It’s universal knowledge that most law firms have relatively conservative dress codes. The majority of firms state ‘business smart’ on their invites to assessment days, open days and interviews. But what exactly is business smart? If you are fashion savvy, is there a place for your style at a law firm? Here are my suggestions for interview wear, most of which are tailored to females, but I have included a few tips for males too.
Keep it simple
If in doubt, stick with M&S. Their clothes are low cost, with a range of styles and fits for different body types. You can usually find a good, practical suit for men or women (including a skirt or dress and jacket combo) that is relatively well made. They also do long and short lengths for a better fit. It can be fun to dress up professionally, but it may not be the right time to trial a slightly outlandish business look you’ve seen in a fashion magazine, as fashion can be very subjective! It isn’t nice to say that people still judge others on their appearance, but in conservative corporate environments, this can still be the case.
Your best bet is to stick with grey, black, navy or another neutral colour with minimal pattern. Females choose a white suit at your peril! A spilt coffee, food stain or mark isn’t a good look, even if it wasn’t your fault. I have seen some people rock dark purple and burgundy really well, but make sure the fit and style are still professional and that you don’t just look like a bright, giant grape.
Heels or no heels?
If you are at an open day, chances are it’s going to be a long one. If you are one of those superwomen that can wear heels all day, then you go girl! However, if not, think of comfort and practicability. Heels can look professional and elegant, but if you are waddling around like a duck all day because you can’t walk properly in them, that is what you might be remembered for. Whatever shoes you are wearing, don’t forget to wear them in if they are new. Chances are you will be on your feet for a while. Carry blister plasters just in case to keep your feet happy the whole day! A spare pair of shoes that fit in your bag is always a lifesaver just in case.
Showing some skin
Skirts and dresses as a general rule should be worn at a respectable knee length with or without tights. If you choose to go shorter, especially with bare legs, this could be seen as unprofessional. Crop tops are also a no-no! And see my previous blog on tattoos in commercial law firms for some in-depth analysis on whether you should get your tats out. The general summary is that you should cover up your tattoos!
Carry extra tights if you are wearing them in case of snags. Boys make sure your socks are matching, and that they aren’t the Darth Vader pair that you got in your Christmas stocking last year. It’s noticeable! Polish leather shoes and make sure suede shoes are stain free. Carry wipes to clean your shoes in case of emergency. I always carry spray, mints and a spare hairband in my bag too. If you are like me and travel down with a laptop, make sure your bag is supportive and isn’t going to kill your shoulders from carrying it all day!
Hair and makeup
It’s not the time to show off your high fashion makeup looks. A natural face of makeup and neutral tones are appropriate. I have heard conflicting views about nails in commercial law firms, but I believe that they should be natural or nude, a sophisticated red at a push! Acrylic nails look great, but not being able to pick up a pencil is not going to impress, trim them down to a manageable length and a natural shape. I’ve seen a people wear fake eyelashes on open days; unless you’re 100% sure that they will not hang off your eyelid after half a day, leave them at home. Hair should be washed (obviously!) and look presentable, whatever you think is the best approach! People have different hair types and I have seen some impressive updos. I have wild, untamed natural hair so a quick once over with a straightener makes it look tidy and keeps it off my face during the day. If in doubt, straightened or in a ponytail always looks professional.