It appears that some lawyers are trying to bring their business casual office style into the courtroom, and Illinois judges do not like it. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reported that a panel of Illinois judges, including Northern District Judges, at the Seventh Circuit Bar conference agreed that attorneys are appearing in court wearing inappropriate clothing, including themed-ties and clothes that would be appropriate for the gym — click here to read the story.
Many will dismiss this story as fluff, but it is not. How you dress is an important element of your first impression on the court, just like it is in any social interaction. As a federal law clerk, I learned three things about the impact of a lawyer’s clothing choices: 1) judges care how you dress; 2) jurors care also; and 3) simple things go a long way. One of the first insights I received from my judge was to always button your coat when you stand up in court.* I confess that I thought it was a minor point and I could not imagine that anyone noticed an unbuttoned coat. But that changed when we spoke with a jury after a case weeks later, and one of the jurors mentioned that it bothered him that one of the trial attorneys did not button his coat. He felt it was sloppy and disrespectful.
Finally, in defense of Chicago lawyers this Chicago lawyer is in the running for Esquire’s best dressed man of 2009. And if this post makes you think about a new suit, I highly recommend Richard Bennett Custom Tailors.