Gideon Strumpet wrote:
sgtgrumbles wrote:Can anyone chime in on what's necessary for the wardrobe of a public interest student generally?
On the job, you will see staff attorneys at (some) legal aid and public defender offices slouching around in jeans and sandals. You may also see interns do it. You might not hear anyone say anything about it, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea. Those attorneys wearing jeans and sandals already have jobs. You do not. Assuming you want to work
in public interest, and you're not just backfilling 1L summer or doing pro-bono on the side, your summer internship is a three month job interview. Treat it like one.
The baseline rule here is: the lower your status, the more formal your dress. If you dress as casually as the staff attorneys you work with, then you're sending the message that you think you're equal to them. You're not. Also, nobody will ding you for over dressing; but some people will ding you for under dressing.
Often the people who will ding you for being a slob are the same people who themselves come to work every day in swim trunks and sandals. It's a status thing; they perceive you (correctly) as a dolt, because you assumed the privileges of a status that you do not have.Bottom line is, it's always safe to over dress. Wearing a suit every day is not going to cost you points at any firm, nonprofit or otherwise.
Wearing a shirt and tie in a business casual office is not going to be a problem. If a senior attorney tells you directly that you should dial it back, then obviously listen to them; but you're not going to lose any points with them because they told you to dress down. You will lose points if someone has to tell you to dress up
(though it's unlikely anyone will actually tell you this; they'll just write you off as being an idiot as well as a slob).
I just wanted to point out that on the West Coast, the bolded does not necessarily apply-you can
alienate an office by overdressing. I did a year at SF's civil legal services agency, and for the first week, I wore slacks, dress shoes, an informal wool jacket (the kind with the professor patches on the elbows) and a dress shirt. I'd usually come in wearing a tie but lose it halfway through the day. After a week, one of the head attorneys, a brilliant woman from HLS, came to me and said, "Why are you wearing a suit everyday? You really
don't need to." Of course, the irony is that it wasn't even a suit. The clear implication is that it was odd for me to dress that way.
Prior to working there, I had an interview at the Berkeley nonprofit that is conducting the extremely large Wal-Mart class action suit that recently came before the Supreme Court. It was my first West Coast interview after moving back to Cali from DC. I wore my full interview suit to the interview with the head attorney, who wore jean shorts and a t-shirt. His first reaction to me was to wrinkle his nose and say, "Who told you you had to wear a suit?" I said that wearing a suit showed how seriously I took this opportunity, but it was clearly strange for me to have done so in his eyes. I didn't get the job, although I thought the rest of the interview went well.
In contrast, I wore a suit my interview for a job at a marijuana legalization lobby in DC, and that was expected of me. The East Coast/West Coast dress culture is very, very different.