This semester in Professor Lisa Mazzie’s Advanced Legal Writing: Writing for Law Practice seminar, students are required to write one blog post on a law- or law school-related topic of their choice. Writing blog posts as a lawyer is a great way to practice writing skills, and to do so in a way that allows the writer a little more freedom to showcase his or her own voice, and—eventually for these students—a great way to maintain visibility as a legal professional. Here is one of those blog posts, this one written by 3L Corey Westfall.
A lawyer wears—what does a lawyer wear? I ask you that question after my roommate professed that “we are going to be lawyers soon, so we should dress like lawyers.”
If the 2017 American Bar Association (“ABA”) annual conference provided an entire session focused solely on fashion, fashion must be a real legal issue! ABA paid for a Brooks Brothers session that provided modeling, lectures, and a pamphlet.
And while Brooks Brothers used that session to advertise their “relatively affordable pieces” (do not be duped; there are more affordable options), Brooks Brothers also provided some useful tips: (1) stick to dark grey and dark blue suits/skirts; and (2) limit shirts to solid blue and solid white, and lightly patterned versions of blue and white. (Number (2) for women may have some slight variations in color, but not much.) Conservative tips, but safe nonetheless.
We law students are joining a profession older than we are, with fashion norms out-aging our already-outdated law school wardrobe! So, conservative air should waft out from a fresh-faced associate’s wardrobe.
A high-school baseball coach once began a dinner reception by stating, “You gotta look good to play good.” Oh, how right he was. And fashion in the law agrees. For instance, in Attorney Gary Ross’s “Dress Like a Lawyer,” Attorney Ross suggests that whether a lawyer is leaving the gym or the courthouse, that lawyer should “dress like a lawyer.” Ross believes that while 80% of life is showing up for the work, 10% is showing up looking the part. (Obviously, Ross excludes the other 10% of life: doing math)
And Ross is correct. Because humans use first impressions to base future decisions, outward appearance certainly shapes those impressions, both socially and professionally. Meanwhile, lawyers rely on outward appearance to win over a jury, advertise the profession, and attract clientele. Thus, in an industry where first impressions matter, a lawyer must look like a lawyer at both the office and the local fruit stand. (DISCLAIMER: I do not advise wearing a suit to exercise. Active wear is still recommended for physical activity but should be limited to exercise. My mom is probably giggling, knowing that I am too generous with my active wear).
And so, to answer your question, roommate, an associate-lawyer’s wardrobe should include white and blue shirts, dark grey and dark blue suits/skirts, and brown and black shoes. That’s it. The above sources suggest that there are enough details in formal-wear (collars, ties, cuffs, shoes, jewelry) to jazz-up the outfit. But do not feel the need to jazz-up. As Attorney Ross posits, the more experienced attorneys earn more leeway in fashion, so an associate should not attempt to out-dress the partner at a deposition.
Good news in all of this: it is easier to pick what to wear in the morning! Bad news: lawyerly clothes cost money. So, let us hope that lawyerly salaries provide for fashion expenses. Or better yet, maybe lawyers can claim work-clothes as capital assets on their tax returns!?
Please know that I want your comments and concerns, and even personal feedback. How should I improve my wardrobe? (I know it can be done).
Next up: What Does a Lawyer Smell Like?