Thursday, December 11, 2008

Vested Interest: Excavating your closet

The aftermath of exam period is the perfect time to rest your eyes and instead turn to a different kind of "legal research"-rifling through the depths of your closet for a professional wardrobe. When deciding whether to keep those brown loafers or send them off to Goodwill, or whether to keep that designer peacock-print silk suit scavenged off the racks of Nordstrom Rack, the experts have a few pointers on appropriate attire at a law firm.

Because associate positions at law firms are highly competitive, the standards for professional attire have become stricter, as recruiters must narrow down larger pools of applicants. Here are five tips on dressing for that first interview, and after you get that dream-job:

1. Conform to the firm's dress standards.

Dress formally. This almost always means a suit and tie for men and a suit with pants or a skirt for women, in neutral colors. Even if your firm's dress is "business casual," make sure that the quality of your clothing is high and your clothes are well-tailored to fit your body.

2. Can't I express myself at all?

Yes, but keep it subtle! Color choice can have a subconscious influence on the perceptions of others. For example, black and red are strong colors often associated with power, while gray and navy are more approachable. Medium blue is a color that is often perceived as friendly and genuine. However, color associations can vary depending on the perceiver's age, gender, cultural background, and personal experiences.

Women can and should wear accessories that reflect their desired image. For example, pearls and simple gold necklaces convey a professional, conservative image, while chunky bead necklaces convey the image of a creative thinker. Don't forget to wear closed-toe shoes. With makeup, keep it natural.

Men can express themselves through their ties. You should still forgo the Jerry Garcia ties, but consider the meaning behind colors. If you want to appear approachable and friendly, consider ties in earth tones or soft greens, or a blue dress shirt. If you are relatively young and want to appear more serious, consider a tie in red with bold stripes paired with a dark suit.

3. Consistent impressions are important, but first-impressions never die.

A low-cut shirt or unkempt hair can leave a lasting impression, even if you do get the job.

4. Avoid image detractors.

Common image detractors for men are 5 o'clock shadow, displaying hairy ankles, and wearing ties of improper length. Ankles should be hidden by socks when sitting. Ties should end at the belt buckle.

The most common image detractor for women is perfume. Many people are allergic, or may not like it.

5. Stand up straight!

This one is very hard for most people; because of sedentary lifestyle, most people have weak backs. However, posture is extremely important for conveying confidence and capability.


For more information on how to dress in the legal field, the articles used in researching this blog post are available in full-text through LegalTrac:


In addition, this article referenced is available through Westlaw:


Now that you are "dressed for success," you can find valuable tips for running the interview gauntlet in Kimm Alayne Walton's book, Guerilla tactics for getting the legal job of your dreams. KF297 .W34 1999. Two copies of the most recent edition are available in the Gallagher Library reference area, and two additional copies are in the classified stacks.

-- Julia Vinson

1 comment:

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