Dressing as a Lady Lawyer

Lawyer working on digital tablet in courthouse
••• Robert Daly / Getty Images

A growing trend in the legal profession these days is for everyone to think they should have a say in what lady lawyers wear to work. Everyone from law school professors to judges feel obliged to weigh in, and their opinions are all over the place. Some think skirts are distracting, while others think pantsuits are too masculine.

As a woman, it is difficult enough to figure out what to wear without being subjected to other people’s opinions on the matter. Aside from a written wardrobe policy, you should be able to keep your sense of style while still following all the dress codes applicable to the courtroom.

Here are some helpful tips on how you can manage that delicate balance within the conservative confines of the courtroom, how you can exude professionalism while also expressing your unique flair.

Follow Explicit Dress Codes

If your firm or the court has a specific dress code, do your best to follow it. Dress codes are in place for a reason, even if the reason doesn’t seem to make sense. Not following the dress code is the easiest way for things to go amiss. Nothing says “unprofessional” like someone who blatantly disregards the dress code. If you want the freedom to start incorporating your style into your wardrobe, start by making sure everything you’ve chosen to wear follows the dress code and build from there.

Show Your Sense of Style

There is nothing wrong with weaving some of your style into your business wardrobe. Do you have a favorite color? Wear that color shirt under your suit jacket. Do you like sparkly things? Include one accessory, as long as it’s not distracting. Just because you’re in a stuffy courtroom doesn’t mean that your style has to be stifled. Just remember, the other people in the room should notice your intelligence before they notice what you wear. As long as you follow that rule of thumb, you should be just fine.

Don’t Go Overboard

As previously stated, you are free to include your fashion sense into your wardrobe but don’t overdo it. Just because you like sequins doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to wear a bedazzled jacket in court. Find understated ways to show your personality, and you can’t go wrong.

Dress Conservatively

Practicing the law is all about using your brain, so your intelligence should be your most prominent feature. With that in mind, you should make an effort to ensure that your outfits cover you in such a way that your clothing does not distract from the points you are trying to make. Pantsuits and skirt suits are safe options here, along with moderately comfortable shoes (read: not stilettos, but also not crocks). ​

Wear Clothes That Fit

While showing too much skin is distracting, wearing ill-fitting clothes is also cause for alarm when it comes to your wardrobe. One of the most important things to remember when choosing work clothing is to make sure you’re buying what fits you—feeling good in your clothes is half the battle.