Dressing for Success in the Legal Sector

Oscar Wilde once said that “looking good and dressing well is a necessity”; what we wear and how we dress matters.

Smart Works a UK charity has recognised the power of clothes to transform a person’s confidence and self- belief. The way you dress is your visual CV and you only have one chance to make a good impression, so it’s important to make it the best one you can.

Here Francine Ryan, Senior Lecturer in Law and member of the Open Justice Centre at The Open University, offers some tips to help you dress your best to impress in the legal sector!

Dress for the occasion

It is important to dress appropriately for the occasion, how you dress depends on what you are dressing for. If you have a job interview, or legal work experience you need to wear business attire because appearances matter, and you want to create a good first impression. Law firms are likely to have a dress code; what you wear may depend on whether you are meeting clients or attending court or working in the office. The dress code for most law firms is likely to be conservative and therefore it is best to err on the side of caution.

What not to wear!!

Whether it’s an interview or starting a new job, how you present yourself will impact on how others perceive you. Avoid casual clothing, if it is the summer don’t wear your flip flops or sliders! You need to have neat and well-groomed hair, it is good to travel with a hair brush, the weather can play havoc with your hair. Go easy on the perfume or aftershave. Remember the small things matter, so no white socks wear dark ones, avoid a comedy tie and make sure your shoes are not scuffed, or dirty. Think about the message you are conveying through your clothes.

The small things matter, so no white socks wear dark ones, avoid a comedy tie and make sure your shoes are not scuffed, or dirty. Think about the message you are conveying through your clothes.   

Clothes should give you CONFIDENCE

Your clothes should make you feel confident, they need to be appropriate for the occasion, but they also need to be comfortable. If you are wearing something that is itchy, or constantly needs re-adjusting then you are not going to feel confident and you are not going to project a professional appearance.  Stick to a tailored suit, formal shoes, and a limited number of accessories. It may seem obvious but make sure your clothes fit and they are ironed! You won’t appear very professional if your clothes are wrinkled and crumpled.

Business attire

You might be wondering what constitutes business attire:

Men– a tailored suit in a neutral colour, with a long-sleeved white shirt, if you are unsure of the policy wear a tie. Invest in some dress shoes with dark socks. Think about your facial hair, avoid long beards or the stubbly look! Visible tattoos or piercings should be avoided. The way in which you dress impacts on the image you convey.

Women– a trouser or a skirt suit in a dark and formal colour, skirts should be at or below the knee. Wear closed- toe heels or dress shoes, think about the heel height, you need to be practical, if you are walking to client meetings or to court, then avoid high heels. Extremely long nails, too much make up, distracting jewellery and visible tattoos or piercings are unlikely to help you convey a polished professional image.

Affordable work clothes

Dressing for success may seem expensive but it doesn’t have to be. Affordable works clothes can be bought from the high street, and also from websites like ebay or Depop.  Start by investing in a couple of pairs of suit trousers and one suit jacket, you can then build your wardrobe. If you need some inspiration search on Pinterest.

Moving into a corporate culture from university can seem like a minefield, traditionally law firms are quite conservative so if in doubt, play it safe. Dressing to impress can help you project confidence, convey your ability to professionally handle the work and it may just give you the edge you need over other candidates. The importance of dressing well has a long history, it was the ancient Greeks who said, “the garment makes the man”!

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