If you can believe the Wall Street Journal, lawyers are dressing up these days. Christina Brinkley reports here that many attorneys are scorning business casual in favor of more formal attire. The argument for this? “[H]igh powered attorneys should look like high powered attorneys” and anything else is “sending the wrong signal.” The law firm cited is unusual in its adherence to a strict dress code, but I agree that lawyers should acknowledge the expectations of their various audiences, especially those inside the courtroom, and dress accordingly.
At trial, this becomes extremely important. During the first moments of an opening statement, your audience of judge, jury members and arbitrators will be forming key impressions of you and your case. I generally recommend conservative attire that is compatible with your personal style and the audience’s expectations. A couple of opinions on attire and appearance:
* Avoid bow ties. Keep to traditional suiting if at all possible.
* Choose jewelry carefully. Sparkles are distracting — including those in cuff links. And, expensive jewelry can create a gulf that interferes with having the jury “identify” with the lawyer.
* Arrange your materials in an organized and controlled manner. If you are constantly groping for exhibits, you might lose credibility.
* Use the space in the courtroom. Consult the rules and judge’s staff before trial on where and how freely you can move.
There is room to disagree about what to wear and how to look at trial, but there is no disagreement on the importance of appearing natural and comfortable. Whether or not you leave the bow tie at home, your appearance engenders confidence through projecting a powerful and controlled image.