Appearances matter – it’s just that the interpretation of precisely what appearances communicate that’s often the crux of contention.
For example, does a deposed witness appear more or less honest in a video recording replayed at a later date if the witness is wearing a suit but sweating profusely? According to a 2013 story in Above the Law titled, From Biglaw to Boutique: Dress Code, an answer is less honest:
“A law school friend told me about a deposition he defended in Waco, Texas, where the temperature reached 105 degrees. At the time, my friend Geoff was an associate at a stuffy BigLaw firm, and there was never any doubt that he was required to wear a suit. And especially because the deposition was videotaped, the witness did, too.
Plaintiffs’ counsel was the owner of a smallish firm in Florida and he showed up wearing shorts, sandals and a short-sleeved polo shirt.
When they arrived at the deposition location, Geoff and his witness were dismayed to learn that the air conditioning wasn’t working. As the day progressed, the conference room grew increasingly warm. By late morning, the witness was restless and hot and kept firing glances across the room to the dormant air conditioner. The video was priceless; every answer was punctuated by the witness sweating and mopping his forehead. Geoff told me later that he thought his witness looked like he was lying even when he wasn’t.
…It was only after the deposition was over that Geoff learned that the air conditioner was not broken at all; rather, his opposing counsel had paid the maintenance guy $100 to keep it turned off. Years later, Geoff still talks about that miserable day, and how envious he was that his opposing counsel had the luxury of wearing casual summer clothes to the deposition.”
The ethics are questionable in this anecdote and certainly credible arguments can be made on all sides. The example demonstrates the interpretation and applicability of the dress code debate extends far beyond the walls of a law firm office to also include: corporate counsel, law professors, juries, courthouse workers, and of course defendants.
Back to the Formal Dress Code?
An infographic based on a survey – that we first spotted on the InhouseBlog – suggests sentiment among lawyers is leaning towards conservative dress. The organization surveyed “350 lawyers with the largest law firms and companies in the United States and Canada” and found:
- 73% of lawyers have a business casual attire policy at their work place
- About half of attorneys prefer colleagues dressed more formally
- About a quarter would like to see more casual dress at the office
What about you? Do you prefer formal dress codes or do you favor casual dress?
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