For some reason, fashion advice is often geared to the ladies while the gents are expected to know the right from wrong because of their limited options. Well, a summer associate is a summer associate, and man or woman, both could use some guidance.
We'll start off simple...
Just Don’t Do It - Ever
We’re going to break it down for you. Don’t ever wear the following to work: sneakers, yoga pants or any other workout wear, sweats (whether they are Juicy or not), Uggs/Crocs/Other horrendous footwear, t-shirts, jeans, sundresses, shorts, or anything too revealing (no cleavage, midriffs or upper thighs please).
Follow the Firm’s Lead
First things first — do your research. Does the firm have a dress code? Read it. Does the firm represent fashion companies? Then maybe you should avoid wearing logos in case you’re pulled into a client meeting and you’re wearing a competitor’s brand. Most importantly, see what senior attorneys and partners are wearing, and follow their lead.
Putting the Business in Business Casual
In fact, you should just strike the word casual from your mind because “casual” in the work place means something entirely different from your current definition of “casual.” There should be nothing casual about your appearance save for the fact that you are not wearing a suit. You should be groomed and look professional.
Your Office Closet
It’s always a good idea to leave some items of clothing at the office. Specifically, you’ll need two things: (1) An extra layer for the days that you are freezing because the air conditioning is on high in the office; and (2) An interview suit (and matching shoes) for those moments when you are invited to sit in on a deposition or court proceeding at the last minute.
Here are some tips for specific circumstances…
Dressing for Hot Weather
You’re a summer associate and in most places in the U.S. it’s hot in the summer — so how do you keep cool and look professional? First, stay away from synthetic materials because they will keep you warm and sweaty. No one likes a moist associate.
Instead, wear natural fabrics that are lightweight and breathable. Opt for light colors that will reflect, rather than absorb light. And finally, layer. It’s ok to take off the jacket outside, just make sure your shirt is work-appropriate.
One special note for the ladies on whether to wear nylons or have bare legs: follow the lead of the women partners and senior associates.
Dressing for Court
Next to banking and finance, law has the most conservative dress code — especially when it involves appearing before a judge. Only wear suits in court (think less zoot suit, more interview suit).
Ladies, it used to be that you could only wear skirt suits with nylons. In some instances pant suits are ok these days but it really depends on your jurisdiction. You need to know the firm you work for, the judge you’ll be in front of, and the make-up of your jury. If you don’t know enough about the attitudes of your firm, judge or jury then play it safe and wear a skirt suit.
Dressing for Events
You may have been invited to a baseball game but remember, you are still at work and you represent the firm. As such, dress accordingly. You may be able to go a bit more casual but you still need to look polished. Look in the mirror: If you ran into a client would you look like someone they could trust? If not, go change. Let that question be your guide when selecting what to wear.
If we had to boil it down to one easy rule? Play it safe. Don’t over think it, spend your time concentrating on getting that job offer.
- Decoding Summer Dress Codes (New York Law Journal)
- 5 Rules for Summer Associate Fashion (FindLaw’s Greedy Associate’s blog)
- Can a Lawyer Wear Leopard Print to Work? (FindLaw’s Greedy Associates blog)
- BigLaw Wardrobe on a SmallLaw Budget: Online Shopping (FindLaw’s Greedy Associates)