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5 Rules for Summer Associate Fashion

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 06, 2012 | Last updated on January 24, 2023
It's summer associate season which means that 1L and 2Ls will hit the legal workforce for the first time. You may be pondering wardrobe choices and what not to wear to the firm. Sorry fellas, this article is geared for BigLaw ladies. You guys are rarely caught in front of your closet scratching your head for hours. The wardrobe of a female lawyer, however -- that is an entirely different beast. The rules are changing but it's not always easy to know what works (and what doesn't) at a law firm. Above the Law's Staci Zaretsy had a fabulously fashionable piece on lawyer attire recently. It served as our inspiration for these rules for summer associate fashion.

Summer Associate Fashion Rule 1: Flying under the radar is fine.

You don't need to walk around with your new Prada handbag or your fashionista outfits. You're not Elle Woods. While you want to look good, you don't need to be remembered as the girl with the cute outfits. You want to be remembered for your work. A summer associate should also know her place. Don't try too hard to impress by flaunting items that a partner (or an established attorney) should own.

Summer Associate Fashion Rule 2: Buy a basic black suit.

This is a must, even if your firm has a casual dress policy. While you might not need to wear it every day, there will be days at big law firms where you'll need to whip out the Ann Taylor. You can always dress up a black suit with a nice colored shirt and not come across as "over the top."

Summer Associate Fashion Rule 3: Save sandals for the pool.

Times are changing and the rules as to open-toe shoes are becoming more lax. You can get away with a nice peep-toe pump or a classy open-toe shoe. But wearing hideous sandals will quickly downgrade a suit from "pro" to "amateur." It kills the suit and in summer, many associates will be tempted. Avoid the temptation. The rule is when wearing open-toe shoes, err on the side of showing the least toe-cleavage possible. Speaking of cleavage, this brings us to the next rule.

Summer Associate Fashion Rule 4: Dress for work, not the club.

Don't overdo the sex appeal. You want to stand out for your work ethic, not as for marching into the office in stilettos and a cloud of perfume. You also don't want to be distracted by the reality of sexual discrimination. (Yes, it happens.)

Summer Associate Fashion Rule 5: When in doubt, check what other associates are wearing.

Take a brief mental survey of what the female associates are wearing and try to dress like them. While you might think it's a good idea to stand out, it's usually always a better idea to try to blend in. See Rule 1 to remind yoursef understand further the importance of laying low.

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