough words like “physique” and “Folger’s”?

  6. LDLawyer

    December 2, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    I concur with the dictionary suggestion.  It’s “two basic principles,” not “two basic principals.”

  7. Anonymous

    December 4, 2009 at 3:19 am

    Is BL1Y mistake prone?  Oy!  Next thing you know he will be seen on the arm of Tiger Woods’ wife, Ellen!

  8. lurker

    December 7, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Strauss as a “master” of his craft? Puh-leeze. He’s a mediocre to poor writer whose books are short on teachable anecdotes and long on bad writing. It’s no wonder he writes for crap publications like Rolling Stone.

  9. Mr Cravath

    December 7, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    My respects BL1Y, but this article has the same “you owe me” tone as the ones about work. Worn out from whining about mean partners, you’re on the warpath against beneficient gift-givers trying to spread holiday cheer. If you’re given certificate to Jean George (“it not enough!”), or wine (“I can’t get blitzed on this with Alma hogging half”), or a Brioni tie to spruce up your act (” it reminds me of a mean partner!”), you’ll complain.  I was going to send you some Horatio Alger books and a copy of Jim Stewart’s “The Partners,” but now I’m going to give them to homeless people.

  10. Laid-off Lawyer

    December 10, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    Since I’m a laid-off lawyer too, I’d like to ask Santa for a blow-up doll of Willem for my gift.  I just so love when straight men wax sexist on legal sites.  Maybe a little man-on-man action will his doppelganger will “sensitize” him a bit more.
    In other news–where the hell is I-75?  Shouldn’t that be an interstate a bit more recognizable like I-95 or I-80 or I-40? 
    I’d like cold hard cash for my Christmas present.  It’ll help pay the rent.

  11. JGN

    December 16, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Yep the gift cards while appreciated, always left you trying to scrape up the tip etc.  I think the best thing a buddy ever did for me while I was off was to drag me to the golf course.  The first 9 holes he listened to me bitch while I tried to reduce my slice.  The back nine where a blur after hitting the clubhouse.  He killed three vices in one trip.  I got to go to the shrink, the bar and the gym for the price of green fees and a couple of the little bottles they give you to mix with your coke on the cart.  Although a DUI on a golf cart was a risk.

    I went 18 months waiting to find the place to go get back into it.  During that time I suffered more sports injuries than the past ten years.  Take a buddy golfing.

    He’ll love you for it.  Even if he doesn’t play.

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