You don’t dress like a lawyer–does it matter?

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So Mark Zuckerberg wears the same t-shirts and hoodies every day. Same color, too. He says it’s easier that way because he doesn’t have to take any time deciding what to wear. I admire his efficiency but why not wear a blue suit, white shirt, and red necktie every day?

Why dress like a teenager who doesn’t care about how he looks or what people think? Why not hire someone to choose his clothing for him?

Because he’s a billionaire and he can do whatever he wants. Because he owns the stock and nobody refuses to do business with him. And because he’s in tech, not law.

Yeah, he’s in an industry where dressing casually and being quirky is cool and dressing in traditional business attire isn’t. If you’re a billionaire you can do the same thing. Otherwise, you probably need to dress like a lawyer.

Your client’s expect you to “look the part”. If you don’t, if you vary from their image of what a lawyer is “supposed” to look like, they get nervous and may doubt you and your abilities. I’m not saying it’s right, but that’s the way it is.

So men, you need the suit and tie. Women need to wear appropriate business attire.

Lawyers shouldn’t have tattoos showing. Men shouldn’t wear earrings. Or long hair. Or purple hair. Women can wear earrings and have long hair but not purple hair.

What if you handle entertainment law? That’s different isn’t it? Maybe. You can probably get away with dressing casually but you won’t be laughed at if you dress like a lawyer. (I wonder what Zuckerberg’s lawyers wear?)

Yes there are exceptions. An office in Beverly Hills is different than an office in Omaha. Seeing a long time client on a Saturday is different than meeting a prospective client on Monday morning.

But you get my point. Optics are important.

We see politicians on the campaign trail today and many of the men remove their neckties and wear blue jeans. I’m sure it’s because they want to look like a regular guy. That’s okay if they’re at a picnic or riding a tractor; otherwise, I think they need to look the part they are auditioning for (even if they’re not a lawyer).

Yes, I know it’s not the 1950s. And yes, I’m old fashioned. But so are voters. And clients. And judges. And other lawyers who might not send you referrals if you wear gray t-shirts and hoodies every day.

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Comments

  1. I disagree in part. I am a member of a 4 lawyer plaintiffs’ pi/business tort firm in a city of 250K population. I’m the president of my local bar association and have been practicing 30+ years. I can regularly be found walking to lunch in blue jeans, or walking into the office in work out clothes in the morning. On the other hand, I would never walk into court without a tie, even though most of the judges are my friends and contemporaries. I think clients can be intimidated by their surroundings and appreciate something less than formal. Just use good common sense

  2. I love it–probably because it reflects my beliefs and practices for years. I resent my law school not having a practical course addressing dress, manners, and taste. I tell young lawyers no one will ever choose them for casual dress but some may reject them for casual dress. The people most likely to react negatively to casual dress are older people who tend to be senior partners, judges, and important clients. I identified with the “blue suit, white shirt, and red necktie every day” question. I buy two dark blue Hart, Shafner, & Marx suits at a time with seven pairs of pants and five identical burgundy ties. I wear white shirts Monday through Thursday but a blue dress shirt with my suit on “lack of Pride Friday.” I wear black tie-up shoes but occasionally wear black loafers on “Lack of Pride Friday.” I shave every day but my hair may be a little long in back