Gimme Your Advice

I am seeking advice on two wholly separate topics:

1. I got a girl in the office Secret Santa who I've never met. And who I may not meet before the exchange. Here's what I know from asking everyone else "What do you know about Erin?" She's a lawyer, she's Irish (or at least partially Irish), she... I don't know anything else. Limit is $30. I was thinking of something universal, like a gift card, but I worried that it kind of detracts from the point of a Secret Santa. (Why not just hand over the cash then?) I also considered a gift card/ small item combo. (Like a Starbucks card and mug?) I'd also like to just be a little more creative with it - as if I have that in me, this time of year. All ideas appreciated.

2. A fellow PD blogger emailed for book suggestions to send to a client. Here's what we know about the client: The client is Caucasian, in his mid-30's, he's interested in drawing and art.

One good habit, now that you're a PD, is to keep an eye on the $1 bin. Every now and then I've picked something up and kept it in my office, and eventually I come up with the perfect client to fit the book or vice versa.

I've found that many clients like books on the justice system or other prisoners (which is why I can't wait until Injustice comes out in paperback!) I just try to be cautious that I'm not going to be encouraging my client's crime by letting them read about it. (Some clients will be inspired by reading about another drug addict's plight, others will just crave drugs more.) My clients have enjoyed All God's Children and Live From Death Row by Mumia Abu-Jamal.

I've had a few African-American clients who have told me they were really inspired by Think Big and other books by Dr. Ben Carson, sometimes available in the $1 bin. I've seen Dr. Carson, and he's an amazing speaker. He's an African-American man who grew up in the inner-city and went on to become a world renowned pediatric neurosurgeon. I think it might be of interest to anyone (I liked it), but so far I personally have only had African-American clients read it.

(There are more books I can think of that are of more interest to African-American clients, such as White Mans Justice, Black Mans Grief and Black Robes, White Justice: Why Our Legal System Doesn't Work for Blacks but I'm trying to stick to the question. But they're out there, in case anyone else is wondering.)

I think fiction is a good idea, it gives the client a bit of an escape from their everyday life. I keep thinking of Harry Potter too (although that one will be harder to find in the $1 bin) because it accounts for the fact that clients can't always read at a high level and the cover art might encourage his artistic side. I also think Grisham books or the DaVinci Code books are pretty popular, and probably easy to find cheap used copies of. I've only read one book by Carl Hiassen, but he's usually pretty easy to find cheap used copies of, and I think his books are easy to read and interesting enough.

So... anyone else? Gift advice? Book advice? Books that I can give both to my Secret Santa and to a client?

21 comments:

  1. What about a $30 gift basket from Bath and Body Works with a "Relaxation" theme?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I like the Starbucks card and mug idea, or maybe a PD-related book -- "Indefensible?"

    P.S. - I really hope you will be watching, and reviewing, this.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Another vote for giving "Indefensible." Now I am seeking your advice: in my office's Secret Santa thing, I drew my own name! Secretly I was pleased to avoid an "Erin" situation, but now I realize that I'm going to embarrass myself at the gift exchange. Gifting myself seems cheesy - what to do?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Get Erin a funny T-shirt: something like "Public Defenders Do It For Free"

    ReplyDelete
  5. Diana Barry BlytheDecember 12, 2006 3:59 AM

    Fellow blogger and attorney Jeremy Blachman has written a humourous novel about law firm life based on his Anonymous Lawyer blog.

    This gift will work for both of your dilemmas. :)

    P.S. Why have you only suggested THINK BIG to African-Americans? It's inspiring for anyone.
    Just asking.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Diana - I'm sorry if that's the impression I left. I read Think Big and thought it was excellent and inspiring (and I'm not African-American.) I've had African-American clients read it and tell me it was very inspiring to them. I've never given it to a white client, but to be honest, I haven't had that many that were in jail and interested in reading. (Meaning they haven't asked me for books, or carried books to court, etc.)

    I think Think Big would be great for anyone - I guess I don't know if there'd be a racism thing, especially in some jails in some parts of the country. And maybe that'd be good, maybe the book would help a racist person relate and have a new-found tolerance, but on the other hand, if your client is in the Klan in the jail, I don't know that the book is going to make it back to his cell. And many of my clients who have jail or prison experience (the ones that have been through the system many times before) are in race-related gangs in jail.

    I guess it also depends whether you want to try to change/educate your client through your book gift or whether you just want to cater to their existing interests. (Also a common dilemma in many other types of gift-giving.)

    And Skelly, you've got 2 choices. 1. Let the Secret Santa organizer know and she can make a secret switch with someone. It might mean someone else has their own name too.
    or
    2. Pick someone else you trust to make a good gift decision, and tell them you need to switch names. Then they get your name, and you get a good gift!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am a big fan of the gift card approach - impersonal or not, it's something that everybody likes. I'd go for a Borders or Barnes and Noble gift card rather than buying a book - you never know what people already have. I'd be against anything scented - I am very very sensitive to certain fragrances, and when people give me stuff from Bath and Both Works it usually ends up being regifted or handed off to someone quickly so it doesn't make me sneeze all over the house :).

    ReplyDelete
  8. If she is a drinker, (Wait, what lawyer is not a drinker!) how about a nice bottle of wine or Irish whiskey? That always seemed to work when I exchanged gifts with fellow lawyers.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Gift cards are the best - especially from something like Amazon. They can buy what the want, when they want, and they have lot of options.

    Also...as to books, I would highly recommend The Brothers K, by David James Duncan. It is a really thoughtful novel. It is long, and written at a pretty high level, but it is great.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Skelly - confide in your office best friend and ask to switch secret santas. You'll buy whoever she was supposed to buy for and she'll buy for you. It ruins the surprise of who your secret santa is but it saves you from the embarrassment.

    BJ - I think you should give a Starbucks (or other local coffee place) mug, with a little candy or a small bag of coffee in the bottom of it and a gift card for ten to fifteen dollars at the top. It's not that creative, but let's be honest: you don't know the girl; you're not expected to be creative.

    ReplyDelete
  11. If the first season of Boston Legal is less than $30 that might be a fun gift. The show is hilarious, and it has one thing you know about her--she is a lawyer.

    ReplyDelete
  12. What about a nice calendar? I am totally jonesing after this one and imagine I would want it if I were Erin. (I swear I am not an undercover calendar company employee, I just think it's lovely.)

    ReplyDelete
  13. I think a nice hat/scarf/gloves set is a good Secret Santa gift. Also a PD related book, as other people have said- maybe Indefensible, or the new Grisham non-fiction book, or Dead Wrong by Michael Mallo which is one of my favorites.

    As someone with skin allergies, I'd advise you to stay away from any beauty products or relaxation stuff. I personally would love Starbucks, but the problem with Starbucks is not everyone likes coffee, and some people are strongly anti-Starbucks.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Just a quick book comment: Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA by Tim Junkin

    ReplyDelete
  15. Magic 8-Ball for the office Secret Santa. "Gideon's Trumpet" for the client.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Also the "Rumpole of the Bailey" books are a pretty good read. Even though the stories are set in England, it's basically the same racket.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I got a guy I didn't really know for Secret Santa this year. I had no idea what he liked/disliked. We had a $10 limit though, so I found a holiday cookie jar on sale and filled it with a batch of fresh baked cookies. He loved it!

    Holiday goodies always go over well, so if you can bake and find a nice way to package it, you've usually got a good gift.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Have a look at the designs at http://despair.com/viewall.html - have a 2007 calendar made up - it's sure to fit your PD "secret santa" receipient.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I'm jumping in late but as another fan of Starbuck's I personally would love a Starbuck's gift card. Very handy. Maybe with some candy too. (For your fellow PD).

    Do you buy x-mas presents for all of your clients? That's incredible if you do.

    ReplyDelete
  20. The book "Finding Freedom" by Jarvis Masters is amazing -- great for anyone to read. Masters is on death row in California.

    ReplyDelete