Question of the Week

How Formal or Informal Are You in Your Interactions with Your Clients?


This week at Going Paperless, Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor associate Molly DiBianca gives a shout-out to a Paris partner at the law firm Bird & Bird who doesn’t share her “hesitancy to make [his] comedic debut via Outlook” and who wrote a very frank out-of-office autoreply message that was published on RollOnFriday. Here is the message:


From: Alain Gorny
Subject: Out of office

I am NOT travelling on business or similar: I am just taking my Friday OFF and will be your slave again on Monday.

Please kindly liaise with my wonderful Team.

Thank you for your understanding

Alain Gorny


Dibianca says she fancies herself “to be the nonstandard, nonboring lawyer type, and I cringe to think that my out-of-office autoreply message may reflect otherwise. But I also worry that this is not the place to express myself creatively. It is, after all, a business message.”

Gorny told the ABA Journal that he received dozens of messages from lawyers and nonlawyers around the world regarding his out-of-office message in the weeks since it was sent. And while Gorny said the reactions to it from other partners at his firm were mixed—most didn’t react at all, he said, while “some had an LOL” and “some expressed real concern about the fact that a client might have seen the [message] and what he/she would think of the whole firm”—there have so far been no negative consequences. In fact, Gorny said that shortly after the message went out, he landed a client he’d been trying to attract for six years, and the general counsel mentioned the out-of-office autoreply message in the phone conversation sealing the deal.

So this week, we’d like to ask you: How formal or informal are you in your interactions with your clients?

Do you let your personality and sense of humor shine through in your correspondence, website or on your business cards? Are quirky personal effects on display in your law firm office? Do you wear a pink suit in your online law firm bio photo or brand yourself with your clothing in any other way? Or do you see no reason to be anything but conservative and professional at all times?

And, of course, don’t hesitate to share client reactions to your decisions—positive or negative.

Answer in the comments.

Read the answers to last week’s question: Has a Case or a Client Ever Made You Fear for Your Life?

Featured answer:

Posted by Barbara Rosenberg: “When I was a young and petite lawyer, a large and strong assigned criminal defendant whom I had been representing—and from whose case I had petitioned to withdraw—held me hostage in an enclosed jail cell with a large serrated tin can lid at my neck for six hours. He knocked out the lightbulb and wouldn’t let me speak for several hours. He finally negotiated a ‘deal’ permitting my release. Scary.”

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