Ever since a receptionist at PwC’s London offices was sent home because she wasn’t wearing heels, there’s been much discussion over the formal dress code in corporate and professional services jobs.
The loudest voices have called for a ‘loosening up’, and the adoption of a more casual approach, while others are happy to see things stay exactly as they are. Over the years, very few legal firms have deviated from suits and ties for men, and tailored suits, trouser suits, blouses, or knee-length skirts for women.
But are law firms, who have been known to reprimand trainees and employees for taking their ties off in the office or not wearing the right shoes, finally starting to come around to the new world of a more casual office look? Here, Dakota Murphey working alongside leading law firm George Ide shares what is the best dress code for working in a law firm.
The times they are a-changing
In an increasingly international legal market, the UK’s traditional ‘smart’ office dress code seems to be wavering. This may be due to the fact that in recent years there has been a slew of mergers between US and UK law firms – the dress code of Americans is more laid-back than their British counterparts.
In addition, there appears to be a new found sartorial confidence among lawyers in the office, and many solicitors are now in favour of some informality when it comes to dress. Chinos, a shirt and a pair of casual shoes, anyone?
For women, however, the relaxing of dress code rules have not been quite so untroubled. Complaints about very short skirts and very high heels have been accompanied by accusations of unprofessionalism.
The client still calls the shots
Regardless of individual office dress code policy, corporate clients are typically opposed to any form of casual dress. In high powered business meetings, or obviously of court appearances, formal wear is non-negotiable. Lawyers must power dress to impress.
As far as the corporate world is concerned, if a solicitor has to change into a suit and tie for a client meeting or a court hearing, so be it.
Dress code policy
As office dress is straining to become more casual, a written dress code policy is important for any business, and should be imperative for any law firm. The dress code should take into account the firm’s culture and its geographic location (rural or city). Set out below is an example of a dress code which can be modified to meet the needs of your firm.
Example Dress Code:
Common sense and good taste is the order of the day.
Smart office garments, as well as casual clothes, should be clean and pressed and show no signs of fraying.
Smart dress should be worn by staff members scheduled to meet with clients or visitors. It’s a good idea to keep appropriate clothes in a wardrobe at the office for unplanned court appearances and impromptu client meetings.
Dress Code for Men:
Office attire – Shirt, tie (or bowtie), suit and smart shoes.
Casual – smart-casual trousers (no denim), sweaters with polo- or V-necks. Medium sole leather shoes, smart-casual shoes.
Unacceptable clothing includes casual shirts with no collars, T-shirts, sweatshirts, denim of any type, tracksuits, shorts, trainers, sandals, flip-flops or moccasins. Golf shirts with large logos or bold lettering are also not permitted.
Dress Code for Women
Office dress should include a trouser-suit in linen blends, silk, tweed, or worsted; a blouse (solid colours are good), in cotton or silk (white, blue or other muted or neutral colours work well); lightweight sweaters (V-neck), or a knitwear top. A skirt and jacket, or a dress and jacket, with the skirt being just above the knee. Court shoes (a thin- to medium-sole leather shoe), or a leather shoe with a heel are acceptable.
Office attire that’s unacceptable for women include dresses or skirts that are tight or sheer, low-cut tops, T-shirts, sweatshirts, denim of any type, open backs, spaghetti straps, tank tops, midriff, halter tops, tracksuits, stretch pants, shorts, stirrup pants, miniskirts and mid-calf Capri pants. Unacceptable shoes for women include trainers, flip-flops, moccasins, and platform heels.