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‘Abysmal’ Associate Attire Leads to Fashion Counseling

Posted Jan 31, 2008 8:05 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The generational divide is playing out in law firm fashion wars, with younger lawyers favoring business casual and even yoga pants and older lawyers tending to wear more traditional business attire.

Some associates are resisting suggestions to improve their attire, with career ramifications, the Wall Street Journal reports. Other firms are taking steps to teach their associates about dressing well.

Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft reportedly sent a note to employees asking them to change out of their snow boots after some associates wore their Ugg boots all day long, according to the story. Winston & Strawn went further, inviting a personal shopper to talk to associates about dressing for work and an etiquette counselor to talk about grooming as well as the rules of social interaction.

Sixty-year-old Winston & Strawn managing partner Tom Mills told the newspaper he favors Brioni suits and just can’t understand why some associates making $160,000 a year show up in jeans. "I share the lament and disgust about the general level of associates' attire," he told the newspaper. “I think it's abysmal."

Renee Brissette, a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, told the newspaper that her law firm passed over a brilliant associate for a plum assignment because he had refused suggestions to improve his attire. Instead the job went to someone who was more professional looking. Brissette told the newspaper she wears Nanette Lepore suits, described as “unmistakably feminine without being inappropriately flirty.”

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