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Revisiting The Issue Of Why Lawyers Wear Suits

In a recent post titled “Why Do Lawyers Wear Suits”, we playfully explored the idea of the importance – or lack thereof – of a suit and tie for legal professionals.  The post drew some interesting commentary warranting a re-posting of the article here!

Are suits just another example of “form over substance” for lawyers and law firms?  I haven’t worn a suit in five years, except to court.  I deal with very powerful and important clients, as well as average business people and layman.  Clients feel more comfortable when they’re not sitting across from a stuffed suit.  No client has ever been taken aback by the fact that I wasn’t wearing a suit.  In fact, more often than not, neither were they. 

The concept that lawyers need to wear suits to meet their client’s expectations is ridiculous in most instances.  Clients aren’t that stupid.  They want good lawyers and good results.  They don’t care if their legal professional is wearing nothing but underwear while they accomplish those results. 


David Redden

I was with you until the last paragraph.

Form matters greatly because people, including you and I, don't think about 98% of what we do, and form rules the day when it comes to that 98%. That's why marketing is what it is and why it works. That's why my daughter thinks Skippy is better than actual peanut butter even after she's tasted it, and in spite of her (in my unbiased opinion) above-average intelligence.

The way you dress will probably not overcome terrible results, but it will often go a long way in coloring perceptions of the quality of your work, because little things really do matter, even if maybe they shouldn't. I agree, however, that lawyers would be wise to think about the message suits send and their advantages/disadvantages.


David: Perhaps it is my bias that society does put too much emphasis on form and not enough on substance. I have to wonder how many clients actually use us because we don't appear to be "stuffed suits." I think it is a pretty sizable number. When I started our law firm, I made it my mission to stand out from the rest. Everyday was "opposite day." I found it amusing that even at Bar events, virtually every lawyer in the room was in a suit except for me. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that any hidden hesitation of a client because the lawyer they are sitting across from doesn't look like the stereotypical lawyer can quickly be overcome by intelligence, solid business process, and ultimately, results.

Thanks for the comment, David. See you around the blogosphere.


I wear a suit for all depos, client meetings, bar functions, and (obviously) court appearances, and go casual the rest of the time.

Jay S. Fleischman

We all know that perception matters, and that we must always put forward an image that is in line with our client's expectations. But that doesn't mean a suit.

It could mean jeans and a sport jacket, clean white dress shirt and shined shoes. It could mean a suit with an unbuttoned top button and no tie.

The key is to dress well, but to be slightly different that the expectation of a full-blown suit.

Wearing clothing other than a suit causes a pattern interrupt - the client isn't expecting a lawyer who wears jeans (for example) and is therefore caught off guard. When this happens, the client is psychologically more actively involved - listening rather than just thinking, "Blah blah blah - more lawyer-speak."

This may let you actively engage your client in a way that is not ordinary possible.

Clothing's got to be high quality, neat, clean and not worn or ratty. But it need not be a suit and, in fact, shouldn't be in many situations (except for court, business negotiations, and the like).

It's much in the same vein as placing pictures of Disney characters in your office. Client thinks, "Wow - I didn't expect to see THAT in a lawyer's office. This guy's completely different. Let's hear what he's got to say. If he's a total flake or a joker I'll know it."

You get their attention, you get to really connect with them and actively engage them.


Why not just wear a jogging suit to client meetings?

Bryan Sims

I could not agree with you more. I wear a suit to court because I have to. Otherwise I wear slacks and a collared shirt.
I find it amusing when I go to bar events and those of us who are on the legal technology committee dress casually while the others are wearing suits.
I don't get the suit thing. I always feel bad for the attorneys who show up to deps in their suits because their law firm requires them to wear suits every day.



All great points, I love what you had to say about the Disney pictures. There is a real advantage to standing out from the crowd. Clients can see you as daring, innovative and unique. If you follow up with some really intelligent commentary, the client will remember you for a long time.

Ron Miller

I think it is very helpful to wear a suit because people - by necessity - make conclusions based on limited information. Wearing a suit says something that is meaningful and their are a thousand studies that back this up. Do I wear a suit out of court, medication or arbitration? No. I don't. But is is a quality of life thing - I lose a little something with clients that I hope I can make up by being competent and all of that.

R. Palmer

You play the game, you wear the uniform. Clients expect attorneys to look sharp. Perception means a lot. If you wear your chinos and a polo shirt, will the client think you will be casual about his or her case too? I don't want to even have the chance that a potential client might think less of me by dressing casually. I can wear jeans and a t-shirt all I want after hours. Also I find suits very comfortable. I've never had to apologize for being early, overdressed, or overprepared.


My suits are extremely comfortable. Even more comfortable than Polo's and chinos. However, I do not go cheap on my wardrobe. I once made the mistake of buying a cheap suit. Never again. Life was miserable.

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