Today’s rainmaking recommendation from Jaimie Field is an interesting one, and she and I chatted about it yesterday – it’s one where we don’t totally agree, so readers of Zen, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! My perspective is that dress code varies widely (acceptably so) based on cultural factors – sometimes including climate, client base, type of firm, etc. And yes, as the age of the firm changes, so does the dress code. Jaimie tends to feel strongly about this (as you’ll see in her post below). What do you think?
I may get my butt handed to me on a silver platter for this post, but I will still write this because I truly believe what I am about to say:
Attorneys have to go back to dressing like professionals!
“Casual Fridays” have become week-long events. Attorneys wearing shredded jeans, graphic (and in one recent instance, and I am not kidding, porno –graphic) t-shirts, sneakers, low cut blouses, skin tight pants (on both men and women), mini-skirts, extremely high-heeled shoes that would look more appropriate on a pole (yes, someone in a law firm I recently visited was wearing 5-inch Lucite platform sandals), leggings and tunics, pajamas (!!) etc. around the firm have become the norm.
When I go to law firms to coach my attorney clients, I have the opportunity to see what the mode of dress is of the staff and the attorneys. To say that some of it is appalling would be an understatement.
A recent article in The American Lawyer entitled: From White-Shoe to Blue-Jean, Firms Get Casual to Draw in Talent argues that allowing for a more casual dress policy will attract younger attorneys at a time when talent is at a premium. Let me ask you this question: would you want to see your doctor in cut-off shorts and a cruddy t-shirt or do you want to see them in a white lab coat or wearing scrubs?
The word “brand” is thrown around a lot in law firm marketing. You must understand that your brand is not just your logo or tag line. It is everything that you and your law firm portray to clients, referral sources, opposing counsel and prospective clients. From the manner in which the phone is answered, to the way guests who come to your firm are greeted at the door, to the décor and cleanliness of the firm. This also includes the dress code for your firm.
No longer can there be “casual” Fridays or any days. It’s time to go back to a time when attorneys dressed professionally.
Why? Because image is everything.
Statistics say that you have less than 5 seconds to make a first impression. Usually, this happens without you opening your mouth.
Even if one person in your firm is dressed in a less than professional manner, then you are conveying to your guests that you don’t care.
Another reason I am supporting more professional dress codes is that the term “casual dress” has been interpreted in some of the most inappropriate ways you can imagine. Indeed, a pair of dark wash, well-tailored/fitting jeans can look professional, but just using the term “blue jeans” in your dress code can result in a myriad of versions as to what that means.
Please understand – I am not advocating that you have to wear a suit every day. However, even if you are not seeing clients or attending court, if you work at a law firm, you should dress professionally. This means clean, well-fitting (not tight) clothing without rips and stains. I am also encouraging that you find your own style that you love.
Many blogs have been written by attorneys who say that dressing casually makes their clients feel more comfortable. Indeed, the article above also uses this as a reason for the policy change. They say that because seeing an attorney is usually due to some stressful matter clients like to feel like their attorneys are “one of them.” To that, I say, “bull-hooey!”
People are walking into your office with problems or situations that need solving. They are paying you a pretty penny for your knowledge. They don’t want their attorney looking like a hobo, hooker, or like they are just about to grab their golf clubs from behind the door the minute the appointment is over.
If you are still not sure what constitutes a professional wardrobe, you can get help. There are so many wonderful professional image consultants out there who can assist you. There are salespeople at department stores that have great knowledge about this subject.
We are still judged by the way we dress. People want their attorneys to look professional.
What do you think? Am I totally off base here?