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First Week at the Firm: What to Wear Where

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on May 11, 2015 1:55 PM

Welcome to "First Week at the Firm," a new FindLaw feature for beginning associates, focused on helping you navigate the transition into firm life. We hope you'll enjoy this new series and come back regularly for more insider tips.

If you're starting a new job at a firm, it can be difficult to decide what to wear once you're there. Sure, you suited up for the interview, but do you need to wear one every day? Can you take your slacks to the cocktail party, or should you go home and fancy up first?

You may know of the blog What2WearWhere. It's a great resource for advice on what to put on for the Kentucky Derby or the Whitney Museum's new opening -- but not a Tuesday morning at a law firm. Here's some advice that seeks to fill that gap:

The Good Thing Is Everyone Else is Dressed Too

Generally speaking, your clothes should match those around you. Stand out by having a nicer jacket, shinier shoes or better accessories -- not by being the associate who tries to make Bermuda shorts work in New York. Dressing appropriately means paying attention to those around you.

Take a cue from your peers. What do new associates wear in their day to day? Make sure you're paying attention to the cohort you want to be grouped with though -- don't, for example, follow the lead of the burgeoning alcoholic who slumps in around noon with his shirt untucked, or the burnt out third year associate whose been wearing the same pantsuit all week.

Simultaneously, look up. They say to dress for the job you want, not the one you have, so check out what your favorite partner wears or how lawyers at the top of your practice area dress. Are your partners breezy Californians who rarely wear a suit or old school, white-shoed lawyers who think Mitt Romney dresses too immodestly?

Finally, add a bit of your own personality to your style. If you're the outdoorsy, nature-loving type, integrate some earth tones. If you're more high-style, wear your designer shoes every now and then. Keep the details subtle and on the margins, though. Show your zany side with, perhaps, some colorful socks -- not an orange suit.

Once You Have Your Look, Make it Fit the Occasion

Once you've pieced together a wardrobe that is appropriate for both you and your environment, you can tweak it to fit specific occasions. When you are in court, you should dress the most conservative and traditional. Take out your nicest suit and take off your bangles. At networking events, you can dress up or down depending on the event -- putting the pearls on with your cocktail dress for a fancy reception, or wearing the classic blazer and jeans combo for a more casual conference event.

More than anything, wear something you're comfortable with. After all, you want to reserve your worrying for your work, not your wardrobe.

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