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August 13, 2012


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Alfred Brophy

Ah, a perpetual favorite here in the faculty lounge. We're talked some about this before, for instance, here:

And back at co-op a few years ago I blogged about the implications (or maybe insights is a better phrase) of the book Dress for Success for jurisprudence:

Doug Richmond

A respectable number of law firms still require traditional business attire. Many firms that have switched to business casual lament the poor fashion choices that lawyers and staff make. Talking to students about appropriate professional dress is not a waste.

Tamara Piety

I don't think talking to them about is a waste in part precisely for the reason you've identified, that in the culture at large wearing suits has declined so dramatically. In the advertising and media business it has never been that big. Check out the Cannes Lion Awards and almost no one is in a suit or even dressed up. And the tech industry has apparently always embraced a sort of counter-culture office attire - think Steve Jobs. If you look at the TED talks or at any number of venues where people used to dress up you find they are doing it less. But law is I think is always the last to pick up on that kind of trend (casual Fridays notwithstanding). Shoot in some places there is still an on-going debate about whether women can wear pants suits to court. When everyone is dressing up - whether it is for church or a dinner out - students don't need to be told to do so for a job interview or what it should entail. But when no one does, or when women's magazine and television promote a look advertised as office attire that is actually closer to some fantasy television workplace where all the women where 5 inch heels, tight skirts and cleavage bearing blouses - they DO need to be told. I had a student once show up to a formal dinner for an invited out of town speaker, a dinner which included many local lawyers and judges, in pink, sparkly flip flops. So no. It is not a waste of time. Although I do think sometimes they are indignant at us for pointing this stuff out and trying to help. They just think we are being interfering or uptight and so they have to learn it from hard experience instead.

Edward S. Dove

Yes, business dress is dying in many environments, and good riddance. Men's attire in current form hasn't really evolved in 100 years, except maybe with less hats. Have not our values? Towards diversity of person, opinion and expression, s'il vous plait.

I used to work at a business law firm in Toronto where the (late founding) partner referred to a perpetual tie-less partner as "Ahmajinedad". Funny, yes, but also a good [ultaorthodox Shiite] metaphor for the dying mullahs of monochromatic fashion.

Kendall Isaac

While I beliieve there is a time and a place for a business suit, I think it can be over-emphasized at times. I believe people can work just as professionally in business casual attire. Of course, if you are going to court or a fine restaurant in NYC, a suit should be worn. If only around the office, why bother with the restrictions of a tie and stuffy suit coat?


    "My question is whether the time spent talking to students about business attire is now wasted"

Even if wearing suits was still prevalent, why in the world would a law professor spend time discussing it with students? Do you also talk about using deodorant and what fork to use?

Jeffrey Harrison

I wish one of my teachers had covered that ground. I will now confess that I attended the AALS recruitment convention in a wide label mod-type suit. Plus, My undershirt, which appeared through my dress shirt had, in large bold letters, the name of a school. I know it will seem crazy to many if not most readers but, coming from a non college, non church going family, I did not have a clue. BUT, it seems more appropriately discussed in a Placement session or a session on professionalism.

Jeffrey Harrison

lapel of course but I probably thought it was "a big fold on the front of a suit" back then.

alta charo

I am reminded of a job interview I had in August 1986 in Washington DC, at a congressional science policy agency. Despite the sweltering Washington weather, I was dressed in pantyhose, heels and suit. Around the table, the group interviewing me included people dressed in khakis, jeans and one actually in cut-offs and flip-flops. I said to the lead interviewer that I thought perhaps I was overdressed. His reply? "No, we already have jobs. You don't. Therefore you are properly dressed."

Ralph D. Clifford

I have to disagree with Donor's comment that covering issues such as dress is inappropriate. Attorneys are evaluated based on how they present themselves. Inappropriate dress can interfere with being successful. Law school is about more than training the brain -- it's about training the person to be an effective lawyer. And yes, I would be happy to address which fork to use, or even using deodorant, if this is necessary to produce a better attorney.

Margaret Ryznar

I agree that some people under-dress too often and it is important to dress appropriately, but on the other hand, people seem to be pulling longer hours than ever, and with so much business today done by email and telephone, I think business casual is often sufficient for office settings, barring client meetings, court appearances, etc. For these more professional events, the trick is to have an extra suit in the office.


If you are baffled by polos, wait until you see the mind-boggling array of women's options and fashions that fit within the business label, heck even courtroom protocol. In fact, don't tell women what to wear at all. Let some female do it.

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