"Can I Wear a Pantsuit" and Other Fashion Rules for Law Firm Interviews

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Dear Lawcrossing,

I'm going to be interviewing with law firms on campus at school. Do you think times have changed enough so that it would be all right if I wore a pantsuit to interviews?



PV, Muuie&pctti

DEAR PV,

If you are a man, PV, LawCrossing believes that wearing pants to interviews is not only acceptable, but mandatory. But of course the Job Goddess realizes that you are, in fact, a woman, which is why you're curious about the pants issue.

LawCrossing understands the nature of the dilemma, PV. For one thing, in more and more law offices, female attorneys routinely show up in tailored pantsuits. Furthermore, if you've attended any employer panels at school, you may well have heard individual attorneys saying that they would have no problem with women showing up in pants for interviews. one career services director, the Career Services Director at the University of Miami School of Law, recalls that as a litigator she once showed up in court wearing a fire-engine red pantsuit. The judge not only didn't mind but, in fact, complimented her on her outfit.

So where does this leave you in interviews? Exactly where you were to start with: that is, playing the odds.

While it is unquestionably true that there are interviewers who would not mind-and in fact would welcome- a break from seeing a sea of law students in conservative attire, it's impossible to determine who those interviewers are ahead of time. And that's why it pays to dress at least relatively conservatively.

There are at least three issues to keep in mind with interview garb, however. If you are in the rare and fortunate situation of knowing how a particular interviewer feels about interview attire-for instance, you've seen the interviewer speak and they've expressly stated that they are bored by conservative suits in interviews, or your career services director personally knows the interviewer's preferences, or you know someone who knows the interviewer and can give you the inside skinny on such matters-then by all means wear something that, while still professional, shows more of your fashion flare.

It's also true that different kinds of attire are appro-priate in different parts of the country. While these are broad generalizations, reports from LawCrossing's correspondents with law schools and employers nationwide suggest that, for instance, the Pacific Northwest is more casual, Southern employers prefer to see more makeup on women than do employers in other parts of the country, and New York employers expect you to be more fashion-forward.

Another issue to consider is the kind of employer with whom you are interviewing, PV. You say "law offices," but LawCrossing realizes this covers a broad swath of potential employers. For a Wall Street firm, a very expensive, tailored suit would be appropriate. For a public interest employer, on the other hand, you'd create entirely the wrong impression by showing up in an Armani.

The bottom line on bottoms, PV? Unless you absolutely, positively know differently with a particular interviewer, save your pantsuits for the time when you've already nailed down the job, and identified that the people who wear pants at the office are at least sometimes female.

See the following articles for more information:




University of Miami School of Law

    


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