Thursday, April 23, 2009

further follow up

HP agrees with the commenter who said you should show up in a suit on your first day.  Yes, make sure you wear a suit. If your shoes aren't new, go get them shined.  

Did a commenter suggest he was thinking he was getting by with one suit?  I hope I read that wrong.  If so, I want to know what firm he is at this summer because I will send some Lysol.  You certainly don't want to be known as the "smelly" summer associate.  No, you cannot wear the same suit every day.  In particular, what if something spills on it, and remember, it is summer and most places will be warm. You need time to get that suit cleaned periodically so you need other to wear and you don't want people to remember that you were the guy who only had one suit.

Further, let's talk about tailoring and cleaning for one moment.  You know I mentioned tailoring before.  Very important. Spend the money to get the fit right - hem, etc.  Remember, you gotta spend some money to make some money.  I usually do not notice suits unless they are particularly ill fitting or particularly sharp looking.  In the middle is fine.

Cleaning - find a good dry cleaner nearby and get your shirts (men) laundered and pressed there (and for those women's tops that need cleaning send them in too).  Remember, it is hot in most places, you may be nervous (sweating), you don't want to take off your jacket in the office and be wandering around with those lovely yellow armpit stains.  Not professional.  Men's shirts are very inexpensive to have done and most places have same day service if you bring them in early.  Spend the money.  Look, when I was a summer I really had no money in the bank.  But I still took  what I had (or perhaps I just charged some) and got myself some new suits, shirts, shoes.  You want to feel comfortable, feel and look good, and give a professional (and not distracting appearance).  I didn't want to spend too much time on this subject but since we had some questions, I thought I should address it.

Oh, and finally, once you get started, look around at the attorneys and see how they dress, they will usually be good guides as to what would be appropriate and how you may be able to use things you have.  My friend Jennifer often wears skirts with nice twinsets in lieu of a suit.  She says many of the women in her firm do this to mix things up and then it still looks professional, adding some nice jewelry etc.   Not to be too "fashion show" here, but just a suggestion to keep your eyes open for how the office culture seems to indicate the dressing goes.

Hope that helps.  BTW, I was out walking to a lunch meeting today and I saw a young boy (maybe 9?) going out to lunch for "take your child to work day."  Dad was in a suit.  Boy had a suit and tie on as well, and carried a briefcase.  He did look very cute.  Everyone smiled.  But the point is, even the little boy dressed the part for going to the office.  And he's not even being paid or seeking employment.  If Johnny can do it, you can too.

Have a good Friday.


Anonymous said...

what about those firms that are 5-day business casual? (yes, they exist) Should we still show up in a suit on a first day?

Hiring Partner said...

yes, I think it would be good to show up in a suit on the first day; you can always take off the jacket and walk around in shirt and tie.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the follow-up, HP. I was the commenter in the other thread who had hoped to get by with only one suit (since mine is a business casual firm, like 6:09 mentioned). Off to buy new suits, I guess. Any suggestions for brands/styles/designers/things to avoid?

Hiring Partner said...

wait, I don't think I knew that you were in a business casual workplace. In that case, i would say 2 suits, plus plenty of business casual - for business casual, I think the pants with the dress shirts (no tie) are a better look on many than the golf shirts.

Anonymous said...

Some people told me not to wear a black suit to interviews. I assume it's OK to wear one to work though right?

Anonymous said...

Can anybody other than fashion snobs actually tell if I buy suits off the rack at JC penneys? If Stafford suits from Penneys are too obviously tacky, where do you shop without spending an arm and a leg?

CD-Chicago said...

Is it appropriate to email your contact at the firm and ask them what the office’s dress code is? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

7:41pm -- If you are a girl you can buy really nice "designer" suits -- Calvin Klein, Tahari, etc -- at places like TJ Maxx, Filene's Basement, Loehmann's, and Marshalls. Also look for good sales at places like Macy's right around mother's day.

f-3 said...

7:41 - For guys, Men's Wearhouse is a good option with a range of prices to fit your budget. Generally not as high-quality as other name-brand stores, but quite adequate for starters, and definitely a step up from Penney's.

They offer free alterations for life after initial purchase, so unless your weight changes significantly, you can avoid having to buy new stuff every time you gain or lose some weight. Free pressing too. Service is nationwide so you can walk into any of their stores to get stuff done. Great option if your summer job is going to be out-of-state.

8:50 - absolutely OK to e-mail your contact at the firm to ask about dress codes. It's even OK to ask whether you need to prepare special attire for particular events over the summer. I can't imagine anyone faulting you for asking that.

Hiring Partner said...

First, I just wanted to say that I think it is great that you folks are sharing suggestions. Makes me feel like we have a good network started here. There's a lot of people who could use some guidance on things such as suit shopping and hearing from different voices can be very beneficial.

A friend of mine just mentioned Jos A. Banks yesterday for suits. And most large stores (Lord & Taylor, Macy's, etc. do have good sales).

I see nothing wrong with asking about dress code, any special events, etc. - a quick e-mail on that subject is fine.

Anonymous said...

Get on the mailing list for Macy's and other department stores. I got 3 nice suits at Macy's for about $550. They aren't top of the line, but they look nice, they are a decent brand and they fit very well.

The nice thing about going to more high end stores is that the sales persons will be better at fitting you. From my experience, it's better to be waited upon by someone of the same sex. Explain to the salesperson why you are buying the suit, and try to chose one who dresses conservatively. You don't want someone who will set you up with a suit that is a fashion statement. You want to blend in.

I'll second Joseph A Banks as well...but I think if you hit the sales, for your money Macy's is better.

Anonymous said...

I got a suit for OCI/callbacks at Jos. A Banks last summer. The saleman there was pretty knowledgeable about sizing etc. and it worked about prety well. They also offer discounts if you go to certain law schools (it might be most law schools I only know mine gets a discount). The only thing I would say is buy your dress shirts/belts/ties somewhere else because those are not as much of a deal there.

Anonymous said...

I second grabbing the salesperson that's dressed similarly to what you're looking for, but personally (as a heterosexual male) I tend to stay away from the heterosexual male salesperson. Why? Because he's not bringing anything to the table that I don't already have. If I ask him "how does this look?", what is he seeing that I don't already see? He may be trained in suits, but he's not a lawyer. I can tell a 'lawyers suit', but if I want my suits to look a little on the sharp side of just good (which I do), chances are he won't have the radar to fine-tune that.

Yeah, I'm biased against heterosexual male salespeople, but I learnt this the hard way. I will make a rare exception though if he really is dressed exactly the way I want to be dressed. But seriously, if you can tell that, why do you need him?

Also, write down your size in your PDA and you can do without the salesperson next time.

For good prices, I'd also recommend looking for 'factory outlet' stores. If you find one that has your cut right off the rack, you can plunder it once a year for a fraction of your budget and people at the office will think you're some sort of fashion buff.

Trenditionalist said...

To follow up on Anon at 8:20's comment, the factory stores are indeed a great option. The best ones I've found (for men) are the Brooks Brothers factory stores, which are scattered around premium outlet malls around the country. They have great deals either on original Brooks Brothers merchandise that spills over to the factory store, or on their 346 line, which offers the same classic styling at a lower starting price. Notably, the 346 line is actually cut a bit slimmer than the main BB lines (slimmer even than the Slim Fit shirts and Regent jackets at the main store), which is nice for those of us young guys who like classic styling, but desire a more modern, tailored fit.

And you know that anything you buy at Brooks Brothers is going to be appropriate for the office; chances are several of the partners shop at their main stores. Finally, in my experience, the sales people have been very knowledgeable about matching and fit, so if you're a menswear rookie, you should be in good shape.

Not sure how their women's clothing is, but from the catalogs they send me, it looks like it may be a little too conservative for most of the young women I know.

Anonymous said...

Another option for clothes is buying them online once you know your measurements and style.

Ebay can be good, as can the website under the Buying & Selling Forum (I hope its ok that I'm posting this...just trying to help). The forum seems great because there are people on there that sell all the time (so you are less likely to get screwed). Make sure you buy some reputable ebay sellers though, as I know some people get ripped off.

I've bought several shirts and trousers on the forum for 70% what they retail for. It's a little riskier than stores...but it can save a lot of money and if the fitting is slightly off you can have it tailored and still be well under what you would have spent in stores.

Anonymous said...

You know, HP, you really need to stop making assumptions that all your commenters are male. You constantly default to "shirt + tie". This isn't the first time I called you out on this, either.

- Anon @ 6:09

Anonymous said...

showing up on the first day in a suit where everyone dresses in business casual is a terrible idea. i still remember the associates that did this at my firm and the normal ones mocked themselves for looking douchy. the others? those were/are the douches.

if people wear a suit or HR tells you to wear a suit then fine. but if you are nervous and ask HR and they say there's no need please don't make yourself look like the person no one but the soon-to-retire partner wants to hang out with.

also, there is NO need for many suits if you're at a firm that is business casual. one nice suit, well tailored, is better than two subpar suits, though 2 suits would be better. more than that is total overkill.

Anonymous said...

Agree that two suits for a business casual firm should be MORE than plenty, but I'm still going to agree with HP (and others) who advise wearing a suit on the first day even if the firm is business casual. Our career services people (top 10 school) urged the same last year. Just do a normal suit (no french sleeves and cuff links!!) and you'll be fine. Ignore those who feel compelled to mock / comment.

Anonymous said...

4:20 / anon @ 6:09, wow, it really is true that no good deed goes unpunished. Someone's trying to help and give advice and that's the attitude you show towards them (even if he happened to miss an angle). You couldn't have said, "can you give advice for the ladies?"

Sad, really.

Anonymous said... is a good blog if you want extensive advice about how to dress for the summer as a female.

Btw I agree with the previous poster, that attitude of yours was totally uncalled for.

Hiring Partner said...

HP hopes I don't seem like I am not considering our women readers. I did mention women's attire in several postings, including when talking about the dry cleaner and how many suits in particular.

For women, Ann Taylor is a popular store for women in my office - they have suit separates which is always very helpful for fit purposes. And plenty of sales. Earlier mentions of Lord & Taylor, Macys etc apply to both women and men.

For both women and men - key is fit, as I know I have mentioned in the blog several times. Not too tight, not low cut, fashionable skirts but not too short - at knee or just above is fine. Spend the money on the tailoring, it is very important.

Good suits are a good investment. The suits in HP's rotation are ones that I have had (some, for years). Always good to have a navy, maybe a navy with a subtle pinstripe. Gray. Remember, you will be coming in summer so try to get an all season weight suit. Linen by 11am is going to look wrinkled, so I would stay away from that.

I know we are going to have some questions regarding dressing for certain social events, we will get to that later.

Please know, ladies, HP is here for you as well, of course.

Anonymous said...

I am a woman and bought most of my suits from Banana Republic/JCrew. Went in, got a mountain of stuff from each, and signed up for the credit card and got 25% off the purchases, which was a great deal. And Banana is very good up giving card member sales - right now they have a 25% off one, and since I have lots of suits from there I can just order what I need online.

Also, both stores have mix and match jackets and tops so you can get petite/regular. This is very good for me, since I'm short and want to avoid having to get jackets tailored but don't like petite bottoms.

HR - this was very helpful. For a lot of my peers, we haven't really been exposed to environments where suits are proper - many worked in jobs out of law school that were business casual, and so this is our first exposure!

Hiring Partner said...

how funny, HP was going to mention Banana Republic, thanks for going ahead and doing that.

Anonymous said...

The male/female advice rift is interesting - gender plays a huge role in the biglaw dynamic. Male summers will be judged differently than females by some male partners. Let's face the facts, sometimes if a male partner thinks a female is attractive and even moderately competent the offer is hers. My girlfriend was a summer in an NYC biglaw firm last year and on multiple occassions older male partners would ask her out to lunch one on one (she was not in their practice group and did not otherwise work with them) or just look at her in an inappropriate way - i.e. not in the eyes. I'm sure she would have gotten the offer regardless, but if the firm was looking to cut I'm sure it wouldn't have been her. I was a paralegal before law school at another NYC firm and there were older male partners who would not give me or other males the time of day but would talk to literally every single female paralegal, secretary and associate in the office - even moreso at firm events when the alcohold was flowing. There was another partner who would ask females out to after work drinks, one on one, but never males. And even now I know people at firms where layoffs have taken place and miraculously young, attractive female associates manage to avoid the chopping block.

The same principle works inversely between male associates and female partners. Every female associate I've ever spoken to has reported poor relations with female partners, but the male associates seem to do just fine. This has nothing to do with dress for the summer, the comments just got me thinking...

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 6:09, 4:20 here:

The only reason I point it out is that it's already hard enough being a woman in the law. When male partners default into "associate = he" pattern, it makes us feel much less wanted.

I know that as a woman, when I don't know someone's gender (i.e. a judge who decided a case), I will look it up or ask before referring to "him" or "her" in writing or in speech. I very rarely see men, especially men in law, do that. They default to "he" without a second thought.

I appreciate the advice, of course. I wouldn't read the blog otherwise. I'm just pointing out that I should haven't to say "Oh, I'm a girl, btw" to avoid that assumption. Women are entering the legal field in the same numbers as men but the default image of a "lawyer" in most people's mind is a man. As someone who's in a position of hiring and promoting attorneys, HP should know better than to take up this stereotype.

f-3 said...

9:57, the dynamics you discussed happen everywhere, not just in law firms. Same thing happened in each of the jobs I have ever had (not law related). Substitute the gender disparities with minorities versus non-minorities, and you see the same thing - again, everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Ladies, if the lines of your undergarments [both top and bottom] are visible underneath your clothes, YOUR SUIT IS TOO TIGHT.

Women are severely discriminated against in the suit-buying world, it seems as if the only place to buy somewhat decent fitting suits is Jcrew [banana is okay, too, I suppose]. Otherwise, you're buying your mother's suit or one more [un]suit-able for a teenager. Remember (i) to get something that FITS, and (ii) people can tell the difference between a true wool-blend and polyester.

Anonymous said...

Anon@6:09, yesterday's 8:22 here. It would be hard to think of anyone who will disagree that law firms are male-centric and that women get brushed aside frequently. Yes, you have a point. That being said, be mindful of the tone you use to reflect your concerns; all I'm saying is you could've made your point in a nicer way, especially to someone who is just trying to help.

Anonymous said...

To Anon @ 6:09:

You REALLY need to get that chip off your shoulder before you start your clerkship. You remind me of that character on Legally Blonde (Enid) that takes offense to everything (including the word SEMESTER because it kind of sounds like MEN is part of the word). Are you one of those females who get upset when guys try opening the door for you, or let women get on or get off an elevator before they do? Yes there is sexism and racism at law firms - but it is at both sides of the spectrum.

HP was trying to do his readers a favor by making these posts. Now you are criticizing him for not giving fashion advice to women. How many male partners at law firms do you know who know where women shop or what fashions are envogue? The comment section is supposed to be used by readers to fill in any gaps left in HPs posts.

I really hope you won't become a partner at a law firm - I can't imagine how much harassment you are going to dole out on male associates who does or says something YOU view as sexist.

Anonymous said...


what's your take on firms who have cut their summer programs from 10 weeks down to 8 weeks?

Anonymous said...

To 9:57 am - YES! As an attractive female I'll take the leg up lol. (just not literally).

To 1:50 p.m. - really? Who cares what fabric a suit is made out of. If it looks good I will wear it. I don't care if it costs $10 or $5000.

To 7:02 a.m. - don't assume HP is male. I think HP is female.

Anonymous said...

I am a graduating 3L currently working as a law clerk in a firm, I am lucky that it has a fairly laid back atmosphere and while a tie is required Monday thru Thursday I am not obliged to wear a suit. With one caveat, as a law clerk my schedule changes at the whim of the attorneys I work for. Sometimes I have to go to court to file documents or pick up something from another office, be it another attorney or client. So I have found it has been important to have a jacket either in my car or in the office everyday. On Friday's when I do not need to wear a tie, I bring one anyway and usually leave it untouched in my car, but I think given the unpredictable nature of law clerking (and probably first year associates) this type of preparedness is important. Just thought I'd share.

Anonymous said...

HP, I will be a SA in a warm city this summer at a firm with a business casual dress code. I hate wearing nylons (with skirts) but will do it if I must to be office-appropriate. I asked the recruiting coordinator about dress code but didn't want to seem like a slacker by not asking about the nylons issue. What is your take?