Cracking The Legal Dress Code: Image Coaching Tips for Lawyers
Words have power, whether they’re spoken or written, but did you know that research shows that words make up a mere 7% of all face-to-face communication? According to researcher Albert Mehrabian, a whopping 55% of all communication is nonverbal, and the remaining 38% is vocal.
As a member of the legal profession, you have indubitably mastered the fine art of the spoken and written word, weaving impactful and powerfully emotive words to curry favor with juries and build relationships with other members of your profession. Could there be a secret tool hidden in plain sight that could increase the likelihood of effective communication? Yes! Believe it or not, the answer is your clothing. Your choice of attire is a nonverbal means of communication that speaks volumes about you.
You remember Marcia Clark. Prosecutor of the OJ Simpson trial in the 1990s? Despite being a highly successful prosecutor, Marcia found her appearance the subject of discussion everywhere, from the media to barbershops and salons around the world.
Marcia Clark / Photo: POOL (AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Marcia’s styling choices told a story about her that detracted from her professionalism, making it difficult to connect with her audience. Here’s where image coaching comes into play. Image coaching can help you bring the way you look into alignment with who you are and what you represent personally and professionally. Give yourself an advantage in or out of the courtroom and let your wardrobe do some of the talking. Here are three reasons why you need to crack the legal dress code:
Imagine you’re lead counsel on a trial, and the majority of all the members of the jury are good middle-class American people. Your job is to sway them over to your side. You’re in the middle of your opening statements, but no one’s eyes are connecting with yours, and the jury’s nonverbal communication is indicating disinterest or, worse, disdain! How could that be, the trial has only just begun? You’re not connecting with them because they don’t see themselves reflected in you or your client. Perhaps your clothing choices can cover a mortgage payment, or you just don’t look professional enough to demand attention.
Finding that sweet spot between too much and too little is a simple yet effective way to capture your jury’s attention and keep it where you need it - on your side! Building rapport with your jury could lead to them being more receptive to your message, potentially positively impacting your results.
As a lawyer, you need people to put their trust in you. You need people to truly believe that you have what it takes to represent their best interests. You need your boss to believe that you’re the best person on the team for the job. No amount of technical expertise can help you if your style story is sending the wrong message about you.
Developing sound styling skills of your own or outsourcing to a professional can help you take control of your style narrative and present yourself in a way that wins over your stakeholders and helps you increase the quality and caliber of your portfolio.
The simple addition of a well-selected wardrobe and a good image can help you win the respect of other attorneys and judges. People go out of their way to lend assistance to people they genuinely like and respect. Having the respect of your peers and senior members of the legal fraternity is a tool you need that may lead to increased job efficiency and performance. Learning to dress for the courtroom and office will take your career to unimaginable heights.
Dressing for success
Close your eyes and picture the last thing you wore to meet a new client or have a one-on-one with your boss. What message do you think you sent with your outfit? If your answer was anything other than polished, professional, and relatable, then you are not adequately representing yourself. The good news is, now you know what to do about it. Take your pick; have some fun and start flexing your styling muscles, or call in the expert stylists to help you tell your legal style story.