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Law firm interview attire

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by JDMcDaniel, Oct 6, 2004.

  1. JDMcDaniel

    JDMcDaniel Well-Known Member

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    I am interviewing at the DC office of a large New York law firm. A letter I received today informed me that the office attire is business casual and that I should feel free to dress similarly.

    In past interviews where I was in a suit and the interviewer was not, I felt a tad awkward.

    Would anyone on this board recommend taking them up on their offer?
     
  2. tdial

    tdial Senior member

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    I'd probably wear a suit anyway. At minimum, I'd wear a jacket without the tie--very upper end of (ghasp&#33[​IMG] business casual. If you decide to go business casual, I'd go for the nicest things I have that still qualify as business casual. This is just my humble opinion. I'm sure others will disagree.
     
  3. TimelessRider

    TimelessRider Senior member

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    I agree withh tdial. At the very least wear a sports jacket, dress shirt, nice pants, and dress shoes. Go upwards from there by adding a tie or by wearing a suit.
     
  4. mr. magoo

    mr. magoo Senior member

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    As a person who helps run the recruiting in a NYC business casual law firm, I'm telling you to wear a suit. Don't worry about feeling awkward, worry about seeming competant, intelligent and comfortable in your own skin (clothes do not matter for that).
     
  5. kabert

    kabert Senior member

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    I agree with the others -- don't do business casual. The person who wrote that letter, I'm guessing, is the recruiting coordinator. She will greet you in reception when you arrive, show you to your first interview, and that's it. The partners and associates with whom you'll be interviewing -- I guarantee it -- have no idea what the letter says that you received. So, wear a blazer or a suit. Wool slacks, nice shoes, etc. I'd lean towards wearing a suit, perhaps more so b/c it's a NY-based firm.
     
  6. TCN

    TCN Senior member

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    Another vote here for a suit; navy or charcoal, and a white shirt.
     
  7. Steve B.

    Steve B. Senior member

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  8. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Senior member

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    WEAR A SUIT AND TIE..... If you want to have any chance at the job, that is. My 2L year I opted to do call back interviews in 2 cities with 9 firms total. All the firms were business casual -- some even dot.commy in their attire. I wore suits to 8 of the interviews. To the 9th interview -- the least prestigious of the firms with which I was interviewing, by far -- I worse dress slacks, button down dress shirt with tie, and a merino wool v-neck sweater. I looked very good -- a female friend of mine said I looked "dashing" or something like that. The 9th interview was the only firm that didn't give me an offer. And, like I said, it was the least prestigious and least selective of the bunch. I would say that not wearing the suit did me in.
     
  9. Kai

    Kai Senior member

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    Wear a suit.

    There's nothing "casual" about a job interview.
     
  10. Navy09

    Navy09 Member

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    Sorry, I have to go against the grain on this one. Call back interviews are 90% about whether or not you "fit into" the culture of the firm. If they're telling you that they dress business casual, they do. It isn't a trap. Of your interviews, 4 of 5 will be with associates and only one with a partner. The associates want to talk to you and find out what kind of person they'll be working long hours with. If you're on a call-back interview, they've already decided you're competent to do the work and now they want to find out if they want to work with you. If you buck the trend and wear the suit, you run the risk of looking stuffy and not flexible - standing out. Sorry to say but that doesn't play well in big firm life. They want someone who fits in seamlessly and is ready to immediately be part of the team.

    That being said, I would wear really nice business casual clothing. Wool slacks and a very nice collared sweater with good shoes. Don't be a dandy or you'll look stuck up but make sure you look professional and confident. It's a fine line.

    Good luck.
     
  11. Ambulance Chaser

    Ambulance Chaser Senior member

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    I agree with the consensus that you should wear a suit and tie; it just looks more professional.  Moreover, dressing casually, even business casually, may make you too relaxed.  In the job interview setting, a little bit of nervousness is desirable.
     
  12. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Senior member

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    Navy09, you are simply wrong on this one. I know from experience. They are looking for personality to show that you will fit into the firm; everyone knows that you wear a suit to the interview and thus that you aren't a "dandy" for wearing a suit (and since when does a simply navy or grey suit make one a "dandy"?). Moreover, it is the partners you interview with -- not the associates -- that end up making the hiring choice. The associates input is only slightly influential, if at all. The partners will, more times than not, be wearing a suit. This is especially true in D.C., where many will be in court almost daily.
     
  13. gregory

    gregory Senior member

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    That's a really sad part of corporate life - you are giving so much of your individuality when you join a Goldman Sachs or a McKinsey. One of these days I am going to start my own small business.... [​IMG]
     
  14. retronotmetro

    retronotmetro Senior member

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    If a recruit wears a suit, I'd never hold it against them.  The worst that can happen if you wear a suit into a solidly business casual office (I didn't know there were any in DC. ), is that you might get people who will give you the "didn't you get the memo?" line, or you may get people planning the interview lunch who decide "hey, today is a great day for barbeque" and you get sauce on your tie.  With respect to the former, the proper response is some variation of "better to be overdressed than underdressed." And of course, the latter was always a possibility before business casual as well.

    If you decide to wear a suit (probably the right choice), you should just take care not to come off as stiff or overly formal.  All those business casual slob associates don't necessarily want to bring "gunners" into their midst.  

    By the way, at many firms the partners do not have any greater say in hiring decisions than the associates do.  That is to say, when it comes down to a hiring committee meeting, a partner "yes" does not override "strongly oppose hiring" evaluations from associates, unless you are the rare recruit who has some political or business tie to the firm (e.g., you don't ding the kids of a client's senior management).  Don't make the mistake of thinking you only need to impress the partners and can ease up when speaking to the associates.
     
  15. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Senior member

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    Tis true, Retro. But if a partner is a strong no, then the most glowing associate recs in the world probably won't help. Also, the associate's "yes" will likely not be as strongly worded if the associate senses hesitation from the partner.

    I agree with you overall that being overdressed can't hurt, because there are so many ready-made excuses for opting for the suit. But not wearing a suit could come off as disrespectful, which is the death knell.
     
  16. montecristo#4

    montecristo#4 Senior member

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    No brainer. Wear a suit.

    I work for a software company in DC where very casual is the rule, but if anyone came in for an interview with us wearing less than a suit, he wouldn't get hired.

    BTW, I am also an attorney, so I know how these firms operate.
     
  17. retronotmetro

    retronotmetro Senior member

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    True also. I just threw it out there because there really are recruits who think that the partners make all the decisions and the associates are just on the callback schedule to help sell the firm. That kind of thinking can cost people big time.

    The only market where I'd worry about ignoring a "business casual attire" letter from a recruiting coordinator is in the SF/SV market. People in that market have a decidedly different view of attire. But even there, I'd go with a tieless dress shirt/sport coat/odd trousers combination.
     
  18. Navy09

    Navy09 Member

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    Well, I definitely appreciate all the arguments being made in favor of the suit. And, I only have two things to add to the discussion:

    1. To whomever asked the original question, remember that all the advice (mine included) coming from this website is from people who love clothes and I'd guess suits especially. I'd just take that bias with a grain of salt. The thrust of my opinion was, and still is, that wearing clothes that track the firm's culture will not stand out but bucking the trend will. In the post-interview wrap up you'll probably be the "guy in the suit" and hopefully "the guy in the nice suit."

    2. In my experience on call-backs, doing them myself and seeing others, while the partner's opinion is probably equal to the four associates combined when giving a positive, even a single associate's negative comment will carry great weight so be on best behavior with them all. You can expect to have at least one you won't particularly like or who grates on your nerves. However, instead of making this a cause for extra nervousness, remember that you're interviewing these people too. Be yourself because they will be themselves. You're going to be spending a whole lot of time with wherever you wind up.
     
  19. JDMcDaniel

    JDMcDaniel Well-Known Member

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    Thanks all. I am going to wear the suit. It just seems far less risky than going business casual.

    I wouldn't have even asked, except that call back interviews seem designed to gauge "fit" as much if not more than competence.
     
  20. Lynch Bages

    Lynch Bages Active Member

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    I am a partner at a large NY firm. Business casual is on its way out and, even when it was "in," there were numerous partners who refused to accept it. If an associate were to find fault with you for wearing a suit to an interview then I would have questions about whether that associate "fits in." Everyone will understand your decision to wear a suit notwithstanding that you have been told the firm has a business casual policy. In my mind, it looks better that you wear a suit having received that letter because it shows that you want to make sure that you look professional in the traditional sense, which I think shows sound judgment on your part. The answer is: wear a conservative suit. Good luck with your interviews.
     

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