Dressed For Success
Lawyers are traditionally known to wear tailored suits to look professional for their daily responsibilities. However, I wanted to hear from local well-dressed attorneys themselves on what they wear and how important looking their best for their career is. I recently took a poll and interviewed a handful of dapper dressed and well-respected lawyers here in Phoenix. I’ll feature their interviews each week or so in my blog. Meet William Fischbach from Tiffany & Bosco. I appreciate his insight and advice he offers for fellow lawyers. Enjoy his interview.
I am an experienced trial lawyer and partner at the law firm of Tiffany & Bosco, P.A. I concentrate my practice in commercial and civil litigation, with an emphasis in real estate, condemnation/eminent domain, and select catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, and medical malpractice cases. I am a 20-year lawyer, but I spent the first 9 years of my career in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps, where I served with the 101st Airborne Division and 82nd Airborne Division. I was the lead prosecutor in the Mahmudiyah Massacre — considered by some to be the most heinous war crime of the Iraq war — and won convictions in each case. In the Army, I served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and the Republic of Korea, and completed Airborne, Air Assault and Pathfinder training. I was honorably discharged in 2008 at the rank of Major and I am a Bronze Star Medal recipient. My experiences in the Army forged me into the trial lawyer I am today.
People sometimes ask what the difference is between a “trial attorney” and a “litigator.” I think this quote from a judge in a recent multi-billion dollar trade libel case says it best: “A litigator drinks wine and takes depositions. A trial lawyer drinks whiskey and tries cases.” I’m a trial lawyer—but I prefer bourbon.
A lawyer’s wardrobe and style should convey three things: professionalism, integrity, and attention to detail. These are three qualities clients, judges, and jurors associate with the best attorneys. And your wardrobe should reflect that. Studies show that people tend to associate the colors blue and grey with honesty. So most of my suits are blue and grey variants. Likewise, I avoid “flashy” socks and the color of my belt and shoes should match perfectly.
Variety is key to a good wardrobe. I enjoy mixing things up with different colors, patterns, and styles. One of the most flattering comments I ever received from a juror after winning the case for our client was that she always looked forward to coming to court to see how I would be dressed that day.
Start with the basics: a navy suit and charcoal suit, and build from there. I always recommend having a stable of light blue button-down shirts and yellow ties—they seem to go well with just about any neutrally colored suit.
Court is always a suit and tie. For client meetings, it depends on the client. You have to know your audience. Arizona is generally a more casual, so with local clients—who themselves dress more casually—pressed slacks and a tucked-in button-down shirt are appropriate. On the other hand, if I am meeting with, say, certain clients from Los Angeles or New York, a suit and tie are the right call.
Generally speaking, a sport coat is appropriate for any event at which one should look relaxed and put others at ease. So client dinners, weekend parties, and charity events are ideal for sport coats. But I would recommend still having a pocket square—it makes a sport coat look a bit snappier.
I always look forward to dressing casually on the weekends. I am sponsored by an athletic apparel company, Zoot Sports (https://zootsports.com/), so I am usually dressed in their gear during my off time, even when I am not working out. If I am going out to dinner on the weekends, a pair of nice jeans, clean athletic shoes (like Pumas or Adidas), and an untucked (but ironed) shirt are a good casual look. But dressing casually should never devolve into dressing sloppily. You never know when you might run into an existing—or future—client.
One of my now-retired partners used to say, “Never wear a black suit on the first day of trial, otherwise the jury knows who the bad guys are!” That’s good advice—jurors can make snap judgments about lawyers based on how they look on the first day of trial. So look your best!
I have the privilege of living less than a mile from my office, so if I need a quick wardrobe change, it’s just a five-minute drive away. I enjoy wearing linens more in the summertime. But if you own linen, you must own a hand steamer, since it wrinkles easily.
Two things: First, you don’t need money to dress well; but you do need taste. Having a personal stylist and tailor is invaluable in that respect. They can help you fine-tune your look and give you a heads up when there are “trunk sales” or other great deals on nice clothing. Second, exercising and maintaining a reasonably healthy diet is critical to one’s style. For men, working to make your shoulders broader and your waist trimmer will make you look twice as good in any suit.