Going to professional school comes with certain considerations that don’t occur at traditional universities. You’ll not only have to prepare mentally for the academic challenge of law school, integrate into a culture that requires great discipline, and learn more attuned study habits — but you’ll also have to pay attention to how you dress for professional school success.
As a law school administrator, I’ve seen many new students embark on the next big stage of their lives with great anticipation, only to have their first impression to classmates and the law school community plummet because of their dress choices. It is an exciting time for new students, and making unimpressionable choices can be damaging. First impressions are established quickly, and can be formed based on many factors, including how to dress. Law school is not like undergraduate school where such considerations are not always as important.
What Should You Wear?
My experience with how law school students dress includes students who show up on the first day of orientation in shorts and flip flops, or in a cocktail dress that is more clubwear than business professional.
Unprepared students often find themselves humiliated by the clothing choices they’ve made and they often end up spending extra time trying to correct the mistake. Daily law school clothing can be casual — many students wear shorts, jeans and even flip flops, but there is a fine line with what is acceptable and on what occasions.
Law is a relatively conservative profession and students should consider this as they begin law school, especially as it relates to their wardrobe. Don’t be one of those students who your classmates consider unprepared for professional school or someone who doesn’t make good choices.
I recommend the following apparel guidelines:
- Know the difference between business professional and business casual.
- If you are in doubt, always err on the side of overdressing than underdressing. There is nothing worse than feeling embarrassed because you underestimated the dress protocol. It could make all the difference in you landing your first job or making a good impression on an alum looking to hire law school graduates.
- Consider a contingency plan like a “clothing car-kit” filled with professional clothing. You never know when you might end up at a networking event.
- Be wary of wearing perfume or cologne. Many people are allergic and the scent could be off-putting to some.