Dress For Female Lawyer Success
Unreliable sources advise me that the Memphis Bar Association Board of Directors is considering drafting a dress code for women lawyers. Such a code would be designed to provide sartorial guidelines for female lawyers making court appearances.
Insofar as I know, there is no MBA dress code for male lawyers. If there is one, it sure isn’t enforced. Most male lawyers I know show up for depositions looking pretty shabby. No coats, no tie, maybe a golf shirt and khakis. We’re just one step away from seeing lawyers wearing tank tops, Speedos, and flip-flops.
The late great philosopher Wyeth Chandler once observed that the good lawyers who appeared in his courtroom always “looked like they were working for the Memphis Funeral Home.” As the Judge put it, “They walk in the courtroom wearing dark suits, white shirts, black shoes, and somber expressions.”
Similarly, the late great Lucius Burch once said that in dress and demeanor, a lawyer should always look like he is headed to his uncle’s funeral and has already received the news that he was left out of the will.
I personally favor a dress code for all lawyers, regardless of their gender. I believe that all lawyers should dress for work and that so-called “casual days” should be barred by the Constitution. The fashion abomination called “casual day” first emerged about twenty years ago when some unkempt lawyer or business man in a wrinkled suit decided that on one day each work week, he and his employees could show up for work in “casual” attire. One day was bad enough, but suddenly “casual day” spread through the American legal and business community like a bad soup stain. All across America, people started showing up for work on “casual day” (generally Friday) dressed in blue jeans and tee shirts emblazoned with silly little slogans such as “Accountants never lose their balance” or “Lawyers do it in their briefs.”
Faster than you can say “body odor”, casual day spread like kudzu to not just one day but several days a week.
Well, I say it’s time for us lawyers to dress for success, and therefore, I strongly support a dress code. However, I will be the first to admit that a dress code for female lawyers may present some unique challenges.
A dress code for male lawyers is simple. Dark suits, white shirts, silk ties, and wing-tips, otherwise known as “Air Nixons.” No Italian slippers or tassled loafers, thank you.
But a dress code for female attorneys would be much more complicated to draft. Is a Hillary-style pants suit permissible? What about high heels? (Personally, I’m scared to death whenever I have to try a case against a woman in stilettos.) What about knee-length boots like Nancy Sinatra sang about in “These Boots Are Made for Walking”?
What if a female lawyer wants to wear a coat and tie like Diane Keaton did in Annie Hall? And if it is okay for a woman to appear in court dressed like a man, can a male lawyer make a court appearance dressed like a woman? Could the Memphis Bar Association prohibit cross-dressing without violating the equal protection clause?
These are all obviously very sticky issues that the MBA officers and directors will have to address. But I am sure they will get the job done. They just need to take their coats off, roll up their sleeves, and loosen their ties, assuming they are wearing any.
Now if you will excuse me, I’m headed for a deposition, so I need to take off my dark suit and put on a tank top, shorts, and flip-flops.