Posts Tagged ‘dress’

Professional Dress for Male Paralegals

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Last February I did a post on the dearth of fashion advice for male paralegals. Not long after , I accepted an invitation to connect on LinkedIn from the LinkedIn group – “Well-dressed Professionals” and posted about that here. Today, Vicki Voisin, The Paralegal Mentor, posted an email from one of her readers, Todd R. Noebel, SPHR Manager, Professional Support Services, with McGuireWoods LLP in Richmond, Virginia entitled, “10 Wardrobe Must-Haves For Men.” The list is a good one:

1. Tailored Suit
2. At least 2 Freshly Pressed White Shirts
3. Comfortable, dress shoes
4. Blazer/Sport Coat
5. High quality briefcase/laptop bag in good repair
6. Sweater
7. Gray dress pants
8. High Quality Leather Belt – Black, cordovan and dark brown.
9. A Silk Tie
10. A Watch

The reasoning and further descriptions are available at Vicki’s website which you can reach by clicking here.

I actually made it through the last few years of my full-time legal career without the white shirts, but I practiced in Maine. They are indeed de rigor in many locations. Now I have the luxury of not having to wear a watch – there seems to be digital time displays everywhere and I have my cell phone chronometer to fill in the gaps.

So check out this list. Also, do use the advice from both my book, href=”http://theempoweredparalegal.com/?page_id=1791″>The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional, and from Vicki and Charlsye’s book, The Professional Paralegal: A Guide to Finding a Job and Career Success

Well-dressed Professionals on LinkedIn

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Since my recent post on professional dress and the need for more attention to the issue from and for males, I accepted an invitation to connect on LinkedIn from Rebecca Hetzler, a paralegal/legal secretary at Steptoe & Johnson in the Columbus, Ohio area. She is a member of the LinkedIn group – “Well-dressed Professionals.” I have not yet joined or reviewed the discussions for the group, but here’s how it bills it self:

This is a group for those of us who (despite the trend towards casual attire in the workplace) still choose to dress well. – Todd Herschberg, Founder.

Discussions can be found on the group site: http://welldressed.collectiveX.com

Members of the group include a “Menswear Designer and Owner” and “President, Advance Image & Etiquette Consulting.” I agree with Vicki Voison’s comment that “it’s easier for guys, though: a navy blue sport coat, khakis and nice shirt (with or without a tie) will take them a long, long way,” but I also like to think that male fashion can extend beyond the “frat boy” uniform and still be professional. So, check out the “Well-dressed Professionals” group and tell me what you think. Also, do use the advice from both my book, The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional, and from Vicki and Charlsye’s book, The Professional Paralegal: A Guide to Finding a Job and Career Success

Comfortable, Professional Shoes

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

I am sure most of you already know that Lynne at Practical Paralegalism has a long running feature on Paralegal Career Dressing. It is very well done. (Despite my tendency to read the titles as “Paralegal Cross Dressing” when feeling the effects of my medication.) I now note that Vicki, The Paralegal Mentor has provided a link to a posting at lawyerist.com entitled, “Dress for Success: The 5 Shoes Every Woman Should Own.”

I am all for this coverage of this topic. I deal with the need to dress professionally in The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional,” and have posted about it on this blog. But the example I use in the book relates to So, my question today echos that asked by Melissa H. long ago: Where are all the men? Of course, as Melissa points out, there are fewer men in the profession and few (if any) paralegal bloggers, but those in the profession do need to know how to dress professionally and fashionably. Lynne, perhaps you could throw a shirt, tie, and slacks on that bony friend of your and give some hints to the guys. Oh, and some comfortable, professional shoes!

Cleavage Wrinkles Should Not Be A Problem In The Office

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Writing a blog like this, I tend to see just about every news article that mentions a paralegal in any way. In many cases there is no direct connection between the story and any topic considered part of this blog. My first take on a story in the New York Timestoday was that it was one of those stories. The title of the story is “Fighting Cleavage Wrinkels:”

Fighting Cleavage Wrinkles
By TAFFY BRODESSER-AKNER
Published: August 9, 2011

BACK when Lisa Barr wore a size 34B bra, she didn’t know from cleavage wrinkles. But soon after she got breast implants in 1999, augmenting her measurements to a 36C, she started waking up with thick lines on her chest where one breast had fallen against the other as she slept on her side.

The problem is more serious that it may initially sound:

The skin just below the neck can reveal a woman’s age and skin-care history just as easily as her hands can.

My point here is simply this: While it is a problem it should not be one at work, because professional dress will generally cover cleavage. Here are some other thoughts on professional dress:

The legal profession, unlike the medical profession, is not characterized by a particular uniform, but certain modes of dress are considered appropriate for the professional and others are not. A professional image is important not only for others, but also for you. The way you look sends a message to clients, attorneys and you. Any sort of uniform helps you make the transition from normal life to work life. A business suit or comparable dress enhances your own perception of yourself as a professional.

The general rule is that you want to be noticed for the quality of your work rather than because of the high quality of the work you do and for what you add to the legal team, not for what you wear. Keep the following in mind:

  • A professional appearance is neither “hot” nor “cool.” You may be fortunate enough to meet your soul-mate or your next date at work, but avoid dressing as though you are looking for them.
  • Professional dress is not short, tight, clinging or revealing. Professional dress looks good, not sexy (although looking good can be sexy if you have the right attitude.)
  • Professional dress, except for shoes, belt and coats, is not leather.
  • Professional dress is not flashy.
  • Dress appropriately for the circumstances. Office wear and court wear may or may not be the same depending on your office. Take the time to find out. Take cues from how your attorney and other professionals in the office dress. If you are in Montana, cowboy boots may be fine; probably not in Baltimore.
  • Wash and iron your clothes. Shine your shoes.
  • Coordinate your clothing, jewelry and shoes.
  • You are part of the legal team and part of gaining the client’s business, trust and confidence. You are not likely to do that if you dress inappropriately or look like a slob.
  • When in doubt, ask.

A Practical Task from Practical Paralegalism

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

Head on over to Lynne DeVenny’s blog, Practical Paralegalism for her post, “Paralegal Do-Over: What Would You Tell Lindsay to Wear to Court?” While Lindsay is a tough case, this exercise is a good one since it is an example of the tact required quite often by paralegals in preparing clients for court appearances. Good post, Lynne.

Dress for Success

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

An article in USA Today entitled, “Judges crack down on inappropriate clothes in court” notes that many courts are taking measures to eliminate dress that offends the dignity of the court and the judicial process. In most instances the offenders are likely pro se litigants appearing for arraignments and the like.  Most paralegals are well versed in appropriate dress for the office and the courthouse, although it is not unusual for more experienced paralegals to find it necessary to take new paralegals aside for a few pointers on this issue. However, many paralegals are unaware that they must be concerned about the appearance of the entire legal team. Every member, including the client and witnesses associated with the client, must “dress for success.”

As I note in The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional,  dressing for success  does not mean “look successful.” It’s my way of saying you have to be aware that the jury is not just looking at the evidence as presented; it is looking at the presenters of the evidence.

Many times the best dog and pony show wins a case (as long as the case is otherwise well prepared). Consider a real circus dog and pony show; the performer and the atmosphere are at least as important as the acts performed. This principle applies to almost any performance meant to leave an impression or make a point on an audience. Every political operative considers not just what is being said, but the backdrop for the speech. Rock stars don’t just sing – they perform. The jury is your attorney’s audience. They are watching, and waiting for, the show.

Like most performers, your legal team is “on” every moment the jurors are in the jury box (and when they are entering or leaving the box). They are watching not just the witness on the stand and the attorney examining the witness, but also the rest of the “performance.”

In this respect it is important how the performers dress and appear to the jury. The performers include the attorney, the paralegal, the client and the witnesses. Each of you most dress appropriately for your role keeping in mind that you must dress for the jury.  Even jurors who seem to be paying little attention seem to notice clothing – distracting ties, short skirts, body-piercing and tattoos.  If a client is pleading poverty, she cannot show up day after day in $300 dollar outfits, dazzling jewelry, $30 nails and $50 hair.  (In my early days of practice a client met me at the courthouse for a hearing to determine whether she was in contempt of court for failure to pay a $100 fine in exactly that fashion.) An expert witness will not impress a jury if he dresses unprofessionally. In fact, he should dress for the jury’s conception of his profession – a doctor as a doctor, a contractor as a contractor and a professor as a professor.

Remind clients and witnesses that they are subject to observation by the jury anytime jurors are present. A jury will assume that a client who is rude to, or snarls at the other party, was equally rude and disagreeable during the event or events that led the parties to court, regardless of how that client or witness presents on the stand. In fact, a client or witness who acts differently on the stand than when he thinks the jury isn’t watching is telling the jury not to believe him as his presentation on the stand is not the “true” him.

Jurors generally do not react favorably to clients who mumble “that’s a lie” under their breath, gasp and shake their heads in reaction to a witness’ testimony.  Clients who squirm, constantly adjust their clothes (this happens a lot with clients not used to wearing a tie who “dress up” just for the trial), or fidget nervously may look as though they have something to hide.

Clients and witnesses seldom of much awareness of these factors. The poverty pleading client who dressed so fashionably in the example above simply had no conception of how her appearance clashed with the purpose of the hearing. They need to be informed by the paralegal. Preparing the clients and witnesses in this way is an important part of overall part of preparing and managing litigation.

Drug Lord’s Paralegal: “I have to be professional.”

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Denverpost.com reports on Lourdes Mederos, a paralegal working with incarcerated drug cartel kingpins in ADX Florence prison:

Lulu, 28, is bilingual, street smart and gorgeous. She moved to Florence from her native Miami last year for proximity to the incarcerated cartel leaders able to pay for her attention…

ADX Florence houses convicts the feds have deemed in need of the tightest control. It isolates them in solitary confinement. Visits are allowed only with family members — most of whom live nowhere near Colorado — or people designated as part of their legal teams.

Upon Lulu’s arrival in Florence, word spread among Latino drug lords in the prison that her one-woman LM Paralegal Inc. was available for hire

Each week, usually twice for Huerta and Matta Lopez, the inmates’ out-of-state lawyers pay Lulu $125 an hour to visit their clients, generally for most of the workday. She delivers legal documents and conveys messages about the many lawsuits each has filed against the federal Bureau of Prisons. Their complaints range from the tightness of their shackles to guards’ inability to speak Spanish to long waiting lists for vision care or hernia surgery. The cases are distractions from lives led in mind-numbing isolation.

Lulu offers company and conversation, the ultimate luxury in a prison where, she says, “you could die and nobody would know.”

Lulu makes a point of visiting on holidays. She’s careful never to be late. And she abides by ADX’s rules prohibiting her from showing cleavage or wearing skirts that fall above the knee. After all, she says, “I have to be professional.”

“These aren’t my boyfriends. I can’t be flirting or anything like that. They videotape our visits. There are a lot of eyes on me when I’m at my job,” she says.

Still, she’s confident her clients like the way she works. If they didn’t, “they would have cut me off a long time ago.” [Emphasis added.]

“They’re bad boys and I love working with bad boys,” she adds. “My line of work, it’s recession-proof. They ain’t going anywhere. I’ve got my own place. I’m my own boss. I’m able to help my family out. I’m living, for me, the American dream.”

Despite the headline, it should be noted that Ms. Mederos is not the drug lords’ paralegal. She is hired by, and works for, out-of-state attorneys. I assume that those attorneys have obtained permission to practice in her state. Otherwise a number of issues arise regarding attorney supervision, e.g., does it count if the attorney superivising the paralegal is not licensed in the state where the paralegal is performing services, and does sending a paralegal to visit a client and deliver legal documents constitute practicing law in a state where the attorney is not licensed?

In any case, it is good to see the Ms. Mederos remains professional in performing her job.

Professional Demeanor

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

ABAJournal.com posts on article in the National Law Journal giving advice to “older attorneys” looking for a job including “lose the comb-over” and “update the wardrobe.” However, much of it seems to apply to anyone who wants to be professional – even those who already have a job.

The professionals in any office will not “groan or sigh when you sit down or get up,” “avoid outdated expressions, such as referring to a woman as a ‘gal,’ ” make “statements that reminisce such as ‘in my day’ or ‘when I started out.’ ” and “appear cocky or arrogant.” 

The professionals will demonstrate a good attitude as well as  “teamwork, flexibility, innovation and creativity, capacity to learn new things and work in different and changing environments, ability to work long hours and knack for getting along with a variety of people.”

The professionals in the office will be…, well they’ll be professional! We all want to be treated as professionals. In order to get such treatment we have to “walk the walk.”

Some Thoughts on Dressing Professionally

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

The legal profession, unlike the medical profession, is not characterized by a particular uniform, but certain modes of dress are considered appropriate for the professional and others are not. A professional image is important not only for others, but also for you. The way you look sends a message to clients, attorneys and you. Any sort of uniform helps you make the transition from normal life to work life. A business suit or comparable dress enhances your own perception of yourself as a professional.

The general rule is that you want to be noticed for the quality of your work rather than because of the high quality of the work you do and for what you add to the legal team, not for what you wear. Keep the following in mind:

  • A professional appearance is neither “hot” nor “cool.” You may be fortunate enough to meet your soul-mate or your next date at work, but avoid dressing as though you are looking for them.
  • Professional dress is not short, tight, clinging or revealing. Professional dress looks good, not sexy (although looking good can be sexy if you have the right attitude.)
  • Professional dress, except for shoes, belt and coats, is not leather.
  • Professional dress is not flashy.
  • Dress appropriately for the circumstances. Office wear and court wear may or may not be the same depending on your office. Take the time to find out. Take cues from how your attorney and other professionals in the office dress. If you are in Montana, cowboy boots may be fine; probably not in Baltimore.
  • Wash and iron your clothes. Shine your shoes.
  • Coordinate your clothing, jewelry and shoes.
  • You are part of the legal team and part of gaining the client’s business, trust and confidence. You are not likely to do that if you dress inappropriately or look like a slob.
  • When in doubt, ask.