Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 6

FROM OUR PRESIDENT

The Handwritten Note

Making It Personal

T
Connect
with Susie:
shoffman@dcbar.org

"Handwritten
notes have even
been credited with
fostering improved
diplomatic relations
between world
leaders."

Photo: Joe Shymanski

6

WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

SEPTEMBER 2019

hirty years ago, I began my position
as public service counsel at Crowell
& Moring LLP. On my first day, after
a whirlwind of introductions and hellos,
I was ushered to my new office where a
small ivory envelope sat on a bare desk. It
was a handwritten note from Eldon "Took"
Crowell, one of the firm's cofounders,
welcoming me and articulating his hopes
and dreams of building a pro bono
program that would engage our attorneys
in meaningful pro bono work and that
would be a beacon to the profession. That
note spoke volumes to me. Here was
a name partner of the firm with a busy
commercial practice, not to mention a
firm to run, who had taken the time to sit
down and write to a young lawyer who
might be just another blip on the screen.

Whenever I'm asked by younger attorneys for
general career advice, I recommend networking
with lawyers in areas they're interested in and
sending a follow-up thank-you note, preferably
a handwritten one, to those they've met. If interviewing for employment, I recommend sending a
thank-you email because of its immediacy, followed
by a handwritten note. The message that you really
want this job will be clear!

I saved that note and many other notes of congratulations, thanks, and celebration from Took and
from other colleagues and clients over the years
in a manila folder in my desk drawer. I thought
I was unique in my attachment to these notes, until
I happened to mention this "secret file" the other
day to another partner, who confessed that she
similarly had kept these handwritten notes. And so,
in this day and age of Twitter, Instagram, and other
modes of electronic communication, I decided
to devote this month's column to encourage the
yesteryear tradition of sending handwritten notes.

Handwritten notes have even been credited with
fostering improved diplomatic relations between
world leaders. President George H. W. Bush, a thankyou note superhero, penned notes to foreign
leaders, laying the groundwork for cordial working
relationships that would be tested over time. In fact,
Bush set aside time most evenings to write notes
- enough to fill a 700-page book, All the Best,
George Bush. If the leader of the free world was able
to set aside time to draft personal notes, there goes
my "I'm too busy" excuse.

While the immediacy and convenience of a thankyou or congratulatory email make it utilitarian and
efficient, the handwritten note conveys a level of
additional effort, thought, and commitment by
the drafter. According to the U.S. Postal Service's
2012 Household Diary Study, personal mail comprises only 1 percent of daily mail. While many of
us routinely send handwritten notes to family and
friends, the value of these notes in the professional
context should not be overlooked. Not surprisingly,
business advisors like Micah Solomon, a customer
service consultant, have recognized the value of
the handwritten note in customer/client satisfaction and networking.

*

There are other benefits to sending handwritten
notes. The fact that my tenure at the firm has lasted
(happily) for over 30 years is a reflection of the
loyalty and positive morale among staff and attorneys, created in part by personal notes from our
Management Board liaison each year at evaluation
time. Human resources professionals have indeed
recognized that personal notes from management
can enhance employee morale and improve retention. A 2014 article on AmericanExpress.com cited
former GE Chair Jack Welch and former Campbell
Soup Co. CEO Doug Conant as "two famous
examples of leaders who often sent their
employees handwritten notes."

On top of all this, a recent psychological study
indicates that the act of writing thank-you notes
actually makes you feel better. As Psychology Today
summarized in an August 2018 online story, a study
"found that the prosocial gesture of expressing
gratitude in a handwritten note boosts positive
emotions and well-being for both the letter-writing
'expresser' and the recipient of the stated appreciation." So, as soon as I wrap up this column, I will
be doing some internet surfing to order new
stationery and start working on surpassing the
Bush record!


http://www.AmericanExpress.com https://www.dcbar.org/

Washington Lawyer - September 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - September 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Tomorrow’s Lawyers: Jd + Practice Ready
The Justice Gap & The Rise Of Nonlawyer Legal Providers
D.C. Bar Cle: Keeping Up With The Law
Aba Delegate’s Corner
Member Spotlight
Global & Domestic Outlook
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask The Ethics Experts
Disciplinary Summaries
2019 Celebration Of Leadership & Presidents Reception
Community & Connections
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Tomorrow’s Lawyers: Jd + Practice Ready
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 14
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 15
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 16
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - The Justice Gap & The Rise Of Nonlawyer Legal Providers
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 19
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 20
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 21
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 22
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 24
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - D.C. Bar Cle: Keeping Up With The Law
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 26
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 27
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Aba Delegate’s Corner
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 29
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 31
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 32
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 33
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 35
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 37
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 39
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Ask The Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 43
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 2019 Celebration Of Leadership & Presidents Reception
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 45
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - 47
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - September 2019 - Cover4
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