Do you have the right suit for your suit?
Any trial lawyer knows that there is no substitution for hard work, experience, and preparation. This is true for criminal defense, auto accidents, or medical malpractice. Records are reviewed, depositions are outlined, and witnesses are prepped before any trial. No trial lawyer in Florida worth their salt ever forgets to answer this critical question – what do I wear to trial?!?!
For what is arguably a trivial concern, over the course of the last fifteen years as a trial lawyer in Gainesville, Florida, I have heard lawyers, judges, and law professors offer a variety of insights on this matter.
“Never wear a black suit.”
“The wider the pinstripe, the better.”
“You need to wear a grey suit.”
“You need to wear a brown suit during jury selection.”
“That blue suit is too . . . blue.”
These are real quotes that I’ve heard over the years. My experience has been that there is no perfect suit or outfit for every possible juror. It is true that a light brown suit may make a person seem more approachable and down to earth, but I’ve heard my fair share of people say that they expect to see lawyers in dark blue and grey suits.
I have been an adjunct instructor at the University of Florida College of Law for the last twelve years, working with the Mock Trial Team. Here are some basics that I have used with my students over the years:
- Do not let anything about your clothing or accessories become the show’s star. This is true for your suit, your shirt, your tie, your shoes, your watch, your jewelry, and even your electronics. Could you imagine how annoyed some jurors might be if they saw you chilling during the trial with the supersized iPad Pro? Maybe stick with a laptop and a plain old legal notepad.
- I recommend solid shirts for lawyers on trial days, and there isn’t any reason to vary from the basics. Your shirt should be blue or white. That’s fairly simple. Don’t get me wrong; I am a big fan of the red shirt, the grey shirt, and even the black button-up on Fridays when there isn’t court. But save those for case management conferences and hearings that are not in front of a jury.
- Men, keep the ties simple. I’m a big fan of solid colors or plain strips. No reason to break out the psychedelic ties for a jury trial. Again, save those for less formal court appearances.
I also give my clients who are preparing for serious court events this basic advice. I do that because I suspect that everyone is forming subconscious opinions about people based on their initial appearance.
Imagine if you saw two people approaching the podium to have their criminal defense case heard. The first person was wearing a grey suit, white button-up shirt, and red tie with a matching belt and dress shoes. The second person had on jeans and a legalize pot shirt. (NOT MY CLIENT BY THE WAY, although it was a real case).
Now, a justifiable First Amendment discussion can be had about this shirt. That isn’t the point of this article. My point is this – if you are in court and want to avoid the trials and tribulations that dressing like this will bring – go get the grey suit.
Having the right outfit is a part of being a trial lawyer or a person involved in the legal system. At Glassman & Zissimopulos Law, thinking about these sorts of issues and every other thing that could help or hurt our clients who have been injured in accidents or accused of a crime is part of what we do every day. No court for me tomorrow means I get to wear fun shoes!