More Changes in Private Practice: The Dress Code

In addition to the changes in remote practice of law, office protocol has also evolved in private
practice. Formality was the rigid name of the game when I started practicing in the 1980s, an
an impermeable and structured regimen that governed office attire, answering the telephone, attending
intraoffice and client meetings – in short, everything.

In those days, I was discouraged from wearing trousers or pantsuits except on the rare “casual day,” the only one of which I recall was Christmas Eve. On that one day, the office was full and busy; the only discernible anomaly was that some of the male lawyers had shed their ties and some of the women lawyers wore trousers. On how many levels is our current culture at odds with what I have described? For starters, it was Christmas Eve and nearly everyone was working; it was a given that the day was not important enough to alter work life. Even at the time, I thought this was a bit much. And millennials are horrified by such reminiscences about the dress code, justifiably so. Wall Street bankers may have been taken aback by the appearance of a notable entrepreneur at a meeting in a hoody, an act that epitomizes the revolt of a younger generation against norms developed and honed by older generations. The shock waves of this revolution seem to have dissipated; immutable dress codes have been replaced with a more sensible approach to the business of advising clients.

Casual is no longer a professional transgression. I think that is a welcome change.