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Is It OK for Lawyers to Have Tattoos, Piercings?

By Mark Wilson, Esq. | Last updated on

Tattoos and piercings aren't just reserved for sailors and punk rockers anymore. According to a Harris Interactive survey, 22 percent of adults between 18 to 24 and 30 percent of adults 25 to 29 have tattoos -- as well as whopping 38 percent of adults between 30 and 39.

Most women have their ears pierced, but more and more men have a least one ear piercing, and a growing number of people have other facial piercings. In a legal job market that's still not doing so well, could piercings and tattoos be an impediment to getting a job?

Piercings: Probably, but It Depends

If you're a guy looking for a job at a white-shoe firm, piercings are probably out. A good part of your job as an associate is keeping up appearances, and clients -- who still tend to be older and conservative -- may not be enthused by male facial piercings.

The most recent data on this are fairly old; a 2001 survey conducted by career website Vault revealed that 60 percent of employers would be less likely to hire a candidate with piercings or tattoos. Why? As you might expect, it has to do with how the company would be viewed. Even though piercings are equally common across all education and income levels, piercings are associated with "alcohol and recreational drug use, jail time and lack of religious affiliation," according to a 2006 study by Northwestern University.

But if your firm is a nonprofit or a civil rights organization, piercings might actually set you apart from other candidates. Certain organizations try to engender a particular feel, which can involve piercings.

Tattoos: As Long as They're Not Visible, Who Cares?

Most tattoos, unlike facial piercings, are in places that can be covered up if necessary. As a result, in the BigLaw world, where everyone wears long sleeves at all times, tattoos aren't going to be visible. Even if you don't wear long sleeves, it's a pretty simple fix: Put on a coat.

Small tattoos on ankles or the base of the neck might not even be a problem, either. But if you have a Mike Tyson-style facial tattoo, you might have some problems.

So, bottom line: That stud in your nose, or those gauges in your ears, might have to go if you want to enter the wide world of BigLaw. Of course, if you're on the west coast, things might be a little more lax, but you don't want to push it.

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