Law Firm Dress Codes – Ancient Relics of the Past or as Important as Ever?

I recently had lunch with a business acquaintance and the subject of his company’s legal counsel came up. His attorney had recently changed law firms and my friend recounted how at the new firm “all of the attorneys wore suits and ties and seemed to be higher caliber.” His comment prompted me to reflect on the current trend away from formal business wear to casual attire. His attorney’s former firm is certainly regarded in the legal community as a very respectable firm. Could it be that some firms are becoming too lax on proper business attire? His perception certainly indicates that for some clients the answer is yes.

Incidentally, my friend came to lunch in jeans on a Wednesday. It would have been easy to infer from his casual dress that to him formal business attire for a lawyer was not only unnecessary but might even be viewed as up tight or out of touch with today’s business world. The reality was quite the opposite – at least in his view.

So, how should we dress as lawyers? The answer is apparently not as clear as some might think. I tend to believe that most business clients will still view us as more professional and therefore more competent if we dress professionally regardless of the prevailing trends in the business community. Does your firm have a dress code? If so, is it in keeping with the perceptions of your client base? Might you be losing business to the competition? This question, it seems, remains worthy of discussion even today.