How Do You Thank a Lawyer for Pro Bono Work?

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Dear Miriam,

An attorney friend of mine recently did some generous pro bono work for a Jewish nonprofit that is close to my heart. I do a great deal of volunteering for this nonprofit myself, and I’m the one who asked him to help us. Now that the work is done, I’d like to thank him with some sort of gift, but I can’t figure out an appropriate gift. He’s well-off, so a gift card seems pointless, and he’s humble, so public acknowledgement is likely to be embarrassing. Do you have any other ideas?

Signed,

Difficult to Thank

Dear Thank,

Sometimes the point of a gift is to fill a need for the recipient. More often, it’s to fill a need for the gift giver. Even when a person says, “I don’t need anything,” the response might often be, “But I want to give you something.” This is about you, which is fine, but do your best to make it about him as well.

Your attorney friend doesn’t need anything, but you want to show your gratitude. Certainly, he could afford to go to a nice dinner or shopping at a high-end store, but does he? Maybe he would enjoy an excuse to go to somewhere like Reading Terminal or another specialty grocery store near his office. Maybe there’s a coffee shop near work or home that you know he enjoys. Even if it’s something he would buy anyway, you have the chance to send something useful and enjoyable his way.

Beyond your nonprofit, you could also find out if there are other causes or charities he supports. A donation in his honor could be meaningful and thoughtful and could fill your need to thank him in a way that keeps on giving.

You could go to a gift shop for inspiration, but steer clear of sentimental items like plaques or decorative items that may not fit into his home or office decor. Food items can be a way to go if you feel confident about any dietary restrictions. Presuming he works in a law office of some sort, these also can be shared with co-workers.

Finally, you could ask him. He’s already a dependable friend, and you could earnestly say something like, “I’d really like to give you something to thank you for the work you did, but I want to do so in a way that feels right to you. Would it be all right to acknowledge you publicly at our next meeting or sponsor the next kiddush [or whatever it is] in your honor? If not, is there a favorite restaurant/coffee shop/experience that I could treat you to?”

Since, in this case, the thought really is what counts, let him know you’re thinking about it, and take his cues from there.

Be well,

Miriam

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