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Why Do Lawyers Wear Suits?

Now that I have been an independent practioner for a year and a half, I forget that most lawyers have to put a suit and tie on every single day they go to work. I wear suits to Court, but beyond that, no way! I’ve never had a client so much as flinch when they walk in my office and see me in jeans and a collared shirt. Since much of my business is over the internet, there are many clients I never meet. They judge me purely by my work product and quality.

I went to a local bar event last week, and I was the only person in the room not wearing a suit. In fact, I was in jeans and a collared shirt. It struck me that all these lawyers were bound by a common rule which mandated wearing a suit. Many of their law firms mandate wearing suits. Regardless, they would never show up to a local bar event without one on.

Why is this? Who are they thinking they are going to impress? Are they going to impress the other lawyers? Do other lawyers even care?

I have concluded that lawyers are so stuck on the status quo, that they can’t even see beyond their own wardrobe. A suit to many lawyers is a validation of worth. A suit says, "look at me, I’m a lawyer." A suit is meant to intimidate. Having a nicer, more expensive suit than the other lawyer, puts you on top. Meeting with a client while wearing a suit immediately tells them how important you are. The right power tie can add an inch to your height and tell everyone that you are the most important person in the room.

A suit is in many ways symbolic of everything that is wrong in the practice of law. We are a profession that has come to value form over substance. Beware the lawyer wearing a suit. That lawyer may just have something to hide. The only thing you might be impressed with at the end of your representation is their wardrobe.

Comments

Leslie J. Smith

I agree with you. I am a female lawyer in Ontario, Canada and practice alone. I've worked in large firms and now practice alone. I used to practice with one other guy who wore a suit everyday. I thought it was pretentious. I never wear a suit unless I go to court. Of course, we wear robes in most courts, but for less formal appearances, I wear a suit. Otherwise, I'm in slacks and a jacket or black or brown jeans and a nice blouse or sweater - just as long as I don't appear too casual. I think my clients feel they can relate better to me if I don't appear too uppity in the power suit.

annomous

I think it would be foolish to say that lawyers are stuck up because they wear suits. Clients tend to expect the people that are defending them to be professional at all times, which includes looking as best as you can within your means.

GAL

Dear Anonymous:

Actually, I think you have stumbled on the biggest myth of all. Clients do not expect suits. They do not expect lawyers to look like they are professional. They want lawyers to be professionals and provide expert advice. Over the last six years, I have only worn suits to court. I represent some of the largest companies in the world. None of them care whether I'm wearing suit. In fact, many times they're not wearing suits. It's a perfect example of "form over substance." Lawyers feel like they have to look like their smart and important. Lawyers need to spend more time figuring out ways to leverage their intellect on behalf of their clients. Unfortunately, many lawyers have little to offer their clients except a fancy suit and tie. This is the real problem.


A.S.

Perhaps because everyone nowadays just expects to see a lawyer in a suit and would take it for granted. It could be like saying when you go to the doctors, he/she does not wear an apron or nothing like someone working in a hospital would wear, even though they do a similar profession. Suits, as they 'look' important, may make one feel important as well and feel like they are doing their top work, the best they can. I don't think people expect suits as it's spread all over the media, for example in television and films, where the all-important lawyer wears a suit. So long as the lawyer can actually do the work, I think the clothes they wear would probably become irrelevant.

John Compton

Maybe...just maybe, lawyers actually enjoy wearing suits? Its nice, I think it adds some professionalism to the profession.

greek lawyer

I really think that a well-dressed lawyer is not a bad lawyer! It is rather simple.... sometimes dressing up makes you feel better and that might reflect to your work.

Future Laywer

I om planning to be a lawyer and I think that there's nothing wrong if a lawyer wears a suit... i mean, not that it adds a any professionalism but its kind of what they are 'supposed' to look... Its one of the many things that people follow without knowing the reason behind...

Petey

"A suit is in many ways symbolic of everything that is wrong in the practice of law. We are a profession that has come to value form over substance."

This is pretty stupid. Suits perform the substantive task of indoor clothing -to keep you warm and cover your bits- as well as a any other choice of clothing. They might manifest style in addition to substance, but style OVER substance, I just don't see the argument.

I detect in your post a mild but distinct insecurity with your (IMHO perfectly acceptable) decision not to wear a suit. That's as stupid as some lawyer feeling superior because he does wear one. I suspect that if you didn't secretly care about your appearance as much as these besuited lawyers you objectify, you wouldn't have written the post at all.

Not cool. You are not cool.

wayne

"To Suit or not to Suit"...Does it rally matter?
Wearing a suit is often these days a personal choice considering the evaporation of dress codes, and as such should be respected.
I have to ask, and agree with the last 'post-er', what is it that offends others when a professional man wears a tailored and well coordinated suit and tie?
I am an architect and very often wear a suit and tie for a couple of reasons- to pay respect to my profession and because it just feels and looks so damn good.
What could possibly be so wrong with this?

The initial statement and suspicion is simply foolish and i suspect the author is easily intimidated by a few pounds of wool and silk...

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