Dressing For Success Is Challenging in Hot, Steamy Weather

If you live anywhere on the East Coast, you know that the weather is just darned hot these days.  I had a lunch meeting today and nearly collapsed of heat stroke walking between the parking lot and the restaurant.  It got me thinking about all of you and the challenge to dressing professionally for young women lawyers—especially in this hot, steamy weather.

If you read my book, Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law, you know that this is a serious subject.  Too many young women professionals are compromising their dress to their desires for comfort or their desires to play up the “sexy” side.  There is a difference between feminine and sexy, and I am quite sure that you know where that line gets drawn.  If you passed Federal Income Tax and Secured Transactions, this should not be too difficult to figure out.  In case it is not obvious, take advice from the Seventh Circuit judges at a judicial conference in  2009 where they “groused” on the inappropriateness of thigh length skirts and plunging necklines in the courtroom.

This type of dress is not appropriate in the office and sends the wrong signals.  You want your colleagues and your clients to treat you like a professional, and you must dress like one and act like one.  Off-color jokes are not appropriate in the office, so why would clothing that is reminiscent of nightclub attire?

The Seventh Circuit judges also commented about attire that is too casual for the courtroom.  Should anyone have to be told that sweatsuits are not on the appropriate list????  Apparently so.  Flipflops also are not on the list, but we still hear of summer associates showing up at Big Law in shorts and flipflops on casual Friday.  Casual does not mean beach attire, and it is a really good idea to check the rule book for what casual means in your firm before experimenting.  It could be a real career changer to get called to a client meeting at the last minute without backup appropriate attire.  And, who wants to carry a suitcase to the office with various clothing choices to cover all odds?  Not worth it.  Just dress appropriately from the get-go, and you will have no problems.  To paraphrase the judges of the Seventh Circuit, dress as a serious person who takes her profession seriously.

Back to the weather and its influence on your clothing choices.  Yes, it may be 95% outside, but no, you are not expected to wear stockings—aka panty hose.  Even First Lady Michelle Obama knows that you can be taken very seriously as a woman professional without donning pantyhose.  (Here’s her confession on The View before a nationwide television audience.)  And about those signals you are sending….the signal may be that you are “hot” from the high temperatures, but make sure that the signal is not that you are “hot” sexually.  It might be fun, but it is highly inappropriate and you will regret it.

However, when the mercury climbs, it is a tad more complicated than that because the weather outside may be 20 degrees hotter than the inside office temperature.  Layer, layer, layer is the key.  The jacket or little cardigan can be ditched in the miserable subway and on the walk over sizzling concrete to the office, but it will come in handy for the supercharged AC that most law firms demand—even though cost-cutting should be on their minds these days.

And finally, what about exposed arms?  Although there seems to be some debate on this, I think that sleeveless can be very professional.  Again, check out the sleeveless shifts that the First Lady favors.  And, if you had her arms, why not!  However, at least one law firm banned sleeveless attire last summer when in the presence of clients, so beware of the dinosaurs that still roam the earth.

So, no pantyhose required, sleeveless can be professional, layer, layer, layer and apply a generous dosage of common sense.  That’s what should be in your summer survival kit.






Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law Students, Pre-law, Uncategorized, Young Lawyer | 32 Comments

Thought For the Day–Honor a Veteran

Today is Memorial Day, and I hope that you all will take a moment to thank someone who served or is serving in our Armed Forces.  I don’t really have to go far out of my way to do that.  My husband served during the Vietnam Conflict, and my father served during WWII.  This was honorable service, but there is a great deal of sacrifice that comes with this honor, and we all need to acknowledge it.  For my father, an Army officer who served in England and Western Europe for almost three years, it was not seeing his firstborn child until that little boy was more than two years old.  For my husband, a marine aviator for who served for more than six years, it was being part of an unpopular war and falling far behind his peers in civilian life.  Every veteran has a story very similar to these.

They do their jobs, now let’s do ours by honoring them and thanking them for what they do to protect us and our freedom.

Happy Memorial Day!

Career Counselors, Law Firm Managers, Law School Educators, Law Students, Pre-law, Young Lawyer | Comment

Thought For the Day

If you do not know the answer, don’t say that you do.  Find the answer!

Acting like you know what you clearly do not will lead to trouble in your career.

Uncategorized | Comment

Women in Business—and Law is a Business–Must Learn to Lean In

I promised you more on Sherly Sandberg, and here it is.  I might have mentioned that I admire this woman a lot, and here is more to make you understand why.

Recently, Ms. Sandberg, former COO of Google and current COO of Facebook, delivered the commencement address at Barnard College, the esteemed women’s college at Columbia University.   Her theme was that today’s young women need to close the ambition gap before they can close the achievement gap.  She contends that her generation (and mine, for that matter) has blown it.

She reminded the graduates that they are all privileged on a day when they graduate from college—privileged because the future is full of boundless opportunities.  She asked the graduates to contemplate what in the world needs changing and how they were going to change it.  She also reminded them how lucky they are to be equals with men under the law and then added the sobering fact that the promise of equality is not equality.  The truth is that men still run the world, and she quoted these facts to support her assertion:  Of 190 heads of state, nine are women;  Of all the parliaments around the world, 13% of the seats or parliament are held by women; Of corporate America’s top jobs, 15% are held by women; And of full professors around the United States, only 24% are women.  Even more sobering, these numbers have not changed in nine years.

Sandberg is saddened by the lost opportunities for her generation of women, many who were raised by women who told them they could be anything they wanted to be.  However, thirty years later, women do not have an equal voice about the decisions that affect all of their lives.  So, the only thing that she can do is place her hope in the next generation of women—YOUR generation–to do better—-to change the dynamic, to reshape the conversation and to make sure that women’s voices are” heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored”.  To do this, Sandberg says that you will have to “lean way into your careers.”  Find something that you love doing and do it “with gusto”.  If all young women start to “lean in”, we can close the ambition gap here and now, according to Sandberg.

Sandberg emphasizes the importance of believing in yourself.  She sites studies which show that, when compared to men, women underestimate their performance.  Here it is worth quoting directly.

“If you ask men and women questions about completely objective criteria such as GPA’s or sales goals, men get it wrong
slightly high; women get it wrong slightly low.  More importantly, if you ask men why they succeeded, men attribute that
success to themselves; and women, they attribute it to other facts like working harder, help from others.  Ask a woman why
she did well on something, and she’ll say, “I got lucky.  All of these great people helped me.  I worked really hard.”  Ask
a man and he’ll say or think, “What a dumb question.  I’m awesome.”  So women need to take a page from men and own
their success.”

Sandberg acknowledges her own failures on these issues along the way.  We all have them.  The important thing is that we recognize this and do something about it so that we are not held back by our own bad habits.  According to Sandberg, you must believe in yourself and start acting like you, too, are awesome.  Raise your hand when you have an opinion.  Your opinion is just as important as the guy sitting next to you in your class in law school or at the meeting at the law firm.  Sandberg also acknowledges the external forces that work against women, things like a positive correlation between power and success and likeability for men as compared to a negative correlation for women.  You all know that old saw.  However, Sandberg says the way through that is to put your head down and just keep on working.

She wants you to think big and to own your successes.  She understands the work-life struggle and the compromises that you will have to make.  She gets very practical in suggesting, as I do in my book, that who you choose as your life partner makes a real difference.  If you choose the person who supports your career and the burdens and successes of your personal life, you will have a greater opportunity to go further and change the world into what we need it to be.  She also recognizes that jumping into the work force and rising to the top is not the only way to make a difference.  However, she also believes that, if you pick the right job—a job that is compelling– you are going to be far less inclined to walk away from it.  Something that stirs your passion may be worth the rat race.  She states, “If you want to make a difference, you better think big and dream big, right from day one.”

This is all great food for thought, and I discuss these same concepts, as they specifically relate to women lawyers, in Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law.

Sandberg closes by encouraging the new Barnard graduates to “aim high”—something that you know I want for all of you.  She reminds them that the world needs them in positions of leadership—-women throughout the world need them in positions of leadership.  She asks them to ask themselves the question, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?”

The answer is in each and every one of you.

For the full text of Sheryl Sandberg’s  speech, see www.businessinsider.com/facebook-coo-sandberg.

Career Counselors, Law School Educators, Law Students, Pre-law, Uncategorized, Young Lawyer | Comment

Thought For the Day—Doing the Right Thing

Have the confidence to do the right thing.  You never will regret it.

Career Counselors, Law School Educators, Law Students, Pre-law, Uncategorized, Young Lawyer | Comment

Young Women Lawyers—Do Not Leave Before You Leave

I hope that you all are familiar with Sheryl Sandberg, former COO of Google and the current COO of Facebook.  She also is the mother of two preschoolers, and she has identified an interesting concept that I include in my speeches to young women lawyers.  Although Ms. Sandberg is not a lawyer, the concepts that she discusses with young women in business are equally as pertinent to all young women in the law, especially those who are involved in the work-life struggle.

Her concept of “Leaving Before You Leave” is discussed in this video,  http://thecareerist.typepad.com/thecareerist/2011/01/facebook-coo.html, where Ms. Sandberg speaks to a group of women about advancing in business. It is one of the most valuable resources that I can recommend to you.  Check it out!

As you will see and hear from the video, Ms. Sandberg is very concerned about the future of young women in business.  She sees fewer women than she would like on the path to the corner office, and she provides good, sound advice to increase those numbers.  In that respect, she and I are very much on the same page in encouraging all of you to have a plan that works for you and keeps you in the game, in one way or another.  That will result in more women in positions of power and decision making on policy issues that are so important to the future of women in business and law.  That result depends on YOU YOUNG WOMEN AS THE KEY TO SOLVING THE PROBLEM.  You can control the outcome and do not have to leave decisions about your professional futures to others with separate agendas.  Women have the ability, through careful planning and good personal and professional choices, to have satisfying and successful careers.
Here is my personal take on the subject of “Leaving Before You Leave” as it relates to all of you.


Career Counselors, Law Students, Pre-law, Uncategorized, Young Lawyer | Comment

Thought For the Day–There are Gray Areas to Winning and Losing

When is a loss not a loss?  When it teaches you a valuable lesson.

Winning is not everything—no matter what Vince Lombardi said!

Have a great day!

Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Thought For the Day—Balance is Important

Do something fun at least once a week—whether you think you need it or not!

We all need balance in our lives.  Make your weekend count!

Uncategorized | Comment