These lawyers are changing the rules of law-firm fashion

By: August 28, 2018

How to wear what you want without breaking the law-firm dress code

stylish people

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.

Xi Chen

Xi Chen
Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP


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.”

Peter Osmond

Peter Osmond
Stewart McKelvey

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.”

Erin O'Callaghan

Erin O’Callaghan
McCarthy Tétrault LLP

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.”

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