Getting accepted into law school is the first step in finally having the career you always wanted, but do you know what to wear to law school to be accepted and play the part? If you’re worried about your school attire and can’t seem to take fashion advice from Elle Woods, here is everything you need to know about the topic.
Law school vs. courthouse
Going to law school means you’re studying to become a lawyer, judge, or person of justice, but this doesn’t mean you’re quite there yet. That being said, the way you choose to dress for classes isn’t the same as being in a courthouse, in front of a real jury.
Law school, despite the preppy title, remains an educational institution that may or may not force a dressing code for its pupils. Most times, students attending classes choose to dress informally and as comfortable as possible because they are still preparing for what will come in the future.
Going to classes in a suit and tie daily is not only exhausting but will also put a significant hole in your monthly budget, given that business attire doesn’t come cheap. In most educational institutions, you will see professors dressed up casually when teaching and formally whenever they attend a school event, fundraising, or take part in a real courthouse.
In other words, you can still choose to dress comfortably when you’re going to classes. It is up to you if you prefer stiletto heels and pencil skirts regularly or opt for a regular pair of jeans, comfy shoes, and a top.
Given that any law school will occupy 90% of your day with classes, seminars, hearings, appeals, study groups, and homework, stressing over what you wear won’t likely be your priority, at least after spending a few months in the educational process.
However, fashion and law school go hand in hand as you grow older and you’re preparing for your graduation. The role of any educational institution is to prepare you for real life, and, when it comes to law schools, this means learning the lingo and following the etiquette. Perhaps these tips and tricks on how to prepare your wardrobe for the upcoming years will come in handy.
Have a basic outfit
Going to law school means investing in at least one professional outfit for on-campus interviews, internships, and practices. Women can choose either fitted trousers and a blazer or a jacket or jackets and skirts.
While black is always preferred, it can be sometimes generic, boring, and too “old” for students. We suggest spicing your outfit a little bit by choosing clothing items in shades of gray, navy, and blue.
If you’re confident enough, you can also opt for a Deux-piece in less conventional colors such as pastels, as long as you maintain the formal line and pair the suit with the appropriate office shoes and shirts.
As a law student, you’ll have access to various networking activities on and off-campus. Extracurricular events can include anything from mock trials to seminars, interviews for opening positions at law firms, cocktail parties, moot court competitions, and others. Although many of these events don’t have a strict dressing code, it is always important to look your best and keep it professional.
Business attire and suits are preferred in this case but they can be replaced with more casual pieces. There is also a style called “business casual” which implies fitted, made-to-measure clothes without looking too formal or preppy. For women, business casual can include business dresses, preferably knee-length, skirts, or pants.
Blue jeans are not exactly screaming professionalism but you can get away with denim if it’s black. However, refrain from wearing distressed styles, patches, embroideries, bling, or ripped pants. They might look cool outside the courthouse but they won’t be seen with good eyes inside courthouses.
Sweaters, blouses or nice shirts are also appropriate, as long as you don’t wear halter tops, sleeveless shirts, or crazy patterns. Light patterns such as stripes, dots, and even flower motifs are permitted when keeping the rest of the outfit clean and sharp.
Jewelry and accessories
When it comes to accessories, women have a lot more choices than men to style up their outfits for the law school. However, nothing too flashy, opulent, or massive is allowed or considered appropriate.
Again, there is a difference between attending classes, going to exams, and participating in school events like mock trials, so you need to understand the differences and act accordingly. That being said, you may still wear bangs, cuffs, or hoop earrings while going to lectures but they won’t be allowed in a courthouse or any professional business environment.
Small earrings, bracelets, pendants, necklaces, and rings are allowed, as long as they don’t stand out too much. It is also advisable not to wear them all at the same time but alternate.
For instance, if you wear earrings and a necklace, there is no need for additional rings and bracelets. Similarly, if you choose a bigger necklace, you should avoid bracelets and earrings.
Watches make you look the part and professional, but we suggest sticking to small accessories, preferably with leather straps.
If you like metallic straps and a little bit of bling, keep your watch under your jacket sleeve. However, some people in the court don’t feel comfortable wearing watches, especially the ones with loose metallic bracelets. It is up to you whether or not this stylish accessory will be part of your official lawyer wardrobe.
In terms of shoes, women are allowed to wear both high heels and flats, although mid heels are often preferred. Booties are welcome too but over-the-knee boots, even when worn under decent skirts, might be a stretch in some courthouses. Preferably, women choose kitten heels, mid heels, and classic stilettos whenever they have public or official meetings.
Peep toe shoes are also a good alternative as opposed to strappy sandals that aren’t seen as professional. Even during the summertime, women are still expected to wear closed-toe shoes, with peep toes being the exception.
Scarves, belts, and any other accessories should be kept to a minimum and shouldn’t become the centerpiece of your outfit.
Hosiery or stockings are preferred but not mandatory. They must either be nude (as close to your skin tone as possible) or black, and shouldn’t have any visible patterns, including stripes or dots. They should also be thin and not opaque.
Hair and makeup
Maintaining a business look also means you adjust to certain hairstyles and makeup rules. Generally speaking, women are allowed and even encouraged to wear makeup in the law field. However, it should be minimal or simple and kept in neutral, nude shades.
Bold lipstick colors such as red, blue, violet, brown, and black are not allowed but women can still wear shades as close as possible to their natural lip color. The same goes for the eye makeup – mascara and a trace of eyeliner are preferred. Blush, foundation, highlighter, and even contouring can be applied, as long as the result is natural.
As for hairstyles and colors, strong colors should be avoided because they don’t scream professionalism. This includes violet, pink, green, fiery red, blue, rainbow, and all other “unnatural” colors.
Ombre hair and dyed hair are allowed. When it comes to hairstyles, most women prefer to wear their hair down or in a sleek ponytail or bun. Natural hairstyles, including curls, waves, and braided hair for African-American women are also considered OK for lawyers and law school.
What not to wear to law school
Although the dressing code remains rather strict for women, there are still hundreds of choices available that look both classy and professional. However, some clothes are not considered suitable or businesses-like, especially in a courthouse.
These include tight-fitting clothing, shorts, jeans, non-collared shirts, sweatshirts, suits, or gym attire (including yoga pants and capris), cargo pants, t-shirts, bold colors, and patterns (including animal print), golf shirts, and obvious logo clothing. Novelty items such as ties and clips aren’t allowed either.
Law firm dress code
Keep in mind that these are generic recommendations and the dress code of a particular law firm may be stricter or looser. Every firm reserves the right to create a dress code adequate to their lawyers and partners, but the overall line will remain business-like.
That being said, women may be allowed to wear dresses, as long as they have sleeves, are of maximum knee-length, and look professional. Either way, most rules remain the same and allow women to express their personal style to some degree.
To make sure you have everything right, we suggest taking a close look at what women from your law firm wear. TV shows and movies may also depict reality, as long as you don’t consider Legally Blonde to be your absolute favorite.