As the blog has been making its way through a multi-part primer on dressing like a lawyer, we’ve touched repeatedly on the importance of tailoring. The axiom is: if the suit doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. But, we have assumed that young lawyers’ budgets will require them to buy off-the-rack suits and shirts. But, slimmed down styles inspired by the custom tailoring of London’s famed Savile Row have come into vogue, shouldering out the boxier styling traditional to the U.S. With that trend has come a surge of attention by consumers and the media in skilled custom tailoring. So, it seems appropriate that we briefly review the full spectrum of business attire customization.
Executive Board member Maria E. Harris recently posted on key points for female lawyers to keep in mind in cultivating a lawyerly image. This installment discusses the same topic with a focus on men. Part 2a deals with suits. Part 2b will deal with shirts, ties, shoes, and other accessories.
There is no one way to be an excellent lawyer—as legendary trial lawyer Bob Mongeluzzi counsels, you ultimately have to be yourself to achieve your lawyerly potential. The same goes for your visual presentation. You can never go wrong with a simple, neat, well-fitting, comfortable ensemble. If you look competent, you will enjoy a presumption of competence (albeit a rebuttable one). But, to the extent you individualize appearance, make sure it’s consistent with your personal style, your practice and your audience. Whether you’re cerebral and understated or bold and outspoken, dress the part. By and large, lawyers dress differently in the courtroom than in a document review room. No jacket or tie might be OK in Silicon Valley, dressy cowboy boots OK in Houston, seersucker OK in Atlanta and probably none of the above at a white-shoe firm in the Northeast. To this day, My Cousin Vinny is unrivaled in highlighting with comedic artistry the importance of tradition and context in lawyerly dress. As you work to find your style niche, try to find lawyers whom you respect and emulate them. Every lawyer needs to be able to dress formally, even if only occasionally, so the following guide will focus on making sure are able to do that with aplomb, starting with suits. Once you have formal attire handled, you can dress down from there.
By Mike Murphy and Carlynn Fitzgerald
When I was in high school, we had an “open campus,” which meant that, because our cafeteria wasn’t big enough to handle all the students eating at once, students could leave school and eat elsewhere. Problem was, “lunch” was 35 minutes long, and the school was in the suburbs, so the social landscape aligned itself such that those in power were (1) of legal driving age and (2) had a car at school. But even if you were lucky enough to know such a feudal lord or lady, there weren’t many good options nearby, and by “good,” I mean “good” by the definition of a bunch of 16-year-olds in Michigan, which is to say “deep-fried meat and/or pizza.” The Shangri-La of lunch places was The New McDonalds, which opened during my senior year. If you knew a kid with a fast car, a general disregard for the personal safety of himself and his passengers, and the organizational precision of Danny Ocean, you could just barely get there, eat and get back for Fifth Period. It made lunch the most exciting meal of the day. We would race into Honors English conspicuously draining a 44-ounce pop (remember, this is the Midwest) and everyone would know that we pulled off yet another high-risk caper.
Nowadays, I usually eat a salad at my desk.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Read on and find out:
This is the first of a two-part series on cultivating a lawyerly appearance. Author Maria E. Harris is a member of the Young Lawyers Division Executive Committee.
The following tips are based upon interviews with female attorneys selected for their reputations as classy, professional and stylish members of the bar. They range in age from thirties to fifties and have practiced in a variety of settings, from government to private practice, both plaintiff and defense.
Know your audience. Dressing as an attorney depends not only on who you are but also whom you are interacting with. It can vary depending on whether you are going to court, a networking event, appearing at the office or simply going to dinner with co-workers.
Just because it’s technically within the dress code doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Having interviewed partners in their 40s and 50s, I have an intimate view of the expectations for dressing as a young woman attorney.
Dressing up a little pays dividends. Women lawyers who are more established and experienced feel that, as young women, we should be more cognizant of how the way we present ourselves affects others’ impressions of us. [Ed. note: The Young Lawyer editorial board recently made this same point.]
I posted last week about all the ill effects of lawyers’ sedentary lifestyle and offered some suggestions for mitigating those effects. (Mike Murphy has offered some related suggestions on cultivating good eating habits). But for lawyers with serious work demands, it can seem like there’s never time for the essential components of a healthy lifestyle, such as regular exercise, or consistently getting enough sleep (an area lawyers have been proven to fail miserably). But, as it turns out, it’s not that simple. Apparently, maximizing your productivity at work depends on taking time away from work to exercise. Read more…