What to Wear to Court

Philip Thomas over at his Mississippi Litigation Review and Commentary has this post on what your lawyer should wear to court.    I’ve been contemplating writing a post on what YOU should wear to court, because I go over it with every client, and so here it is:

“Don’t come to court looking like you just climbed down from the tree stand, or just rolled in from the rap concert.”  That used to be all I had to say on the matter, and it hasn’t failed me yet.  But I must say that I have actually seen someone – NOT MY CLIENT – show up and plead “not guilty” to a possession of marijuana charge with a T-shirt that had a big marijuana leaf emblazoned on it.  And so my advice on grooming and appearance has somewhat evolved through the years.

If you hire me to represent you, shortly before we get to court we will have a brief, but necessary talk about your appearance.  Anything can happen during a trial, and so it is important to control as much as we possibly can before we get in there.  One of those things is the way you look.  In addition, don’t think that the jury is not watching everything you do, and what you have on, and so a little effort in this area is important.  You only get a few seconds to make an impression on someone, so choose what you wear wisely. 

  • Dress respectfully – This shows the judge, the jury, and everyone at the courthouse that you have respect for the court, respect for the process, and that you are taking it seriously.
  • Dress to disappear – No, don’t wear camoflage.  What I mean by this is that your clothes shouldn’t distract anyone.  Chose dull colors over bright, and clothes that fit, rather than are too tight or loose.  Let me wear the colorful tie.  You just wear something nice.  For ladies – and I do not mean any disrespect by this – if you ever dressed to attract someone’s attention, now is not the time.  Please don’t make me have to elaborate on that any further.
  • Do not stink – Tone down the aftershave, perfume, etc.  Brush your teeth, have a mint, and I’m counting on you to tell me if my breath stinks as well.
  • Some rules – Most bailiffs in Mississippi will make you tuck your shirttail in, and remove your hat.  Leave your cell phone in the car, as most courts will only allow lawyers in with their phones, and some don’t even allow that.  If you do make it in with your phone, CUT IT OFF.  I have witnessed more than one judge instruct the bailiff to take up a phone and give it back only after a $200.00 fine is paid.

As most of my clients can attest, when you come to see me in my office I will probably be in blue jeans, if I don’t have court that day.  I would practice law in shorts and a sweatshirt if I could get away with it.  But it is game time when we get to court, and like Philip’s post recommends you will see me dressed up when we get to the courthouse.  You don’t necessarily have to wear your Sunday best, but I highly recommend that you pay attention to your appearance when we get to court.  Respect the process, and the process will respect you.