So you’ve done it! After three years of law school, countless interviews and several internships, you’ve finally mastered the appropriate wardrobe for each of these settings. So why is it that you’re beginning to experience some anxiety as you inch closer and closer to the start of your position as a new attorney? Naturally, the majority of this angst stems from the unknown of this position. As a first year attorney, you’re certain that you’ll have no idea what you’re doing, but a small part of you remains anxious because you have no idea what you’ll wear. How will you convince the world that you’re actually a real attorney who should be taken seriously despite the fact that you’re a 24-year-old who looks 19?
As a new attorney, especially as a young new attorney, dressing the part is crucial for your position. Once you begin your job you not only have to impress your employer, but also your clients. Unfortunately, your clients will initially judge you based on your outward appearance. Therefore, if you look like a 19-year-old college student as opposed to a serious attorney, you could easily lose business. Dressing the part will be crucial if you want to keep business coming in and ultimately if you want to keep your job.
In this final post within our “Fashionably Lawyered” series, I will be uncovering how to dress the part as a new attorney based on your work culture, and I will also be discussing the type of accessories that are appropriate for work and where you can get these items.
When deciding how to dress for your new job as an attorney there are three questions you should keep in mind: what’s the dress code, will you frequently be meeting with clients and will you frequently be going into court?
1. What’s the Dress Code?
When putting your attorney wardrobe together, it’s important to start with your employer’s dress code. The dress code serves as a good source of guidance that you should never ignore, or you risk getting fired. While some law firms are strict business formal, many law firms nowadays have a business casual dress code which allows employees to be a lot more relaxed in the workplace. Keep in mind that this isn’t the same type of business casual that you rocked in law school but, instead, more strict business casual attire which allows you to still maintain your professionalism and not be too stuffy. I know, I know, the business casual dress code can be a tad bit confusing, so I’ve gone into detail regarding some popular business casual items that you could consider adding to your wardrobe.
For women, some go-to business casual items are:
The Ponte Dress – The ponte dress has been all the rage for professional women recently. The dress which comes in many different colors and designs is a comfortable business casual item which would be appropriate if you’re behind the desk all day or heading a client meeting. Interested? You can grab a ponte dress that fits your style for an affordable amount at Lands’ End.
The Cropped Pant – Another popular business casual item (and my personal favorite), is the cropped pant. This item comes in a variety of cuts and styles, but, most importantly, it’s comfortable. In an effort to stick to a strict business casual guideline, I recommend getting a cut that’s not much higher than right above the ankle. Additionally, make sure to get a pair that’s not too snug as this weighs on the more casual end. These pants are usually available for affordable prices at Old Navy, Loft or H&M.
The Linen Blazer – This lightweight item is another excellent business casual staple. This is a great item to get in different colors, but try your best to not get too adventurous with the prints. Pair this blazer with a light chiffon blouse, complete with a camisole underneath or for an even stricter business casual look pair this with a solid buttoned up shirt. These blazers are usually available at a variety of retailers, but check out this option at J.Crew.
For the men, some popular items are:
The Tailored Pant – No, I’m not referring to the dress pants that you’d wear to an interview or a formal event but, instead, to tailored slacks, corduroys or even khaki pants. These pants are a great modern look for the workplace and are also very comfortable. Try experimenting with different colors, but don’t get too adventurous in an effort to maintain professionalism. Check out this navy tailored pant from Express. Pair this with your favorite oxfords or loafers and then you, my friend, would be business casual ready.
The Sweater – Sweaters are a great alternative to a business formal blazer. Cardigans paired with a buttoned up shirt and a tie or a pullover sweater paired with a collared shirt, both make for a polished business casual look. Lands’ End offers a variety of business casual sweaters which are sure to make an impression.
Need some additional business casual inspiration? Check out this post which provides some insight into the business casual style for men.
2. Will you Frequently be Meeting with Clients?
Although the dress code is of prime importance, it’s also crucial to assess whether you will be frequently meeting with clients. If you are, then a business casual dress code may not necessarily apply to you. What you wear will depend on the firm culture and its requirements regarding client contact. Some positions may want attorneys to dress in business formal attire if meeting with clients. This would more than likely be the case for a big law job or even a small firm that handles corporate clients. However, if your job primarily deals with individual clients or handles public interest matters, your employer may prefer that attorneys appear more relaxed in these meetings in an effort to connect with clients. Therefore, the dress requirement may be business casual. I recommend doing some research into what your primary job function will be so that you can determine if frequent client contact will impact your wardrobe.
3. Will you Frequently be going into Court?
If your new position is a litigation job, then you will likely spend a lot of your time going into court or even working primarily from a courtroom as a District Attorney or Public Defender. If this is your new job, then you will have to wear business formal at all times. Yes, I mean a full business suit on a daily basis.
For the men, this is a blazer, dress pants, buttoned up shirt, a tie and dress shoes. Whereas, for the women, this means a blazer, under shirt, a pencil skirt or tailored pants and heels. But let’s be real, wearing a suit every day can get pretty pricey. Unless you plan on wearing the same suit each day, which I definitely don’t recommend, you may have to get creative if you want to fulfill this dress code requirement and save some money.
Buying Suit Separates – One great way to save money is to purchase your suit pieces separately. If you splurge on a $200 blazer it would definitely save you some cash to pair this blazer with a cheaper $50 matching skirt as opposed to buying the full suit for $400. Also, there’s a chance that you may already have a separate in your closet that matches the piece you’ve purchased. So consider these options before buying a full suit.
Buy Second-hand Suits – Another great way to save some cash is to purchase your suits from a consignment store. If you get uncomfortable at the thought of this option, hear me out. Many consignment stores only sell very gently used and in some cases even unworn clothing. Also, stores like the Real Real and Poshmark offer luxury consignment options and full suits for under $100 in some cases. So give this a try, because you still have the chance to diversify your wardrobe on a budget even if you’re in a suit all day.
Ok last but not least, which accessories should you carry as a new attorney? The best option is a bag of some sort that can hold the many items that you will need to have on your person for a quick paced work day. For the women, you should consider carrying a purse that can hold your laptop, your toiletries, a notebook and pen and dare I say an afternoon snack. As an attorney, you will pretty much always be on the go and a large tote is a great option to carry all your needs. This Legend Tote from Dagne Dover, is a great option! It’s large enough to carry your laptop and even your sneakers but it’s also professional enough to take with you to court.
For the men, a cross-body briefcase is a great option. This style provides some flexibility as you can rock it as a cross-body for your business casual looks and carry it as a traditional briefcase with your suits. Check out this great affordable option from Aldo. It also serves as a laptop bag and has a ton of space for notepads, pens and all your additional stationery items.
Congrats on becoming an esquire! I hope this post will have you fashionably slaying into your new job.
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