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Question for attorneys - office appropriate?

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
I'll be starting work at a big law firm in the fall, and it's at one of the more relaxed offices in Orange County, CA. Dress is business casual. During my summer clerkship I wore basic slacks and dress shirts (sans tie). I know an attorney who wore doc martens (I know, dreadful).

First, do you think as a first year, it would be too much wearing a suit and tie maybe a couple of times a week (just because I feel like dressing up and actually getting use out of my nice clothes), even if I'm not going to court, while everyone is more relaxed, especially the partners (who sometimes seem to wear Tommy Bahama shirts with slacks/khakis), or even in the case where it's only the partners who decide to wear suits occasionally? Granted I'll be at my desk all day.

Second, is there a general consensus about wearing a black pinstripe suit with a striped shirt or colorful tie to the office. I don't recall if black suits were frowned upon (with pinstripe or not) at the office.
post #2 of 32
I was a summer associate last summer and will be starting at a big firm in the fall as well. During the summer I wore a sport coat, shirt and dress slacks without a tie, but every Wednesday I wore a tie (either with a suit or with a sport coat). The first couple of times very few people asked me why I was wearing a tie (it was usually my secretary or other summer associates) and I just told them that I wear a tie every Wednesday. Before long, nobody asked me anymore. I don't think any of the partner or more senior associates even noticed or cared about the way that I was dressed.

I guess the moral of the story is that we are probably going to be so insignificant as first year associates that nobody is going to notice or care what we dress like. By the time we get to be 2nd or 3d year associates people are already going to know what we dress like and still won't care. So, I think that we can wear whatever we want.
post #3 of 32
Not a lawyer but my suggestions would be:

1) Don't overdress. You're a newbie walking in dressed in a suit and tie when the partners are wearing khaki's and Tommy Bahama shirts. You'll be told by someone in the office to dress down sooner rather than later. Nice slacks, nice shoes and a shirt will be sufficient.

2) The only lawyer I know who can get away with a black pinstripe suit is Bruce Cutler.
post #4 of 32
Just save your black pinstripe for a night one the town. I posted picks of mine a while ago:

post #5 of 32
This all sounds pretty similar to the way people dress in our firm. If you're wearing a suit, you're either meeting a client, taking a deposition, or going to court. Otherwise, there's no reason and it only arouses suspicion.

I normally wear dress pants, decent shoes (J&M, Polo, etc.), and a nice shirt. I'll often wear a tie to complete a look, but it's not necessary nor is it questioned. I stopped wearing sportcoats since I just take them off when I get to the office anyhow. No one ever sees them.

Note, however, that each practice group may be different. I work in litigation, and we're the most casual group in the firm by far. The business group is on the floor below us, and there, a nice shirt and tie with a sportcoat is a common outfit, but it is also the minimum. Many come in suits everyday.
post #6 of 32
You know what's kind of funny, my firm lists "business casual dress code" as a perk.
post #7 of 32
I don't work for a big firm, so take my advice with a grain of salt. I don't think it's wise to stand out by the way you dress. What I mean is, dress professionally, but let your work product and enthusiasm do your speaking for you, not your coat and tie. Wearing a suit when it's not the norm will only raise eyebrows, and I don't see an upside. Wearing well fitting slacks and shirt with polished shoes will already make you look more "put together" than 98% of your firm. Not wearing jeans on casual friday (if your firm even does that) even more so. Suit and tie in what passes as a business casual environment is over the top, imo. Blending in and portraying being a "team player" is more important.
post #8 of 32
I really don't think that in a big firm enough people notice you often enough to really care what you are wearing or doing. If a partner sees you in a suit he will probaby think you are going to court or on a client meeting or deposition or something and he doesn't have time to follow you around and question you about what you are wearing. Just my humble opinion.
post #9 of 32
Thread Starter 
I hear ya. My concern isn't so much with what the partners are thinking. But I do know for sure if I were to wear a suit, I will get comments from the assistants and associates, ranging from why do you look so nice to did you have a court appearance? I like dressing well, but I also don't like the attention so much either. It's fine if you appreciate what I wear, but I hate standing in a group setting and someone else will comment how well i'm dressed. Then you'll have those that agree and "haters" in the group thinking, what's the big deal? Don't need that kind of attention. And I do agree that I don't want the attention to be on what I choose to wear rather than my work product. Maybe I'll just pick a day where I wear a suit and tie just for the hell of it. I'm sure everyone will get used to it, not care, and it will be "my thing," or me and odoreater's thing.
post #10 of 32
I worked in a firm 8 years ago and moved in-house at that time. of course, I am one of the few people who wear a suit EVERYDAY. Actually, I have a lot of the secretaries complement me and lament how men used to dress more appropriately back 10 years ago.

I have a black pinstriped suit that I wear on occaision, esp. with a colored shirt (canary yellow w/contrasting white collar and french cuffs) and a dark tie or even white shirt with red tie, etc. I would worry more b/c Cali is so damn laid back, they may think you are interviewing to go elsewhere. Wear the suit on a day you may go to court or see a client, and if the "look" goes over well, go for it.
post #11 of 32
Congrads on your new career.
I'm not an attorney, but I work in office similar to yours, but part of my job as well as should be yours will be to represent your firm or a company best to your ability. That means I need to to look good on moment notice (i.e. client dropping by, a new sales lead, important lunch, etc.) So I do dress casual but I always have a Blazer and a Tie in my office and dress so that I might look casual but put on a blazer or a tie I look professional. I always wear my best oxford shoe and matching belt even if I wear jeans or khakis.

oh one advice, never hand out your business card while you look like crap.
post #12 of 32
Here's a thought: If you become known as the guy who's always got a suit and tie, you'll become the guy who gets called with "Hey - I've got a hearing in civil 12, can you cover it for me?"

It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Dress like you're ready for court, and you'll end up going to court.

(Yes - I too, am a litigation attorney)
post #13 of 32
hey, lowly 1L here, I'm interning at a federal district court this summer...any suggestions as to what I should wear the first day?
post #14 of 32
I think I can lend some focus--and experience--to the topic at hand. As a former "of counsel" of large law firm with a Newport branch, most of my colleagues dressed like they were issued Nordstrom gift cards at birth; if cloning of the human form is ever in doubt, just visit any decent Newport or Irvine law firm and that thought would be dispelled. Now back to the issue:

1. Suits will set you radically apart--and as EdMorrel said--you will be gently--ever so gently --pulled aside by the summer associate overseer "mentor(bullshit) partner's secretary--who will tell you: " look just too smart(sharp, hot, gq--pick your adjective or own descriptor) for this place...go down to Gary's or Tommy B. and get something comfy--your at the beach, remember"? I got a similar line as a summer associate when I showed up in acustom Nino Ciaci(ex-Dunhill) pinstripes and Alan MacAfee benchmades. Needless to say, that same secretary slipped me her home phone met me that weekend at Sandpiper's in Laguna and held me hostage until Monday.
2. Go to Gary's--and get some great all cotton chino's, a great 150's blue blazer ,some wonderful long sleeve dress shirts with decent collars, some nice loafers of decent grade and enjoy! And remember, you are at the beach.
post #15 of 32
I actually just very recently visited a big firm office in Newport Beach (awesome business trip, btw), and yeah, by the looks of it, you'd look horribly out of place wearing a suit every day at such a place. However, I think in most jobs out on the West Coast would be like that, so the only thing to do is just start wearing whatever you'd like, I guess. People will get used to it eventually, although it'll be up to you to figure out whether it's worthwhile. It is extra attention.

I actually work for a NYC firm that has partners that secretly miss the days when people wore suits (at least for all other seasons than summer), and hence is very much okay with people in suits, and in fact is probably a positive thing. However, thanks to the rampant "inappropriateness" of dress in general, I can pretty much experiment with anything and get away with it, which is pretty awesome.
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