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Beards were once fairly common in the legal profession, even if they were never the norm. Portraits of the Supreme Court under Justice Waite show a few Stonewall Jackson look-alikes, though the last Justice to sport a full beard, Justice George Sutherland, stepped down in 1938.
A few generations later, beards are booming again. From Brooklyn hipsters, to college professors, to Hollywood stars, beards are everywhere. But, are they appropriate for lawyers?
For some baby-faced younger attorneys, beards may help convey a more mature image, or at least a post-pubescent one. For others, they can add to an air of refinement -- think Ivy League professor sipping brandy in the study. Or, if you have a more unkempt mane, a beard can give a Walt Whitman-like sense of the wilderness and intellectual adventure. For some older lawyers, all these beards may just make you look like a shifty hippy, though.
Want to know what your colleagues, partners and potential clients might think? Look around. If you see that stubble abounds in your firm, then you can assume no one will hold any follicle-bias. But think twice before skipping a shave if all the male partners are bare cheeked.
If you're a litigator with a beard, you may want to shave it off before trial. According to one 2007 review by a trial consultant, jurors generally prefer beardless attorneys, though beards can give some a "scholarly" air. If you're about to go to trial before 12 beardless men, consider a shave.
Not all facial hair does a beard make. If your hair sticks mostly to your neck, rather than your face -- well, that's a neck beard and it's wholly inappropriate for professionals. The same goes for more daring facial hair arrangements. Goatees, Van Dykes, chin straps, mutton chops, soul patches: they all have a bit too much "personality" for a lawyer. In fact, that same 2007 review found that goatees were the least pleasing facial hair style. So, if you want facial hair, keep it to a traditional beard.
Oh, and mustaches or man buns? We'll save those issues for another day.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.