Anytime I hear a solo or solo-to-be say something like “It’s my law practice and I’ll wear what I want,” I cringe. Because your law practice isn’t about you, it’s about clients – specifically, what puts them at ease and what will produce the best possible results. As lawyers, the litmus test for fashion whether an outfit is appropriate for a particular client and given situation (for example, a suit and tie might not be necessary for a Saturday morning home visit but it’s mandatory for a trial) and not whether it makes us feel comfortable or sexy.
Yet as times change, the once simple question of what to wear has also increased in complexity. What’s appropriate for a lawyer who works from home, or occasionally from the coffee shop and rarely sees clients except online, but nevertheless, might run into colleagues? What about lawyers attending CLEs and networking events? When the First Lady and former lawyer herself doesn’t wear stockings, should lawyers follow suit? How should a law student who interviews with a home based solo dress for an interview? And most of all, how can cash strapped new solo and small firm lawyers and recent grads afford a solo-suitable wardrobe on a limited budget.
Since I’m fashion-challenged myself (it was a relief to wear a standard-issued “uniform” at the Missouri Solo & Small Firm Conference last week!), I knew that I needed to outsource this topic. And so I turned to the inimitable Huma Rashid, a rising third year law student whom I met on Twitter (don’t say it doesn’t work for finding work!) and who introduces herself after the jump. By the way, Huma is our first official post-relaunch columnist (and yes, we pay our writers so that our readers get the quality that you deserve) – and we are interested in adding more. So if you have an idea for a column or series, please contact me at email@example.com Without further ado, take it away, Huma!
Hello to all My Shingle readers! I’m a new columnist here and since you’ll be seeing me about once a week to discuss life, politics, and theoretical mathematics (more like none of those things and mostly legal, professional, and/or business casual fashion), I thought it would be a good idea to introduce myself and my column.
Who I Am:
My name is Huma Rashid, and I am a 3L at John Marshall Law School in Chicago, IL. My main interest is Labor/Employment law. I love cartoons and old British TV shows, I enjoy reading works of critical theory, as well as classics from England’s great realist and modernism writers, and Calvin & Hobbes. I could eat burgers and cheese fries every day for the rest of my life, and I fancy myself a root beer connoisseur. In my free time, I blog, draw cartoons, volunteer at my local Humane Society branch, and think about cupcakes.
How I Got Here:
I’m a compulsive Twitter user, and as a law student, I thought it would be prudent to follow a bunch of attorneys and see what I could pick up from them (spoiler alert: a lot). Carolyn was one of the attorneys I started following as a new Twitter user, and that was how we peripherally came to know each other. Or rather, know of each other. So when she asked if I’d be willing to contribute, I was more than happy to climb aboard!
This was what was behind my invitation to My Shingle. I publish and maintain The Reasonably Prudent Law Student, a law blog that started out very serious and professional and then just kind of devolved into me alternately shrieking about clothes, posting almost indecipherable doodles masquerading as web comics, and (lovingly) complaining about my mother. Occasionally, I post Serious Law Articles I write that Serious Law People are interested in reading, and then I go back to talking about shoes. Thankfully, it’s not all madness, though; my ramblings have helped me score many great opportunities, including the chance to be a part of My Shingle. It is the fourth blog I contribute to (others include Social Media Law Student, The Working Wardrobe, and Heave Media), and I look forward to being here!
Business Casual Superstar:
TRPLS is the home of my popular Business Casual Superstar series. Every day (or, almost every day) I post a business casual outfit, including a top, bottoms, shoes, and sometimes accessories, for under $100. The outfits started out as law school appropriate, but then I broadened the scope. Now, my often-colorful and sometimes trendy ensembles are appropriate for the general definition of business casual, but might not be entirely appropriate for most law firms. The ensembles I create here at My Shingle will be different, though, in that they will be put together with the legal community in mind, rather than the general workplace.
As part of my original BCS series, I put together outfits based on my own style, general outfits, or those that incorporate current trends in a way that’s appropriate for the office. (Translation: Gladiator sandals trend? No. Wedge boots trend? Sure.) I also put together outfits that are inspired by celebrities or TV/movie/literary characters. I create outfits composed of entirely plus-size pieces for ‘Plus-Sized Professionals,’ as well as the occasional outfit for men. I post collections as well – collections of shoes, or handbags, or cardigans, or other work-appropriate articles that I like in an attempt to illustrate the different options that are available for under $50. I also very happily take reader requests or questions, which is something that I hope to bring to My Shingle as well.
My mission for the BCS series was simple: Post interesting (i.e., not boring) work outfits for under $100. My mission for my posts at My Shingle is similar, only the outfits I post here will be more appropriate for law firms and law-related events (like CLEs), and as such won’t be as trendy or youthful as some of the outfits I allow myself to post on my blog. Also, the outfits I put together on my blog almost always fit into a $100 budget, and while I do still intend to focus on affordability issues, I will be working with many different price ranges, from the cash-strapped law student going on an interview, or the solo attorney that received a hefty settlement check and wishes to invest in high-end career pieces.
If you’ve browsed some of the outfits in my BCS series at my blog, you’ll notice that sometimes I post a link to $15 pants. Or a polyester jacket. Or pants with lycra, or other such nonsense.
I can’t promise that I won’t do that here, but even when I do it on my blog, I post such pieces (either the really cheap pieces, or those made of icky fabrics like polyester) more as an illustration than an actual suggestion that my readers buy $15 trousers. When I post a pair of $15 black trousers, I’m banking on the fact that my readers already have a pair of nice black pants that they can substitute for the $15 ones I use to stay within my budget.
Also, it’s relatively common knowledge that tight-fitting (or even slim-fitting, in a lot of cases) pants aren’t all that appropriate for female attorneys in law firms. After all, we’re supposed to avoid looking too sexy or too cheesy. So if I post a V-neck sweater that looks a little too deep, I’m likely doing that as part of the outfit illustration, much like the cheap pants to meet my budget, and will qualify the choice.
Always Use Your Best Judgment:
I don’t work with you. I don’t come to your office today. I’m not sure about what goes at your particular law firm and what doesn’t. In some law firms or for certain types of clients, earrings that hang more than 1/2″ off the lobe are not appropriate. In other law firms, it may not matter. In some law firms, half sleeves are not at all appropriate, whereas in other law firms, they’re fine.
I always give the example of my mother’s former attorney, who worked in a mid-size law firm. He wore cargo shorts and a Hawaiian shirt to work almost every single day, and it was never an issue. Some of the outfits I suggest here may not be entirely appropriate in your workplace or for the client you represent. In that case, make adjustments accordingly. Do I use a half-sleeve dress that you can’t wear? Add a cardigan. Or if it’s a shirt, get a similar shirt with full sleeves.
Always use your own judgment, because I have no way of knowing what the ‘vibe’ at your law firm is, or what types of clients you represent. My outfits are generally business casual, emphasis on the business and not on the casual, so you may have to make adjustments (though questions about specific situations are welcome, as discussed below).
I whole-heartedly welcome questions from the readers! If anything, questions help me out if I’m drawing a blank when trying to come up with the week’s post. Have a CLE coming up and need help with an outfit that’s professional but fits in with your unique, personal style? Send me an email! Working from home and also running errands, and need an outfit you won’t be embarrassed about if your clients see you in it? Write in! Please feel free to email me with any questions or feedback you have, and I will do my best to address the questions in a timely manner.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and look forward to helping you with your fashion needs!