What not to wear. Yes, I’m writing about clothing.
I’ve been lucky enough to hop around in court over the past several months and have even had some nifty misdemeanor court appearances.Â Listen up folks, anyone who thinks they are too good for misdemeanor work doesn’t know the joy of a 19 year old client who is thrilled to pieces over his nolle for an open container (which is a misdemeanor in Maryland, by the way, even though it only carries, as a penalty, a fine of $100.00.Â But, for the rest of your life you check ‘yes’ on the box ‘have you ever been convicted of a crime.’) Anyway, being in local court means you see lots of local attorneys and yes, you get to see the public defenders who do incredible work. I mean, really, who is more knowledgeable about the court, the prosecutors and the cops than the men and women who toil in those courts day in and day out?Â It is a thankless job and you can see it on their faces.
Dearest public defenders, please answer me this – why do we see it in your clothes?
I know, I know, I’m the first one to roll my eyes when people start talking about clothing that should and should not be worn to the office or to court.Â I cannot abide the ABA writing about wearing jumpers versus manly suits or whether I can wear open toed patent leather heels to court. (The answer, by the way, is yes.Â Yes, I can.) I saw a post about what color nail polish you should wear to work, for Christ’s sake. I mean, come on. That is just ridiculous. Why would you waste your time on something that trivial?Â But here, today, I’m going to write about clothes. And I am going to say this because I just can’t not say it.
- You should dress like you know what you are doing. You should. It’s true. You should dress like you are a lawyer who is going to court and representing clients even if they are clients who have not paid you because you are a public defender.Â You should not look like a lawyer who does not get paid to be in court because, well, you do get paid to be in court, just not by individual clients.
Am I being hypocritical here? “Hey notguilty, you are always talking about how it’s what you say that matters and whether you can actually practice law, not what you wear. Isn’t this just another blog about fashion?”
Well, maybe. But let’s make it clear that I start from the premise that if you dress like a turd and act like a turd it doesn’t matter.Â And if you dress like a turd but say amazing things and get incredible results then it also doesn’t matter.Â However, if people are starting from zero – meaning “Oh, you aren’t a real lawyer, you are a PD” why reinforce that with looking like you actually don’t care about the people you represent since you can’t be bothered to dress for the event.
I know PD’s don’t make a lot of money.Â I also know they have the free-spirited hearts of hippies and, therefore, dress like hippies. But at some point in order to be taken seriously by your clients you have to put away your clearly thrift store purchased blue corduroy blazer and throw on a smart suit and a pair of heels (please get rid of the brown loafers, I BEG OF YOU) and act like you are exactly what you are – the one other person, besides the prosecutor, who knows that courtroom like the back of her hand.