I have conducted career coaching sessions for a number of years for law students and lawyers, and once someone come to see me to ask what they needed to wear for a legal job interview. It almost seemed like the primary reason she had travelled over 200 miles to see me, and I am not sure why this had become such an issue for her.
For interviews, the primary thing is that you look smart, and the dress you wear fits into the office environment you are going for an interview to work in. Eg; traditionally local authority legal departments and Legal Services Commission funded firms do not tend to dress as smartly as Magic Circle law firms such as Clifford Chance.
There is a good reason for this – if you are constantly going into police cells for example, and meeting someone who probably hasn’t washed for 3 days, you do not want to be wearing your new suit recently handmade in London by the bloke who advertises in the back of The Week!
It is mostly common sense. Make sure whatever you are wearing is neat, washed, ironed, and with very plain colours rather than anything that looks like it came out of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat. Dark colours probably fit into the sober legal environment better than very light colours, which are more in keeping with weekend wear. I have been asked whether women should wear long or short skirts, and whether trousers are OK or not for women.
I really don’t think it matters – it just has to be smart. You don’t need to worry about whether you are dressed in an almost uniform-like outfit. Think about it from the interviewers perspective – they want to see someone who is well dressed and clean (not smelly) and that their clothes do not stand out to such an extent that you remember or comment on it. If you can manage this, you have passed that particular aspect of the interview.
Recently we had feedback from a law firm who had interviewed quite a senior solicitor, which went
“This candidate was not suitable. Firstly he was wearing a cardigan, and looked like he had come off the streets. Secondly, he smelt like he had come off the streets. Thirdly, when asked what his weak points were, he said he probably wasn’t a very good lawyer. We will not progressing his application further…”
Author: Jonathan Fagan MIRP MAC Cert RP LLM Solicitor (non-practising) – Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment (www.ten-percent.co.uk) – save time, skip the legal job boards and register with us! Jonathan Fagan is a specialist legal recruitment consultant, author of the Complete Guide to Writing a Legal CV and the Guide to Interviews for Lawyers. He has recruited for law firms across the UK and overseas in all shapes and sizes. If you have any questions that we have not covered above, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org