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  1. #1
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    Question Sort of a French cuff question...but broader

    Howdy gentlemen. I’m new here but it looks like a place with lots of opinions and lively chatter.

    What do do folks think about how a lawyer should present–clothing wise–to a jury. I am a partner in a small litigation firm in Northern California. (Bay Area). We represent individuals and small companies in business and employment matters. No personal injury, divorce or other “flash point” type cases. Usually both sides can generate opinions and emotions on both side of an issue.

    What message do you think is sent or received by embellishments in an attorneys dress? Do you think french cuffs and silver monogrammed cuff links are flashy? (Assume either a conservative BB suit, or gray flannels with a nice jacket.). I don’t do monogrammed shirts. I wear a Breitling watch, but it is not ostentatious. I don’t use expensive pens at counsel table.

    I guess the uber question is whether you prefer that an attorney project a pricier sophistication/elegance, or a more work-a-day roll up the sleeves approach.

    BTW, I’ve been practicing law for 29 years, and have always wrestled with this question. There are a LOT of lawyers who wear ill fitting suits, cheap knit ties that they don’t know how to tie, and crepe soled shoes that haven’t seen polish in years. That is not me. There are also many that look like they’re carrying $15k worth of clothing on their backs. Also no I think. The general rule is that the clothing should not distract from the presentation of content. But that is ALWAY the case no matter what the context.

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  3. #2
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    IMO, a trial attorney should look smart and dress smartly. You don't want to overwhelm the jury with your wardrobe, but you do want them to believe that you are successful, which to most will mean you know what you're doing. Jurors are the strangers in the courtroom, and if you look and conduct yourself professionally, they will assume you know what you are about. French cuffs with silver cuff links are fine, IMO. No diamond cuff links or big rings, I would think. Otherwise, a conservative suit, even a monogram shirt, should be fine. Look like you've won a case or two.

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    I expect my attorney to dress in a manner consistent with the arguably exorbitant hourly rate that he charges me for his service(s). LOL.

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    First; that is a very location-specific question. I practiced in several different areas of two different states and, while those two extremes existed everywhere, "appropriate" varied greatly.

    I'm a french cuff kind of guy and generally am the only one in the area.

    As to your uber question; I would want an attorney who dresses well (suit should be fitted, shoes should be shined), but has a casual demeanor.

    FWIW, I doubt most clients know a Brietling watch; they just know what looks expensive, or gaudy, or subdued, or cheap. Probably none of the people I see know that my shoes are $400, watch is $200, and my suit was holiday sale JAB for $100. I'm still the guy with the french cuffs who "dresses down" by wearing a blazer to board meetings.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle76 View Post
    No diamond cuff links or big rings.
    Unless you graduated from the local university. I've seen several University of Kentucky lawyers make certain their class rings were visible to the jury.

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    Ha! Yes, I’ve heard that. In a similar vein I’ve heard folks say that, “maybe if he didn’t wear custom made suits and have a polished walnut conference room table, he could cut his rates. I need the skills, not the furniture.” Thank you.

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    Well said. Thank you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dcw View Post
    Howdy gentlemen. I’m new here but it looks like a place with lots of opinions and lively chatter.

    What do folks think about how a lawyer should present–clothing wise–to a jury. I am a partner in a smal litigation firm in Northern California.
    I'm not an attorney, but I've experienced the nearly orgasmic joy of voir dire several times and I even served on a jury (coincidentally, it was an employment matter. The ditzy plaintiff had no case and walked away with nothing. She probably would have done better if she'd had some evidence....) Now then:

    Do you think french cuffs and silver monogrammed cuff links are flashy?
    No. And it's unlikely anyone else will think so, either, primarily because they won't notice your cuffs. (I'm talking about normal people. I will notice, but will be unfazed.)

    (Assume either a conservative BB suit, or gray flannels with a nice jacket.) I don’t use expensive pens at counsel table.
    Yes--wear a basic, but well-fitting, workhorse suit to offset the French cuffs, should anyone notice them. And nobody will care about your pen.

    I guess the uber question is whether you prefer that an attorney project a pricier sophistication/elegance, or a more work-a-day roll up the sleeves approach.
    Stay in the mid-point. Not flashy, but not rumpled.

    Two additional points:

    (a) What the jurors (or potential jurors) will notice is if you are wearing an ugly tie. They won't care about your shirt cuffs or pen, but God help you if they don't like your neckwear.

    (b) The jurors, above all, want your closing argument to contain nothing but straightforward common sense. If it contains that, then they might--that's might--be willing to forgive an ugly tie. But don't bet on it.

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    Cufflinks give a polished, professional and successful appearance, but if the idea is to appeal to a jury, people these days don't trust flashiness, and even the most subdued cufflinks can be considered flashy by many commoners. People connect better with those like them, and most people are not the cufflink-wearing-type. Cufflinks could possibly distract someone from what you are saying, even if we think they shouldn't. If I were your client, I would want you to dress in a way that best appeals to the jury: well-groomed and well-put-together, but not flashy. But if I'm meeting you in your office, I'd like to see some symbols of success in your clothes.
    Check out my blog, Hidden Content

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    (a) What the jurors (or potential jurors) will notice is if you are wearing an ugly tie. They won't care about your shirt cuffs or pen, but God help you if they don't like your neckwear.


    Thanks for that. I generally choose pretty nice ties so that's good to know!

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    Is there a benefit to your persuasiveness and effectiveness when wearing cufflinks? Probably not. Is there a hit? Much more likely.

    No upside, perhaps downside. Choice should be plain.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dcw View Post
    Thanks for that. I generally choose pretty nice ties so that's good to know!
    This is what everyone who wears ugly ties says! Be careful!
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    Having deliberated to verdict as a juror on two criminal cases and enjoyed voir dire many times, I'm convinced attorneys know virtually nothing of what jurors are actually thinking. Which is OK, except that far too many think they do.

    Dress richly, but not gaudily, but dress so as to appear approachable. You will get their attention, and gain their respect (Unless you prove you don't deserve it.) but won't come off as a stuck-up authority figure which can provoke resentment in John Q. Public in a heartbeat.

    You want to wear French cuff shirts? How about making them tattersall and wearing them with a paisley ancient madder tie and a richly tailored tweed suit. Oh! And always wear well kept, fine quality, conservative footwear. The ladies will notice.

    But also dress to be yourself. This guy dressed like a cross between Johnny Cash and Buffalo Bob, and he didn't do too badly -



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    AAAC's very own impeccable Roger P. Roger is a distinguished criminal attorney in Ontario Provence, and is, well, impeccable!



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    Quote Originally Posted by Flanderian View Post
    Having deliberated to verdict as a juror on two criminal cases and enjoyed voir dire many times, I'm convinced attorneys know virtually nothing of what jurors are actually thinking. Which is OK, except that far too many think they do.

    Dress richly, but not gaudily, but dress so as to appear approachable. You will get their attention, and gain their respect (Unless you prove you don't deserve it.) but won't come off as a stuck-up authority figure which can provoke resentment in John Q. Public in a heartbeat.

    You want to wear French cuff shirts? How about making them tattersall and wearing them with a paisley ancient madder tie and a richly tailored tweed suit. Oh! And always wear well kept, fine quality, conservative footwear. The ladies will notice.

    But also dress to be yourself. This guy dressed like a cross between Johnny Cash and Buffalo Bob, and he didn't do too badly -


    I remember he was taken to the cleaners by Vincent Bugliosi during the Lee Harvey Oswald televised mock trial.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eagle2250 View Post
    I expect my attorney to dress in a manner consistent with the arguably exorbitant hourly rate that he charges me for his service(s). LOL.
    According to a reputable website I visited a couple of weeks ago, in net pay (which, in this case, is 1/2 of gross pay), most attorney's make $60,000 to $180,000 a year and an average of $120,000 a year, for what it's worth.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Flanderian View Post
    AAAC's very own impeccable Roger P. Roger is a distinguished criminal attorney in Ontario Provence, and is, well, impeccable!

    A criminal attorney? Hmmm.

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    I have testified as an expert witness for an attorney who wears a wedding ring in court when a jury is involved. He is single. He told me focus group results indicate women lend more trust and credibility to married men.

    As mentioned above, I think this falls into the can't help you, might hurt you, category.

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    Fit is always the key and well fitting clothing of modest means will always look better than ill fitting clothing from any means. One should look polished but not flashy. French cuffs are fine but the links should be understated. I do suspect that there are regional variations in clothing and the composition of the jury may matter also.
    Last edited by JBierly; July 17th, 2017 at 20:22.

  21. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by FLMike View Post
    A criminal attorney? Hmmm.
    That is my understanding, though I may be mistaken.

    I see nothing odd in practicing this profession. Of itself, it's both necessary and honorable within the legal system.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FLMike View Post
    A criminal attorney? Hmmm.
    Quote Originally Posted by Flanderian View Post
    That is my understanding, though I may be mistaken.

    I see nothing odd in practicing this profession. Of itself, it's both necessary and honorable within the legal system.
    If the wording was: "A distinguished attorney who specialized in criminal cases..." it is more clear to explain RogerP's specialty. "A criminal attorney?" It sounds like Tom Hagen in The Godfather: an attorney who works for criminals...

  23. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by SG_67 View Post
    I remember he was taken to the cleaners by Vincent Bugliosi during the Lee Harvey Oswald televised mock trial.
    But he never lost a case!

    How can we discuss attorneys and sartorial issues and not mention the greatest of them all, Fast Eddie!

    Eddie Hayes, attorney for mobsters and politicians (There's a difference?) and the just plain famous. Used by Tom Wolfe for his character Tommy Killian in The Bonfire of the Vanities. Attorney to Andy Warhol and rock legends' daughters. He is just flat out flamboyant, but for him, it works.

    I strongly recommend his excellent autobiography, Mouthpiece.

    Young Eddie -





    Not so young Eddie -



  24. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Searching_Best_Fit View Post
    If the wording was: "A distinguished attorney who specialized in criminal cases..." it is more clear to explain RogerP's specialty. "A criminal attorney?" It sounds like Tom Hagen in The Godfather: an attorney who works for criminals...
    I'm sure terms differ in different locals, but over many, many years it's the one I've most commonly heard used to describe the profession. Similarly, the nature of the practice is typically referred to as criminal law, in no way implying the attorney is using crime as a tool of law. (Though you've got some who have been found to have done so, such as Bruce Cutler.)

    And over many years I've had attorneys first as customers and then clients.

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    You definitely want to be well dressed as an attorney in the Bay Area, one of the wealthiest regions in the country. A Brooks Brothers suit, good shoes, conservative shirt and tie, along with cuff links is perfect for an attorney here. People expect attorneys to be financially successful. Besides, if you look sharp, you must be sharp.

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    I am a trial lawyer.

    1. Rule 1 is be yourself. If you are comfortable wearing a silk pocket square or a white hanky, then wear them. If you are comfortable with French cuffs, then wear them. If you are bow tie wearer, wear one. Be comfortable and self-assured in your appearance.

    2. Even while observing Rule 1, be aware of your audience. A Dupioni silk suit will not go over well in a middle class venue in the suburbs, As for a rural county, forget it. Save the silk suit for other venues. (BTW, I wear silk suits, but know when and where to wear them.) A David Webb cufflink covered in diamonds or other stones could be too flashy. On the other hand, dressing as a pauper in Manhattan will come-off phony. Similarly, dressing in a rumpled linen or seersucker suit in New York while trying to imitate Atticus Finch will be phony. BTW, silver cufflinks are not flashy.

    3. Be neat, clean, conservative, and well-tailored in garments that fit you. You are judged by your appearance. You are better served in not looking too "spruce". In other words, your clothes should have a patina of age. Your clothes should be broken-in.

    4. On a final note, I worked for a pretty successful insurance defense attorney who had a low key manner and was very cheap when it came clothes. He used to buy at Syms. He criticized a much more successful plaintiffs' attorney as being unable to relate to a suburban-rural jury in Maryland where my employer had a pending case. The more successful attorney liked suits and jewelry that were a bit on the flashy side. (E.g., Brioni suits, cufflinks, expensive ties and shoes, etc.) However, my employer was speaking out of jealousy. The more successful attorney had no need to schlep to Maryland. He was able to make his fortune without leaving the City and without having to pretend to be a "down home guy".

    Good luck.
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