What Should Lawyers Wear? Trends & Style Advice - Personal Injury Marketing Minute #12
The Personal Injury Marketing Minute episode #12 features Master Style Coach and Personal Brand Strategist Mary Michele Nidiffer. Mary covers what attorneys should wear when meeting prospective clients, in the courtroom, when going to trial, men’s and women’s style, and much more. You may visit Mary’s website or connect with her here: Website: https://stylebymarymichele.com/ Store: https://shopstylefinder.com/ Insta: https://www.instagram.com/shopstylefinder/ Email: Michele @ shopstylefinder.com Listen to all episodes or subscribe to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute here: https://optimizemyfirm.com/podcasts/. Transcription Lindsey: Welcome to the Personal Injury Marketing Minute, where we quickly covered the hot topics in the legal marketing world. I’m your host, Lindsey Busfield. And today we will be rummaging through your closet and helping you to figure out what to wear. Whether we like it or not, what we wear is generally how people gather their first impression, which leads to split second subconscious decisions about how we are perceived. If you are like most attorneys and think, “Well, I wear a suit every day, I’ve got this covered.” I can assure you that you have something to learn from our guest, master style coach, and founder of Style Finder boutique, Mary Michele Nidiffer. Thank you so much for joining us, Michele. Mary: Well, I’m so excited to be here. I’ve got a lot of great things to share. Lindsey: Excellent. Well, tell us a little bit about you and your background. Mary: Well, I’m a master style coach, and I own Style Finder boutique located in North Hills, but I have been in the fashion realm for many years. Well, I went to UNC Greensboro, I have a degree in apparel arts and started my career as a designer. I became a style coach in 2008 and my career has just blossomed from there. But my passion and I love what you said about what we wear is generally how people gather their first impression. What I like to say is what you wear tells the world who you are. Lindsey: I like that. Mary: Yes, it makes a difference. So, my passion really is helping my clients uncover their true personal style and cultivate an image that I like to say matches their message, or matches who they are, how they want to show up, and what they do, bringing it all together. Lindsey: Well, and that is highly relevant to our listeners today because how they show up, and what they wear and what their office looks like, and that you know from both style and interior design, that makes a big first impression and can really lead to the decision of whether or not somebody is going to work with an attorney, all the way up to whether or not an attorney wins their case based on how they’re perceived. And again, our clients and listeners are primarily personal injury attorneys, and they live all around the country. And while COVID has moved many meetings to virtual meetings and phone calls, and otherwise not in-person meetings, we are all starting to meet face to face again. So it’s essential to look the part, take a look into our closets and get ideas of what to wear for those initial client consultations, the regular client meetings, arbitration, courtroom appearances, and anywhere that you have to physically show up and command a presence. And so is it going to be enough to wear the same suit for every type of meeting? Mary: No. No. I think, certainly tailoring what you wear to the type of event, is it a client meeting? Is it a high-powered court case? What are you doing? Tailoring your dress can make all the difference, because as you mentioned, there’s the psychology behind clothing and wearing different colors, patterns, textures, putting things together in different ways can influence how you’re perceived. What Should Lawyers Wear When Meeting Prospective Clients? Lindsey: For example, when a lawyer has a meeting with a first client and they want to appear approachable or kind, or caring or trustworthy or strong, what is it that they should be wearing? Mary: Sure. Well, I think this is a great opportunity to think about color, and blue is the color of trust. Blue symbolizes trust. And so if you think about, maybe you bring in a blue shirt or a navy suit, as opposed to black, which is more formal, more authoritative. You want something that’s going to help you to appear more approachable. Now, one tip that I encourage my clients to do is to wear your eye color or a color similar to your eye color. But let’s talk about that for a second, because let’s say you have blue eyes. If you wear blue, it’s going to make your eyes pop. And what happens when your eyes pop, eye contact becomes easier, you are perceived as being more approachable. Lindsey: Oh, interesting. Mary: And actually the same is true for green eyes. However, if you have brown eyes, then I would still encourage you to wear some type of blue, maybe a brighter blue, because that will become what I call your eye intensifier. And so it will also make your eyes stand out. Lindsey: And so it’ll also help facilitate with the eye contact? Mary: Yes. So I would say stick with blue because it does symbolize trust, but also because it will make you, whether you have blue eyes, if you have green eyes, it can work as well because green eyes typically have a lot of blue in them- Lindsey: Exactly. And pretty much goes with everything it sounds like. Mary: It goes with everything. Yes. And with brown eyes, it will intensify your eyes, which will create a similar effect. What Color Suit Should Lawyers Wear to Court? Lindsey: Excellent. So, let’s look at that in contrast with a lawyer who is going to court and wants to look more authoritative or knowledgeable, what can a lawyer wear to make more of a commanding presence there? Mary: Well, I would definitely say go for black. A black suit, I would definitely stick with a white shirt. Very classic, you want to go a little bit more formal, more polished, more professional. And for men with neck ties, you want to keep it really simple. This is not about your neck tie, this is not a place to make a fashion statement. This is where, your client’s livelihood is on the line. And this is where you want to, if you do wear a print and a neck tie you want to go for a more subtle pattern. You don’t want people looking at your neck tie, you want them listening to what you’re saying? So keep it understated, keep it formal, keep it dark. If you choose not to wear black, I would definitely suggest a deep charcoal or a Navy. Lindsey: Okay. That’s definitely interesting to know, because what you’re wearing should not be the most interesting thing going on in that courtroom. Mary: For sure. What is the Best Color Suit for Jury Trials? Lindsey: Absolutely. And then what factors should a lawyer consider if they’re going to be appearing in front of several jurors as opposed to a single judge, where when you have a jury audience, you have multiple people that you’re in front of, you might be moving around a little bit more and you’re working with people and presenting to people who have some background knowledge of the laws that apply to the particular case, but they are regular people. They’re a jury of the defendant’s peers. So what about that type of situation should factor into what you’re wearing? Mary: Sure. Well, I think this ties into what we just talked about with the first meeting of a client, and wearing the blue and wearing things that express trust. White is also a great color to wear because white is really the symbol of innocence, [inaudible 00:07:20] white suit, wearing a white shirt with maybe a navy suit, and then a blueprint tie, that could work well also. Now this is also the place where, not that I want you to get too creative in your expression, but doing something that expresses your sense of style, maybe it’s a pocket square, maybe it’s the print on your neck tie, maybe it’s the color and the color combination of your shirt and how it plays against your suit, something to show the jury, your personal style. Mary: You want them to see you as a person and be able to connect with you, not just somebody who is fake. You do not want to come across as fake, you want to come across as being authentic. That is very key. And when you wear something that you’re not just putting it on for the sake of putting it on, you’re wearing it because it’s truly who you are, you shine, you stand a little taller. You’re more yourself. And that everything that I teach is, that helps you to connect so much deeper with your clients, with the jury, with the judge, with whoever you’re speaking to. It can make such a difference. Lindsey: That’s an excellent point. The lawyers that would definitely want to come across not only as knowledgeable and experienced and professional, but to be able to appeal to somebody on a human level. And even when somebody has a bit of their personality reflected in their personal style, I would think that it would be able to give them a sense of confidence and anything that you can do to help boost your confidence in the courtroom, make you feel a little bit more natural, I would think would be a great asset. And so speaking of style, it’s important to take the colors into consideration and kind of the smaller accessories, but what is going on with the suit trends now, should all suits be fitted? Are there any patterns that are in, are there any modern accessories? What is hip right now? Should Lawyer’s Suits be Custom Fit? Mary: This is my favorite question. Well, all right. So let’s break that down for a minute. Let’s talk about men’s suits. A couple of years ago, the skinny pants were all the rage, which they worked really well for some men and some men just not. My husband included, they’re not right for him, but what we’re seeing now is more of a looser fit trouser. So men, you can relax. You don’t have to suck it all in anymore. So a looser fit trouser, but here’s my take on fitted. Instead of thinking about fitted, I want you to think about well-fitting is it well fitting for your body? Because one thing I talk about a lot with women are different body types. Well, men have different body types as well. And so there’s not a one size fits all. But when you can select a suit, whether it’s custom made or it’s tailored, rarely do you find one off the rack that fits you perfectly, but when you can have it tailored so that it fits you like a glove, not too tight, but it’s definitely not baggy. That is the secret sauce. Lindsey: That’s fantastic. And so, wait, you’re talking about not being able to pull it off the rack and having to have it tailored, what should someone expect to pay for a very well fitting suit? Mary: All right. Well, there are two ways I look at it, typically, there’s the off the rack. And I would say for a really nice suit off the rack, I would say roughly, four to $600. Now you can find suits out there for less than that, if you’re on a budget, but I would say to invest in a nice suit, you’re going to want to start at the four to $600 range. If you do want to go the customer out, which if you have something that… as long as you maintain your weight and nothing shifts too much, you’re going to have that for years. So it’s a wonderful investment. Maybe it’s your suit that you pull out when you know you need to nail this case, and it’s your power suit. But that can be an investment of more around anywhere between $800 and $1,800. Lindsey: That’s definitely helpful to know because they are investments, they’re your first skin, they’re your first impression. But we’re starting to see more attorneys with sleeve tattoos or beards. And if an attorney is a bit creative, what are some ways that they can live on the edge and still be classy? Mary: Sure. That’s a great question. Well, I think, for one, your sleeve tattoos are huge. In fact, I’m seeing more women with those as well, but if you think about what you wear into the courtroom, typically you’re not wearing short sleeves, typically your arms would be covered. And so when you think about getting a sleeve tattoo, maybe it’s one that stops at your wrist, or if you do extend beyond that, you’re just going to have to be with that. But I think the thing with that is you need to own it. And that needs to be authentically who you are and your expertise will rise above whatever you present. But we are seeing a lot of beards, a lot of different facial hair, and my best advice for that is just for the beards, mustaches, whatever you choose, keep it well-groomed, keep it very well groomed. Can Lawyers Wear Pinstripes? Mary: And then, for the rest of you put yourself together a 100% in a well tailored suit, well-fitting suit, great colors. And it’s not about the beard, it’s about the beard being a part of your entire look. And so when you walk into the courtroom, nobody’s staring at you because of your beard or your tattoos or something, they’re looking at you and thinking, “Wow, he looks amazing.” Or, “She looks amazing.” Now, one other way, and kind of to touch on the question you asked me a few minutes ago about trends, is expressing yourself through trends. Now I know when you’re wearing a suit, there can be a little leeway, but a few trends that I’ll share that this can help you to feel like, “Hey, I’m wearing something that’s more personal.” And to express your personal style, we’re seeing a lot of hounds too, herringbone, glen plaid. Actually one thing I’ve really seen a lot of is window pane plaid. It’s really nice. I mean, all of these are very classic, but they give you a modern spin. We’re seeing cross hatch and pinstripes. Pinstripes never go out of style. Lindsey: I was like, those never go out. Mary: But they’re seeing a resurgence right now. And the other thing is with the jackets, double-breasted seeing a lot of double breasted jackets. So, and then the fuller leg pant as opposed to the skinny, but tailoring is key. So when you go to find a suit, whether you’re male or female, chances are, you’re going to have to have a tailor, find a great tailor, and that will be your secret weapon. Are Women’s Pantsuits Fashionable? Lindsey: That is very helpful. And I don’t know, we’ve talked a lot about men’s clothing and beards and the different patterns for suits, but let’s talk exclusively about women’s fashion for a few minutes, because we do have a large audience of attorneys that are women in the courtroom, and they obviously have different styles. And I’ve noticed that there has been a [inaudible 00:15:04] perhaps due to political reasons for the women’s pants suits. Are those a staple of women’s fashion that’s here to stay? Mary: Yes, they are not going anywhere anytime soon. You don’t know how many clients I have that come into my boutique and tell me, “I don’t want to wear a skirt or dress.” And we have a lot of lawyers shop with us and they want pants. They want pants. And yeah. So fortunately, I feel like it’s, in a lot of ways, it’s very liberating for women because pants are so much easier than wearing a skirt sometimes. Lindsey: They are. Mary: Yes, but certainly where we’re going to continue to see the skirted suits, the pencil skirts. And when you wear those, pantyhose are a must in the courtroom. A must. Which Type of Jacket Should go with a Pantsuit? Lindsey: That is really good to know as somebody who doesn’t wear a whole lot of skirts, I never even think about pantyhose. So that is an important key to consider. And then with women’s jackets that go along with the pantsuit, I know that there’s not one style of jacket that goes with every type of pantsuit. I feel like there’s a lot more differentiation in the types of jackets that go with them than there are necessarily even in men’s jackets. What are some of the trends right now that you’re seeing with women’s jackets? Mary: Right. Well, I think, one thing that we’re seeing not necessarily in more professional wear, but more mainstream are over-sized boyfriend blazers. And I think in some ways that’s translated a little bit into more professional, but I will say, take that with a grain of salt, because I think when you’re talking about more professional dress, fit will always trump what’s on trend. For something that’s trendy, but if it’s not right for you, or if it’s wearing you, basically, it’s not going to work. And so, this is where I would really say, don’t focus so much on what’s on trend, focus on what’s right for your body type, what’s right for your stature. Mary: Because if you’re petite and you wear a longer jacket, it may or may not be the right proportion for you. And you want it to work for your body type, you want it to jelly skin the body. You want it to fit you like a glove and really show off your asset. One thing I will add, this is more for women to think about, for men, they don’t have nearly as many choices, but for women when it comes to your jacket, one thing I want you to think about as your jacket lapels. Do you have a notch lapel, or do you have a shell collar? Now the shell collar is the rounded, unnotched collar basically. And really the notched lapel, that is a much more masculine look, and that is better for women have a more angular face shape, and a shell collar is better for someone who has the more rounded face shape. Lindsey: Interesting. Very good to know. And I would think that that would also translate to where you’re going to be wearing that jacket, because if you want a jacket that… I would think that the more angular jacket or the notched one would have more of a commanding presence, if you’re going to be going into a courtroom, whereas the rounded lapel would be a little bit more gentle. And so if you’re going to a meeting one-on-one with a client, I would think that that would be a more appropriate place to where that. Is that about right? Mary: Yeah Lindsey. That’s a great interpretation. Absolutely. I think the notch collar absolutely is, as I mentioned, it’s more masculine, has got a more commanding presence and that’s what you want to wear when you’re in the courtroom. But meeting one-on-one with clients, shell collar, I think is perfect because then you want your look to be a little softer. Should Female Attorneys Show Cleavage? Lindsey: Excellent. And so we’ve got the jacket, we have the pants, let’s talk about blouses. One of the most googled questions for female lawyers in fashion is how low or too tight is appropriate for professional wear. And I know that this one is probably subject to a lot of interpretation and there are a lot of pc-isms revolving around this question, but it is something that women want to know. And they’re looking to Google to find the answer for that. So, in your professional opinion, what is the cutoff? Mary: Sure. Well, that is a hot button issue, depending on who you talk to, but anyway, in my professional opinion, is no cleavage. No cleavage. You don’t want your blouse bursting at the seams and no cleavage. In fact, I had a lawyer, a client years ago who brought me into his office to help his staff get dressed, because there were several ladies who were offenders of this. And I think they just didn’t know. Some people just don’t think about it, but no cleavage. If when in doubt, leave it out. Meaning, if you’re not sure, the answer is no. Always go for more conservative. And one thing I will say, I have a lot of clients who are busty, and that can make it tricky when you have a button up blouse. But one thing I want you to think about is when you are shopping for your blouses, find something that has a little bit of stretch. Mary: There are so many great options out there now, there are a lot of lines out there that are targeted towards fuller busted women, and things that do have stretch because the stretch will allow you more freedom of movement. It’ll allow you to have a little bit more give, and it’s going to help you feel more comfortable too. But the worst thing in the world would be, you’re in a courtroom with a high-powered court case and you look down and you see your button is like about to burst. And then you have to think about that, you want the least distracting clothing for yourself, as well as for other people, you can get it. Should Female Attorneys Wear High Heels? Lindsey: That’s an excellent point. You do not want to be defending somebody’s case while simultaneously thinking about a wardrobe malfunction, that divided attention would be absolutely awful. So, comfort and professionalism is key there. And so what about high heels? I know that those used to be a 100% must, but are they any more? I know they impact posture and to an extent, appearance and perception. So are those still as critical as they used to be? Mary: In my opinion, no. Lindsey, I think high heels, they’re nice to wear if that’s your style, but yeah, I think in a lot of ways they can have almost like a more sexy connotation and lead people to be distracted for the wrong reasons. But sometimes you can wear flats. Flats can be really tricky. It’s hard to just swap out high heels for flats, and have a similar effect. But my recommendation is go for a lower heel, kitten heels actually are very hot right now and they’re so much more comfortable. I am not a heels girl, but kitten heels I can do. But I would say, opt for a kitten heel or a wedge. Lindsey: Okay. That’s a great idea. Mary: Well, sometimes wedges can get a little bit too casual, but for the right setting, a wedge can be appropriate, but I would say for the courtroom, or when you’re going for a more formal look, a kitten heel can be a perfect solution. Lindsey: And in terms of fabrics for shoes, does it matter what type of fabric your shoes are made out of? Mary: I would say opt for a leather, as opposed to a suede or something… there’s so many different options now, you can get raffia or cork, or I was looking at something the other day that was a woven canvas. I mean, there’s just a jillion different options, a leather closed toe kitten heeled, or high heel pump, mid heel, let’s say mid heel would be better. Close toe pump is going to be your best bet. It’s plastic, you can invest in it and it will last you for a while. It is timeless and will transcend the trends. Lindsey: Excellent. Well, thank you so much today. And is there any last final tip that any of our attorneys can keep in mind if they are in a rush to get into the closet and get out and get on to their law firm? What should somebody look for immediately as they run into their closet and try to create an ensemble? Consistency, Credibility and Confidence. Mary: Sure. I think about the three Cs. You want to create consistency, because it’s not just a one and done. It’s not just about how you show up one day, it’s about how you show up consistently. And so if you want to get into your closet and plan out your outfits for the week or the next few days, think about consistency. This is not polar opposite day. This is not go from one extreme to the other. This is about creating consistency because that in and of itself, builds your credibility and build your trust. And it will also build your own confidence as well as confidence that others have in you. Showing up in a consistent way, whatever that is. And so, if you’re trying something new, if you’re experimenting with certain colors, weave it in, weave it into your style and let it be a part of your style rather than just a flash in the pan. Lindsey: It’s a great point. Mary: Yeah. Lindsey: Excellent. Well, thank you so much again for joining us today. If anybody wants to get in touch with you or learn more about your offerings, how can they do that? Mary: Sure. Well, my website is stylebymarymichele.com or you can email me at Michelle, M-I-C-H-E-L-E @shopstylefinder.com. Lindsey: Great. Well, thank you so much. We appreciate your time today and hope that you enjoy the rest of it. Mary: Oh, thank you so much Lindsey.