Dress For Success: What to Wear to Court
Everyone wants to look their best when standing before a group of people, and lawyers are no exception. At trial, counsel is going to be getting up before the same group of people (the judge and jury) day after day and wants to make a good impression. Humans make important judgments about other people very quickly based on their initial impressions of only a few seconds. Simply put, appearance counts in court.
Therefore, the question, “What should I wear in court?” is an important one for counsel to consider. The temptation is to wear one’s “dressiest” attire and accessories, including that expensive watch, cufflinks, diamond earrings, designer shoes and even your handbag. After all, they have been chosen for their quality and are very flattering! But the practice of some of the most successful attorneys we know is generally the best path to follow. For every trial, one of these attorneys takes off the gold Rolex watch he normally wears and substitutes a serviceable, non-branded watch for the entire time, while the other wears a pair of plain, functional heels purchased specifically for the context of her particular trial. Another female attorney we know takes off her solitaire diamond earrings and two-carat diamond engagement ring, leaving only her wedding band.
Why is this practice of foregoing the bling and designer goods generally a good idea? It is because counsel’s primary goal is to connect with jurors as effectively as possible and anything that gets in the way of relating to the jurors can be a distraction. Jurors already come into court suspicious of what many perceive as “high attorney fees,” particularly for attorneys defending corporations. So, clothing and accessories that are obviously expensive risk reinforcing an already existing negative stereotype. And it can inadvertently distance counsel from those jurors.
So, the goal is to look professional but not so different from those who will decide your case. You want jurors to focus on what you are saying, not on what you are wearing. You want your clothing to be clean, pressed and tailored. Your suits should fit to your frame and not be too baggy or too tight. Many lawyers wear darker solid suit colors (to court) especially navy and charcoal. This is the typical courtroom attire. More recently, I have seen more and more corporate lawyers wearing trimmer suits in current patterns and colors. It’s refreshing. However, not for all attorneys. It’s best to dress for your client or court case. If unsure, ask around the office. Attorneys should wear suits or other professional clothing, such as sports coat and slacks in rural jurisdictions, and modest jewelry – a wedding ring and modest watch are appropriate. They should avoid wearing branded clothing, easily recognizable accessories or those with logos.
There is no such thing as a “second” first impression. Attorneys want to ensure their appearance doesn’t compete with or undermine their goal of connecting with their jurors by selecting clothing or accessories that create distance or the impression of dissimilarity. Choose wisely and you’ll keep jurors’ focus where it belongs – on your message.
Need a second option on what to wear to court or help with your wardrobe, email with your questions or better yet, swing by my store to chat in person. I can show you a handful of looks and ideas to help make the right first impression.
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Phoenix, AZ 85016