what to wear to law school

Expert Guide on What to Wear to Law School [Law School Wardrobe]

Written by: Kristine Thorndyke

As a law student, you will be faced with invites to attend a variety of events, from happy hour networking and conferences to cocktail formals. It may sound extreme, but what you wear to these events, and even what to wear to law school, can make a difference in the impression others make about you.

So to help you navigate through the maze of business casual and business formal, cocktails and cocktail formals, we have come up with some scenarios on how to dress to impress.

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Scenario One: Keep it Nice-Casual for Classes

Your everyday law school attire can err on the side of casual, but at the same time, needs to remain professional. While your day-to-day law school outfit may not be remembered, the impression your attire leaves will be. The trick of how to dress in law school is to dress casual, comfortable and presentable, staying clear of anything that comes across as sloppy, unclean or revealing. 

Our Top 3 Picks for Women:

For women, jeans or chinos are a great option for the bottom half. For jeans, you want to go with a darker color and a skinny fit, to ensure the look isn’t too casual. For chinos, think a tailored fit in a neutral color – like gray, navy or black. Compliment these trousers with either a fitted t-shirt, button-up or sweater. The trick is to keep the colors toned down as you don’t want to draw too much attention in ‘flashy’ clothes. For your feet, opt for either boots or ballet slip-on flats, keeping the look stylish and comfortable. 

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Our Top 3 Picks for Men:

For men, those blazers and ties can be kept in the closet ready for a smart networking event. Instead, think chinos or dark jeans. An important thing to add here is to make sure to go for a slim fit. Too baggy and you risk looking sloppy, too tight and your choice of clothing could be deemed a bit inappropriate! Team these trousers with either a polo shirt or a knitted sweater/cardigan, again keeping that slim fit idea in mind. Lastly, finish the look with presentable shoes, like a pair of deck shoes – casual yet classy. 

Related: Tips for Dating in Law School

Scenario Two: Have a Couple Business Casual Outfits for Happy Hours & Conferences

Business casual outfits are those you would wear for networking happy hours and conferences, and can even be considered when deciding what to wear to law school orientation. This still isn’t the time to don a full suit, it’s more like a halfway house between nice-casual and business formal – a more flexible, smart, business look. If you’re ever in doubt with this look though, it’s always worth tipping towards the smarter side.

Our Top 3 Picks for Women:

Ladies, you want to look semi-casual but with a smart undertone. Consider a pencil skirt with a chiffon sleeveless shirt tucked in and finished off with a pair of nude pumps. You look like you mean business without the full formality. Play around with the color of the skirt within reason, but keep the shirt white for a crisp and fresh look. If dresses are more your thing, keep it semi-casual, but perhaps jazz it up with a blazer and pumps. 

Our Top 3 Picks for Men:

For men, we recommend sticking with nice-casual chinos or dark jeans that you would normally wear to class, and pairing them with a suit jacket, dress shirt, and loafers. Keep the suit jacket on the casual side, so think slim fit, one-button blazer, and the dress shirt a little ‘fun’ – perhaps in a light pink color. Another path you could take is switching the casual pants for more formal dress pants but ditching the jacket/blazer.

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Scenario Three: Nice-fitting Suits for Interviews & Networking Events

The time has now come for the full suit to make its debut, both for the men and the women. Part of your journey to becoming that kick-ass lawyer requires attendance at some networking events and the all-important job interviews. Any professional interaction you encounter could determine your career, so you need to show that you understand and fit in with the formal structure of the legal profession. 

Our Top 3 Picks for Women:

For women, you have two options with your full suit here – either a pantsuit or skirt suit. There is no right or wrong answer, it depends on the event, the job, the firm and how you choose to dress. You could even purchase one of each to keep your options open. Whatever you decide, the trick is to make sure that the suit is well fitted (we recommend a slim fit), and of course, presentable. Choose some timeless and classic black pumps to compliment your suit look perfectly. 

Our Top 3 Picks for Men:

Guys, suit up! The full suit is the dish of the day, and it’s served up either tailored or slim fit, keeping you looking both smart yet on-trend. Make sure to wear it with a dress shirt, dress shoes, and belt to match, and top it off with a tie. There isn’t a need to always choose black when it comes to suits for these events; navy, grays, and pinstripes can bring a bit of life to your outfit.

Keep the shirt white and shoes black, and while a ‘fun’ tie may seem like a good idea, it’s better to stick to something neutral and professional when considering what to wear to law school events..

Related: 7 Best Backpacks for Law School

Scenario Four: Little Black Dress (LBD) & Suits for Cocktails

You may be surprised to hear that cocktail events aren’t just for attorneys, you will attend a fair number of these throughout your time at law school. These events are an occasion for networking, and it is crucial to look the part. This is the slightly less formal cocktail event, as opposed to the other ‘cocktail formal’ (there is a difference), where women can don their LBD rather than the formal gown. For you men, it’s back into a suit again!

Our Top 3 Picks for Women:

Girls, it’s time for that little black dress of yours to come out of the closet. We recommend a classic capped sleeved black dress with a bateau neck, but any smart LBD will work well for these events. Remember to keep it classy and professional, as you want to give off the impression you are serious about law. Avoid anything too revealing.

Pair the dress with some heels – as the dress is black, you can afford to add some color here. Consider floral stilettos to make a statement. And a stylish clutch purse of course! If you aren’t a fan of dresses, a black pantsuit would work just as well. 

Our Top 3 Picks for Men:

For you boys, this is another occasion to get into your full suit. It’s preferable to choose a dark color this time, either black, navy, or our personal favorite, charcoal. There’s something versatile about charcoal suits, they have an understated professional feel to them. Make sure to wear a dress shirt, and remember to match your belt with your shoes – you can’t go wrong with black for these two as it’s easy to match!

Lastly, consider a pair of cufflinks, although not essential, they can sometimes bring your law school outfits together well.

Dressed for success? Check out these top lawyer salaries in your field! 

Scenario Five: Semi-Formal Gowns & Suits for Cocktail Formals

The last occasion you need to be prepared for – the cocktail formal. The event that is that much smarter than the normal cocktail occasion. This one requires the women to trade in their LBD for a more formal gown, adding more color and glam. For you men, suits are again the weapon of choice, but at these events, you can make more of a statement if you wish to.

Our Top 3 Picks for Women:

Ladies, this is a chance for you to make a statement in a fashionable, formal gown. Don’t be fooled into thinking this needs to be a full-length ball gown, this isn’t that sort of event. Instead, choose something that oozes glamor and style, while still has that hint of professionalism to it.

Our recommendations are cut in different ways to showcase a variety of styles; vintage, retro or the more classic look. Choose a color over black, but make sure to not go too wild. It is still a formal event. Remember to add some heels, a clutch, and some statement jewelry to bring the outfit together.

Our Top 3 Picks for Men:

For the men, everything goes up a gear from your other full suits. This time, you want a three-piece suit – blazer, pants, and tux vest – either in classic black or if you wish to, a fashion print suit. If you do go for a print suit, keep it classy, you don’t want to appear flashy. We recommend the classic slim fit dress shirt and some statement loafers – perhaps consider a pair of cognac brown over the usual black? Then finish it off with a tie and cufflinks, and you’re ready to mingle!

Final Thoughts

This may all sound completely overwhelming, but you’ll find that you’ll become a master of the law school dress code in no time. A worthwhile tip is that if you’re ever in doubt about what law school clothes to wear, always err on the smarter side. And if there is no stated dress code, always assume it is business attire.

As that old saying goes…dressing the part leads to getting the part!