Whether you are starting your own law firm or are already launched, "image" concerns are real. Although your image is going to be substantially dictated by your budget, there are things you can do to project a certain image-- hopefully an authentic image. The areas you can control are clothing, accessories, and cars, so you might as well control those things.
Nice, but not too nice. I think that's the goal here, because you don't want to look like a scrub when someone is handing you a check for $10,000 as their initial deposit. When I know clients are coming in, I dress business casual because I feel like they should know I put in at least a little bit of effort for them. When clients are not scheduled to come in, I dress casual so that I'm comfortable and don't have to think about my ensemble while I get actual work done. The dilemma is what to do when I'm seriously casual and a client calls about an emergency consultation, or a potential client calls about an emergency consultation. To be honest, most of the emergency consultations are done over the phone and it's a non-issue. But there have been times when people have said they are coming in immediately and I'm in my cargo pants, hiking boots, polo shirt, and occasionally a hat. I tell them the truth, which is that I'm "super casual but of course I could still see you today." That seems to be effective, and it's also true, so it makes sense. Otherwise, I would have to go home and change and that doesn't compute. In terms of brands, I've had no problems wearing no-name brand clothes that are reasonably nice. I am not a Tom Ford operation, although I want to get there eventually for my suits.
Appropriate accessories such as pens, wallets, cuff links, etc. are less of an issue than clothing I think. Personally, people seem to love my carbon fiber pen, which was a lot but worth it. I write so much that it just makes sense. As for watches, same thing: no one wants to see a $50,000 gold Rolex on their attorney's wrist. However, clients who appreciate watches love the Omega Seamaster, which happens to be my personal favorite for my budget level. If you're getting a Rolex, it had better be stainless steel. Wallets are less of a concern, I think, but you don't want to show off too much. For women, handbags should be nice but not obscene. You're a lawyer, not a financier...dress accordingly.
What I've learned in this area is that the particular ride you have matters a lot. There appears to be a sliding scale of people's perceptions; the further along you are in your career and the more successful you are, the less people care about your car as long as it is perceived as appropriate for the point where you are in your career. In other words, there are expectations depending on your career stage. A first year attorney should not be driving a luxury car. A fifth year attorney should be driving a nice, sporty car, but nothing obscene. A ten year attorney should have a nice sports car. A mid-career attorney should have a luxury car, or more than one. At least, that is what I have observed about people's expectations over the years and through a few different cars. I tell people I want a Ferrari and they think I'm joking, so I have to gently correct them and explain that it is the car I want. Whether I can afford it after taking on an employee and a law partner is a separate issue. And if I get there, I'm keeping the GT-R so that when I go to court, my car doesn't get keyed.
Last updated: July 6, 2018
© 2018 Andrew G. Watters