Is lawyer fashion evolving?

Is lawyer fashion evolving?

16 December 2021 By Jerome Doraisamy
lawyer fashion evolving

Given the mainstreaming (or at least increased uptake) of working from home for lawyers, it is worth considering if suits, ties and high heels are becoming a thing of the past for legal practice.

Since the onset of COVID-19, the day-to-day attire of legal professionals, of all stripes, has been radically upended by virtue of being homebound rather than in offices.

T-shirts are more commonplace than ties. Track pants have been more of a feature than blazers. High heels and office flats – save for the sporadic periods that professionals have been able to return to their offices – will have gathered some dust.

What may have also shifted is client expectations for how their counsel should dress – particularly if meeting virtually.

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Of course, the legal profession is steeped in tradition, and we almost certainly will not see silks ditching their longstanding garments for a more casual look for court proceedings. Nor will suits, ties and heels be completely discarded for mediations and other client meetings.

It is also worth noting the psychological impact that certain clothing can have – personally, I have always found that wearing track pants and a t-shirt when working from home makes me feel less purposeful than if I were to don chinos and a button-down shirt.

However, given the mainstreaming of remote and flexible working – something which the profession agrees is no passing fad – it is worth considering whether other aspects of our current working lives will be retained in some form. Lawyers’ attire, and what employers and clients expect of those lawyers, should form part of this conversation.

LinkedIn poll

Last week, I posted a poll for my LinkedIn connections and followers – which should not be taken as a scientific survey, but rather an informal show of hands – to gauge thoughts on where fashion standards are headed for legal professionals, if anywhere.

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Here is a screenshot of the poll, as it stands at the time of filling this story:

To see the full poll results and ensuing comments, click here.

Lawyers’ perspectives

Resolve Divorce founder Rose Cocchiaro commented that pre-pandemic fashion for lawyers is “absolutely not” becoming a thing of the past.

“Presentation is everything, and high heels should have a special place in every law firm,” she argued.

Cassandra Heilbronn, who works as the chief of staff for a private family office in Saudi Arabia, agreed, noting her thinking on lawyers’ fashion is “old school”.

“I believe we should dress respectably at work and meetings and turn to the history of legal dress for this reason. [Dress expectations] have evolved, and I’m grateful that I would no longer be scolded for wearing a pantsuit in court, but I remain of the view that we should suit up for clients and for court,” she said.

Alistair Marshall, who formerly headed up the BD and marketing team at FCB Group, said that dressing for one’s client is “obvious”.

“Pyjama law will not impress anybody,” he proclaimed. “Many people can also focus better when dressed a certain way. It sets the mood in many ways.”

HHG Legal Group executive chairman Simon Creek backed this, commenting: “What impression do you want to make, even via video?”

This said, Mr Marshall noted, attitudes are changing.

“One firm I know differentiates themselves to the creative industry sector by never wearing ties, and instead wear jeans and R.M. Williams boots as their uniform,” he recalled.

Not all lawyers agree, however.

Balance Family Law director Perpetua Kish – who recently won the sole practitioner of the year category at the Australian Law Awards – said: “When dressing for work, I consider not only presentation, but comfort – for me and for our clients.

“My clients often say they prefer our smart-casual style, as it puts them ‘at ease’. So, a blazer, jeans and sneakers are often our go-to.” 

Nest Legal founder Laura Vickers – whose team is pictured – supported this: “Wear the outfit that makes you feel like the best version of you! I think we are getting more diverse sartorially as a profession, some in the direction of comfort, some through self-expression, and I’m here for it!”

Conclusion

Wearing what makes one feel like the best version of themselves, be it personally or professionally, may be what dictates how lawyers dress – outside of client or court commitments, at least. But this does not automatically mean that casual clothing will be donned by the majority.

Herbert Smith Freehills senior solicitor Georgia Macqueen-Gamble feels that “people have been dressing up a lot more when going back into the office, compared to when we were coming in five days a week”.

This vibe is being adopted by Legal Home Loans director of sales Cullen Haynes, who commented: “It’s a three-piece [suit for me] until my return ticket day.”

Is lawyer fashion evolving?
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