What to Wear to a Law Firm Job Interview
Congratulations! You’ve got a job interview at a law firm. Exciting! On to the really important question – what are you going to wear?!?
Interviewing for a BigLaw Job
If you’re interviewing for a BigLaw job in a large law firm, the answer is pretty simple. You wear a suit and a relatively conservative one at that. For law students doing OCI interviews, it’s handy to have a “suit wardrobe” that you can mix and match for multiple days of interviews.
For example, you might have:
- Two suits, of different colors. (Women can further expand their options by having a skirt and pants version of each suit.)
- At least four suitable shirts, so you don’t have to worry about having all of your shirts stuck at the dry cleaners when you need them for an interview.
- Several ties, for men, which coordinate with your shirts and suits.
- At least one suitable pair of shoes for each suit (no, you can’t wear brown shoes with a dark suit).
- Suitable accessories for each version of your outfit, including some way to carry necessary documents (extra versions of your resume, transcript, and writing sample).
With this system, it’s potentially easy to keep track of what various firms have seen you wear. For example, you might decide to wear a skirt suit to initial on-campus interviews, and pants to a callback. Or you might opt to wear your gray suit initially, and a pinstripe suit to callbacks. Follow the Steve Jobs method of dressing, and cut down the number of things you need to think about before an interview! When you’re not worrying about which shoes match which suit, you can spend that time researching firms and planning your interview approach.
Interviewing for a Small Firm Job
If you’re interviewing at a smaller firm, planning your outfit is a little more challenging. In many cases, it’s appropriate to dress very formally, as if you were interviewing for a BigLaw job. But, not always! If the office is very informal, you might opt to dress down a bit.
How can you find out what the prevailing vibe of a small firm is? Use your legal research skills! Step one is to visit the firm’s website. Do they have photos of the lawyers? How dressed up are they? How formal is the site itself? What info are you given about how the firm views itself? These are clues about the culture of the firm, which can inform how you want to present yourself.
Also, think about whether you’ve got any contacts to the firm. Do you know anyone who worked there in the past (or who works there now)? This person might be willing to steer you in the right direction.
In general, err on the side of formality. No one is going to look too askew at a suit in a law firm interview, even if it’s not entirely necessary. (Tech companies are exceptions to this rule, but most law firms are still relatively conservative places.)
If you decide to dress down a bit, don’t take it too far. You don’t want to show up in “Casual Friday” attire for an interview! Make sure you’re at least slightly more dressed up than your interviewer, and you should be fine.
What to Carry?
One recurring question is what to bring or carry in an interview. The reality is you need to bring copies of your resume, transcript, and writing sample, in case any of the interviewers need them.
For men, the best option is a simple portfolio (like this one), which you can tuck under your arm. (Don’t bring a briefcase. It’s overkill. And make sure your pockets aren’t too laden down. Leaving your iPhone at home with your huge key ring makes sense.)
Women should have a similar portfolio but have more flexibility with what else to bring. A small bag is appropriate, as is a larger, relatively formal tote that can carry the portfolio and all other necessary items. (Something like this.)
In all cases, make sure you can easily shake hands while carrying whatever you bring! And don’t play with your portfolio in the interview. Either place it neatly in your lap (and leave it alone) or put it on the floor. Make sure it’s not a distraction!