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Commentary: Tis the Season. Again. 

Spencer Farris//December 22, 2021

Commentary: Tis the Season. Again. 

Spencer Farris//December 22, 2021

It is the holiday season. I know this because of the lovely cards I am getting. I haven’t sent a holiday card since the early 1990s. It isn’t for lack of intentions but evidently more than that is required — at this point I haven’t even done enough to be charged with conspiracy to send holiday cards. My wife and I made a decision, however, to not get family pictures taken for the cards we won’t send next year. 

In rereading my past holiday columns, the Grinch vibe in me is strong. I am almost a Grinch Jedi for you Star Trek fans out there. I made a resolution last January to be less so this year. Then again, that was twelve months ago, and a lot of stuff has gone down. I’ll try of course, but it would be best if you maintain low expectations, Gentle Reader. Besides, January is just around the corner and I can always resolve to re-resolve. 

With the exception of the Second Amendment, which Moses protected when he headed the NRA, the status of the remaining suggestions in the Bill of Rights is less than settled in my mind. Accordingly, the propriety of holiday decorations at government buildings is outside of my ken. 

One local government has a nativity scene, but only managed to put one wise man in the manger. Pessimists blame bureaucracy and start a tirade about government ineffectiveness. Optimists say it is pretty amazing that one wise man was found within the government’s employ. 

Perhaps attempting to seem non-denominational, that same government building also has a menorah displayed out front, albeit with seven candles instead of the usual nine. Maybe there was a budget shortfall that cut into the decorating spend. Perhaps since Hannukah was so early this year, the candles had other commitments and had to take off early.  Somewhere, there is a storage closet where wise men are laughing by candle light. 

Another sure sign of the holiday season is holiday parties. I don’t go to many parties this time of year. Mostly because I don’t get many invitations. This year I did manage to hit a couple parties.

I was thrilled to see my good friend Stuart Thomas at a party this year. Stu told me that holiday parties are a struggle. 

“Days are shorter, so I am already disinclined to go out, and it has a been a long time since doing anything after dark was my norm anyway. I am just waking up from my late afternoon nap when the party is starting. It is tough to feel festive with a comfy couch and a good fire at home. I have pretty good whiskey at home to boot.” 

Stu does have a good whiskey collection. The rest of his analysis is accurate too. 

It is probably an oversimplification, but lawyers at holiday parties fall into a few distinct groups. There are those who make an appearance to grab a drink and talk to folks they haven’t seen since last year on the party circuit. There are those who show up to get face-time with bosses or judges. There are those who come to the parties to get away from their significant other, or as an excuse to leave the office early. There are those who just come for the free food. 

Roland is in the last group, and from the looks of him there have been a lot of parties this year. His plate was piled high with snacks and would have made a structural engineer proud with its defiance of gravity. At least when he is eating, he isn’t talking about himself, so a holiday party is the best time to see Roland. If there is a good time. Roland waddled up to us but I didn’t notice. My eyes were closed as I wished for hearing aids so that I could turn them off. Santa did not comply. 

“Happy Holidays guys! Can you believe it is already December?” Roland asked. 

“Actually, I can,” Stuart replied. “I had all year to get ready for it, and those last 30 days or so — November wasn’t it? Quite the tip off that December was coming.” 

Stuart Thomas isn’t one for small talk generally, and less so with oafs like Roland. While he may be a master of passive aggression, his aggressive aggression isn’t to be trifled with, either. Roland shuffled back to the food table. I think it was a Christmas miracle, but that may be an overstatement.  

Stuart and I chatted a little longer about the Rule in Shelly’s case and his historical analysis of Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad. The facts he shared were interesting, I am sure. If there is ever a trivial pursuit challenge for lawyers, I want him on my team.  I was feeling the holiday spirit, and feigning enthusiasm for my friend’s fact nerding was a small gift to give. 

Birds instinctually fly south for the winter. Mammals and reptiles that hibernate know when to head for their dens. Lawyers at a holiday party know when to go home as well. Some of us even heed those instincts and leave. 

“It was great to see you again, Stu,” I called out to my friend as I headed for the door. 

“I am sure that it was,” Stuart replied and turned back towards the bar. 

I suddenly felt less guilt for not telling him about the sauce on his tie from the snack line. Good friends are a gift that we are fortunate to receive. They are the best ones. May your holidays be filled with the gifts that you need as well. 

©2021 With All Due Respect. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri. Happy holidays and stuff. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this newspaper or directly to me via email at [email protected].

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