At corporate law firms across the country, junior lawyers are pushing the boundaries of the profession’s traditional dress code. Gone are the days of bland suits, button-ups and mandatory heels. The newest generation of lawyers are building wardrobes with a greater focus on personality, comfort and colour.
Sure, practising law is a client-facing job and keeping a professional appearance is part of the gig. But today’s young lawyers don’t accept that the only way to look like a professional is to don a grey suit. And they think it’s flat-out absurd to suggest that if a woman wears something colourful and feminine, clients won’t take her seriously.
So what are junior lawyers wearing to work? We asked three fashion-forward corporate lawyers to reveal how they suit up for the office. The advice they shared is not only super helpful, but also a reflection of how young lawyers — both men and women — have changed the rules of the law-firm fashion game.
Chen sticks to a few fashion staples that look good on her: high-waisted pants, fitted suits and cords. But she’s not afraid to add some flair, including textured belts and tops with frills, ruffles or eyelets.
Fashion advice she hates most: “That the standard uniform for a female lawyer is a suit. This just isn’t true.”
How she’s changing the law-firm dress code: “I infuse lots of colour into my wardrobe. Though I often dress in monochrome suits, it doesn’t have to be white, black or grey. For instance, I own both pink and mustard-yellow suits.”
Her tips on dressing for work: “Find items that are both preppy and trendy at the same time. This is why I love cords so much. They work well in a business environment because they look organized, streamlined and put together, but they can also be edgy if the cut is slim or tapered.”
In a fashionably conservative city like Halifax, Osmond definitely stands out. His pant cuffs sit well above the ankle, his patterned socks on full display. And he always opts for slim-fit suits.
Fashion advice he hates most: “That there are hard-and-fast rules at all. Associates can add colour into their wardrobes, wear sneakers to the office or be creative with their fashion choices.”
How he’s changing the law-firm dress code: “I really push the limits on casual Fridays. I’m not afraid to wear Chuck Taylors, jeans and a patterned shirt buttoned all the way up to the top.”
His tips on dressing for work: “You have to dress somewhat within the norm. But you can inject personality into your clothes through colour, funky socks and interesting ties. I have an electric-blue suit, which I was a bit nervous to wear at first, but people really liked it.”
O’Callaghan looks for stylish, professional clothes that are also comfortable. In fact, she only wears a suit when closing a deal, relying, for the most part, on dresses and pants and- blazer combos.
Fashion advice she hates most: “That clients won’t take women seriously if they are wearing anything too feminine.”
How she’s changing the law-firm dress code: “I keep things casual. I buy dress pants with elastic waistbands, plus colour and patterns. I own a black pair with beige polka dots, one that’s solid maroon and another with vertical stripes that are white, navy and fuchsia.”
Her tips on dressing for work: “Don’t be afraid to be yourself. If you find fashion overwhelming, experiment in small doses. Maybe add a bright statement necklace to a black dress or try out some bright lipstick. You don’t have to buy that fuchsia-patterned dress right away.”