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How to Dress Business Casual for the Law Office
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Ryan Reynolds is wearing business casual for GQ.

Summary: What are acceptable business casual clothing options for lawyers?

The legal profession is well-known to lean conservative when it comes to clothing. An old school power suit and tie is the standard uniform, with the one exception of entertainment lawyers who can dress like Kanye West and get away with it. (Sometimes…) While the dress code of please-wear-a-suit makes dressing easy, lawyers who work in firms have a new problem when it comes to Casual Friday. While the higher ups may say “casual” do they actually mean it? Usually, the answer is not really. Lawyers are expected to appear professional and respectable to impress clients, and looking like a shark is just as important as being a shark in the law world.


So now that law firms are trying to get hip and let their attorneys dress down (kinda), what kinds of clothing convey an image of “serious lawyer” while still being business casual?


As a general rule of thumb, men can go from business formal (suit and tie) to business casual by just removing the jacket and tie. Neutral colors for pants such as black or navy will always be safe; and white and blue are classic color options for shirts. While you would still be business casual wearing a short-sleeve button down, long-sleeves look better. You can just roll up the sleeves if it’s too hot, and the roll up looks more polished than a short sleeved shirt. Solid colored sweaters are also appropriate business casual tops for men.

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There has been a trend in men wearing polos and khaki pants on Casual Friday. While that look appears more let’s-play-golf than let’s-read-dockets, it’s fine to do if your boss does it first. It’s noted that the polo and khaki look is as far as you can go with dressing down, though. Sweat pants, shorts, or ill-fitting pants should never be worn to the office. The same applies to your shoes. Never wear flip-flops or sneakers to the office, even if you live in California or Florida. A dress shoe is still the safest bet. Even though there are dressier sandals and sneakers, you’re crossing a fine line, so why bother? You’re in a non-fashion focused industry so playing it safe is actually okay here.
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For business formal, women wear neutral-colored suits with either pants or knee-length skirts, but what to wear for business casual? With options such as funky cuts, bright colors, bold prints, and dresses, women attorneys have it harder when it comes to dressing because there are more fashion options than what men have. While some women at higher levels or who own their own firms can get away with experimenting with fashion, most associates will have an easier time playing it safe and going conservative. That means neutral colors and solids; minimal jewelry; and fitted dresses, tops, and pants but nothing tight.

In recent years, women attorneys have been getting trendier with their clothing, but only slightly. That means you could wear a bold-colored top underneath a blazer and neutral colored pant or you could put on a statement necklace with your conservative outfit. But like the men, you want to play it safe and not bring too much attention to your outfit. When it comes to shoes, never wear sneakers or flip-flops. Mules or flats are still professional but casual. Open-toe shoes are okay as long as they don’t look like sandals. And just like men, no sweats, shorts, or ill-fitted clothing.




If your office has an explicit jeans-are-okay policy for Casual Friday, then by all means, wear jeans. However, look for fitted jeans in dark washes without any holes in them. You want to look polished, not sloppy. Save the shredded and light denim for the weekend when you go off to Coachella. If your office has a Casual Friday but hasn’t said anything explicitly about jeans, it’s best to err on the dressier business casual side and leave your Levis in your closet.

Photos courtesy of Google, The Fashion Tag, Pinterest

What is your go-to business casual outfit? Let us know in the comments below.


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