How to Dress Like a Lawyer
What does a lawyer look like? If you were a lawyer in the 14th century in Britain, you were recognized by your white wig and robes. Today, white wigs are still required in criminal court in Britain. There were many reasons for the formal attire for lawyers and even though we are more relaxed today, there are still many good reasons why a lawyer should dress like a lawyer. Defining how to “dress like a lawyer” is the trick for many young attorneys graduating law school.
Professionals Are Known By Their Attire
What does a doctor look like? A police officer? A chef? A soldier? Many careers and jobs either require or have adopted a specific uniform or attire. The people who hold these jobs are identified by their attire. When we see someone in hospital scrubs, we assume that person is a doctor or medical professional. When we see someone in a chef’s jacket and hat, we assume they are a professional chef. Whether we like it or not, we are defined by what we wear. Acceptable attire for serious lawyers is a suit and tie.
What’s Expected of Female and Male Attorneys
If a suit and tie are appropriate for male lawyers, what is expected of the female attorney. Pant – and skirt -suits seems appropriate right? But what about length of sleeves? And just how many buttons should you button at the collar? Is the skirt supposed to come below the knee or above? Female attorney’s can expect to be held to different standard dress code, especially in the courtroom.
Slate made a great point about this, and the ‘tradition of professors, judges, and fellow attorneys’ explaining to women how they should dress. The article explained that it hasn’t been that many decades since women were “supposed” to wear skirts in the courtroom, not pants, and that even in 2014, a Tennessee judge issued a dress code for female attorneys in his courtroom which included wearing sleeves below the elbow. In the article, author Ashley Caggiano discusses how easy men and women can share a dress code that isn’t gender biased.
Look Like You’re Worth Your Billing Rate
Whether you are working in a corporate setting or have hung your own shingle, you need to show your clients, associates, and the court that you’ve got yourself together. It doesn’t really matter how solid your legal abilities are, if you don’t look sharp, your clients and your associates may doubt you.
On the Other Hand…
There really has never been any type of real consensus about how an attorney is supposed to dress. Suits for men, suits for women, but there are no meaningful rules beyond that. If you ask what a lawyer looks like, the answer is simple – professional. Lawyers should look professional.
But let’s look at the bigger picture here. Depending on your area of practice, there’s many reasons to forego the suit and tie, at least some of the time. The folks over at Lawyerist make a good point: if you are representing artists, musicians, and other creatives, your clientele may want and expect a casually dressed attorney.
And think about this: if you plan on competing for business online or in print, you better have something that sets you apart from your peers, and at least some of that “difference” should be your style and personality. Though you may not be able to really step it up if you are working at a big firm, those of you in solo practices and small firms should dress in a way that meshes with your clientele.
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