I had a terrific marketing partner when I was an in-house marketer with a large Florida law firm. He summed up marketing succinctly in the statement: “Marketing is everything you do as a lawyer.” Everything you do as a lawyer does reflect on the image (brand) that others have of you.  And how you dress bears directly what people think of you as a person –and as a lawyer.

In an earlier post “Dressing Professionally is Smart Marketing,” I reported on John Remsen’s July readers’ survey of 233 law firm professionals regarding lawyers casual attire at work these days.

John’s second article in his two-part series on dress codes reports on the responses of managing partners and firm leaders. The reaction of these lawyers (based on 164 survey participants) was:

  • 54% “oppose more casual dress codes for lawyers,” and
  • 70% “believe that casual dress has a negative influence on clients’ perceptions of the quality and value of a lawyer’s legal expertise.”

The latter may be a stretch as it relates to the majority of clients’ reaction, but I totally agree with the overall premise. Casual dress for lawyers is generally a BAD idea. There are firms and managing partners that favor the casual approach. Read their comments in John’s article.

It is clear that good people can disagree on this topic. However, I come down on the side of more formality when it comes to professionals.  Certainly, if a client specifically requests less formality, then that’s it. But, when it comes to developing business, I concur with several of the comments made:

  • “… clients are looking for someone who looks like a professional.”
  • “… the impression you make with your co-workers, the lunch crowd and the people you see on your way to and from work every day is important, too.”
  • “the real test is what do those attorneys who are most successful and admired wear?”

Call me old fashion, but I’ve never heard a law firm client complain about their lawyers looking “too nice.” It’s all about image and trust. Dressing for work like you do for the weekend doesn’t help either, IMHO.