Lawyers are traditionally known to wear tailored suits to look professional for their daily responsibilities. However, recent trends in fashion have seen some lawyers working in their offices wearing casual attire.
If you’re unsure what to wear to the firm or you’re looking for a change of appearance, here’s a brief overview of dress codes for lawyers.
Dress Code for Male Lawyers
Lawyers spend a significant amount of time in office with occasional appearances in court and other public locations (i.e. interviews with clients, research at a library, etc.). There are two dress codes for lawyers which call for either a formal business attire or something more casual.
- Formal Business Dress Code: Lawyers should wear a white dress shirt which a neutral collared tie beneath their tailored suit. Common suit colors include gray or navy (note: wearing black is known to represent funerals which are advised to avoid in the courtroom environment). This lawyer’s dress code is meant for court appearances, interviews, meetings with clients, and other business-related activities.
- Casual Business Dress Code: Here, lawyers can skip the tie and discard the suit to wear something less formal. Wearing a golf shirt or attractive sports shirt with casual trousers or khakis is acceptable. Having a sports jacket, cotton sweater, or a vest can also be a suitable addition. These outfits are common for less formal events and gatherings.
Lawyers should remember to wear appropriate shoes. Leather dress shoes are the legal industry’s standard that can be paired with black, brown, dark gray, or navy socks depending on the suit color. Loafers may also be acceptable in casual days. Here you can read more about shoes for lawyers.
Dress Code for Female Lawyers
The dress code for female lawyers is a bit more complex. In the history of legal work, women were predominantly providing legal support and not working on legal cases. However, recent years has seen an increase in female lawyers which has led to some controversy over what a woman should and should not be wearing.
Regardless of the situation, whether it is a casual event or a formal court hearing, there are some articles of clothing that female lawyers should never wear. These garments are often forbidden by a law firm’s dress code and they include:
- Tight fitting and low cut tops of any kind
- Shirts with straps, open backs, halter tops, etc.
- Stretch pants, yoga style pants, etc.
- Miniskirts and capris that end above the knee
As a general rule of thumb, female lawyers should avoid showing any cleavage and revealing too much leg.
To keep things simple, females should follow similar guidelines that define male lawyer’s dress codes. Expect to wear suits in similar styles and made to fit in a similar fashion as men. However, as an alternative, some law firms allow for skirts to be worn so long as they are not too short.
Overview of Unacceptable Clothing
To help distinguish what can vs. should not be worn, here’s a quick list of unacceptable clothing choices that would breach a lawyer’s dress code:
- Tight fitting clothing
- Shorts or jeans
- Casual, non-collared shirts
- Sweatshirts, sweat suits, or gym clothes
- Cargo pants
- Golf shirts emblazoned with logos and images
- Crazy colors or leopard print
- Novelty items (i.e. ties, clips, etc.)
Lawyers are expected to be well-groomed when arriving at the office or the courtroom.
In regards to hairstyle, men are expected to maintain shorter hairstyles that are neat and conservative in style. Facial hair is acceptable as long as it is well groomed. Arriving to work with wild long hair or rugged facial hair would be inappropriate.
For women, both long and short hairstyles are acceptable. As long as the style is neat and professional, there won’t be a problem. Arriving with untamed, messy styles or brightly colored hair may cause alarm. Also, some limitations may include having hair longer than their waist and child-like hairstyles.
Perhaps this may apply more to women than men, but there are a few dress codes considerations regarding accessories.
For women, jewelry and accessories are acceptable if they are not in excess or too extravagant. Alternatively, wearing cheap jewelry may be frowned upon. Wearing strong perfumes, too much makeup, revealing bra straps or tattoos, and long nails should be avoided.
For men, having professional looking tie clips and pins may be suitable for their attire. Wearing a professional watch would be acceptable. Wearing too much jewelry, excessive cologne, or revealing tattoos should be avoided.
While this is not necessarily lawyer’s attire, briefcases play an important part of a lawyer’s job. Having the right briefcase to carry legal documents and office supplies while working on the go should also follow along with the dress code for lawyers.
Imagine arriving into the courtroom with a briefcase showcasing an image of your favorite superhero fighting crime. For advice on briefcases for lawyers, try this.
Law Firm’s Dress Codes
If you work at a law firm, the dress code detailed may be different from what you read above. Every firm reserves the right to create a dress code for their lawyers to maintain the image and professionalism of the firm. This article is meant to provide a general overview of what lawyers should wear and what to avoid.