One question that is often on the mind of law students is what should they wear to school. While it may seem odd to talk about law school and fashion in the same sentence, it is something to consider, especially as you move beyond the 1L year. Today we welcome the ladies from House of Marbury, a fashion and style blog for women lawyers. In this post, they share with you a three-tiered guide to “dressing the part” to ensure success in your law school and post law school career.
If your law school experience is anything like ours, you’ll be up until 1 in the morning and beyond many nights (studying, of course, but killing time on your website of choice, too). In the mornings, you’ll roll out of bed with just enough time to wash your face, throw on some sweat pants and a old tee, and get to class (ideally with all of your reading done and case briefs in tow).
Now, technically speaking, there’s nothing wrong with this approach to your daily law school appearance. As a 1L in particular, you are arguably in law school to do one thing – excel on your exams – and this can be done whether you are wearing sweats, straight-off-the-runway Prada, or a Brooks Brothers suit. In short, on most days throughout your law school career, what you are wearing won’t be at the top of the list of things to worry about.
With this said, it doesn’t hurt to put some thought into your appearance on a daily basis. More importantly, there are occasions where what you are wearing literally means the difference between a certain and uncertain future. In law school, and in life, the way you dress says a lot about who you are, and you want to be sure you are giving the right impression.
Below is a three-tiered guide to “dressing the part” to ensure success in your law school and post law school career.
Tier 1: Your Everyday Law School Attire
Law schools on the whole observe a casual dress code. Still, law school is a professional school. The education you receive is designed to prepare you to be a professional. You should keep this in mind as you choose your daily attire.
The best rule of thumb for dressing for law school is to be casual and comfortable, but avoid dressing in a manner that is memorable for the wrong reasons. No one will remember what you wore from day-to-day, but they will remember the impression your day-to-day attire left on them. Revealing, flashy, unclean, inappropriate or overtly sloppy attire will give your peers, professors, and administrators the impression that you are equally careless or unserious about your legal career. Opt for a nice pair of jeans and a fitted t-shirt or button up. This look is casual and comfortable enough, but also law school appropriate.
If you believe that there is no point in impressing your law school community, please reconsider. Each one of your law school peers will be a professional connection of some kind down the line. Likewise, your law school professors and administrators are well connected in the community. You have no idea as you sit here today how the relationships you develop in law school will help you over the course of your career. What you do know is that it is up to you to leave positive impressions on everyone you meet so that when professional opportunities inevitably arise, you are well positioned to ask for an introduction, connection, interview or otherwise.
TIP: When you visit with your career services administrators, take particular care to look professional and serious. CS administrators often have direct lines to job opportunities and you want to be top of mind when these opportunities arise.
Tier 2: Dressing for Law School Events and Competitions
Throughout your law school career, you will have the opportunity to participate in many extracurricular events. For formal extracurricular events, such as moot court competitions, mock trials, or oral arguments in the local courthouse, strictly adhere to the stated dress code. If there is not one, assume the dress code is business attire and wear a professional suit.
For other extracurricular events where no dress code is stated, such as a Public Interest Law Society auction, yearly boat cruise, presentation by a visiting professor or judge, or a reception for adjunct faculty, to name a few, business causal attire is a good rule of thumb. Business casual attire generally includes: slacks, a nice button down shirt, a knee length skirt, a sweater, and/or a blazer.
TIP: When attending extracurricular law school events, if you are unsure of the dress code, wear a suit. You will never be overdressed by wearing a suit in a legal context.
Tier 3: Your Go-To for Job and Networking Events
Finally, for any occasion that pertains to job or networking, without question, wear a suit. This includes job fairs, on campus interviews, office interviews, informational interviews, and even more informal meetings to learn more about a particular niche or field in the legal industry. Consider any potential job or networking opportunities as professional interactions where your objective is to demonstrate that you understand the formal structure of the legal profession and that you fit nicely within it.
TIP: Purchase two nice suits to wear for formal law school events. Avoid black. Go for navys, greys, and pinstripes instead. And note that you do not have to spend a lot of money on a suit. Stores like H&M, Nordstrom Rack, and The Limited carry nice suits at affordable prices. Many department stores have bi-yearly sales on top of the line suits, as well.
If you dress the part, you’ll find that you are more likely to get the part. Good luck!
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And check out these helpful posts:
- Five Steps for Setting Yourself Up for Second Semester Success
- Job Hunting 101: Project a Consistent Image
- Job Hunting 101: Don’t Neglect Your Headshot
- Lessons from My 1L Year
Image from House of Marbury.
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I agree with most of this, but just wondering why you recommend against black suits for women? As a woman interviewing in a reserved/traditional area, I was strongly encouraged to stick to black and make sure it’s a skirt suit, not a pantsuit. Thanks for the tips!
I will let the author reply about the black suit — but I will say that I typically had non-black suits and they worked well for interviews and didn’t look overly formal (but I was in California, not the east coast). If you are interviewing in a very traditional area of the law, a black suit may be entirely appropriate. I think on the east coast skirt suits are still the norm, although in California it is a bit more relaxed.
House of Marbury
Thanks for the comment. I think you’re absolutely right that the suit should be conservative – and a skirt suit is best when you are interviewing or appearing in court (though more and more, even on the East Coast, pant suits are recognized as appropriate). Still, we encourage something other than straight black as it is not memorable or lively. There is nothing wrong with black, per se, but a navy or black with subtle pin stripes or a charcoal are equally formal but also give you the benefit of a little charisma, which always helps in interviews. A judge we love and admire has told us repeatedly to never wear all black unless you are going to a funeral, so we defer to her! Hope this helps and good luck!
If you dress a black skirt with any shirt