- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 12, 2002

Are their suits unsuitable and ties untidy? Perhaps.
The sartorial demeanor of Britain's well-heeled barristers came under close scrutiny last week. The London-based Law Society has told their highest-profile soliciters to rid their wardrobe of pinstripes and polka dots.
They might be alarming the public.
"You should choose carefully what you are going to wear and keep your clothes simple and businesslike," the organization said in an advisory memo to 300 members who act as spokesmen or make media appearances.
"Avoid loud ties, pinstripes and polka dots, or anything that could distract the viewer," the memo continued, noting that the public decides "immediately if you look professional or trustworthy."
In addition, the British lawyers were told to check themselves for dandruff, wear makeup if necessary and be sure to get their law firm's logo in the camera shot, as long as it is a "positive story."
Do American lawyers get similiar hand-holding? "I can dress myself, thank you," said one District lawyer, who noted that most of his suits were well-cut, muted in color and priced in the $1,200 range. "I'm really careful about ties, too," he added. "You'd be surprised. People read you by your ties and your shoes."
Professional organizations on these shores are steering clear of advising on fashion sins.
"We have no official wardrobe recommendations, no policies, no guidelines, no memos on wardrobe for our membership," said Lori Boguslawski of the Chicago-based American Bar Association (ABA).
"Advice on clothes? We don't do anything like that. No policies or guides or anything," said Carlton Carl of the American Trial Lawyers Association in the District.
Perhaps some lawyers could use an image reinvention, though.
Americans see their lawyers as "greedy, manipulative and corrupt," according to an ABA survey released April 26. They fail to communicate clearly and are trusted by only 19 percent of the respondents, according to the survey of 750 households in five cities. Only the media rated worse, the ABA advised trusted by 16 percent.
Meanwhile, the American legal profession seems to be policing itself, at least in the fashion arena.
Lawyers are abandoning "business-casual" the practice of wearing khakis rather than worsted in the name of hip progress, not to mention select high-tech clients who favored the laid-back approach.
The trend boomed about two years ago, when companies such as Land's End and Brooks Brothers offered business-casual fashion shows, seminars and clothing catalogs. ABC's "Good Morning America" sponsored a lawyer makeover, featuring a 29-year-old woman who claimed she wanted to "dress with attitude and look less conventional."
The attending fashion advisers put her in a black leather skirt and silver beads. Time has marched on.
"The business-casual backlash has begun," writes Dallas lawyer Kathleen Wu in Texas Lawyer. "Lawyers are paid a lot of money to inspire confidence, and it's hard to do that when you look like a creature from a Gap ad."
Morgan, Lewis and Bockius, a Philadelphia law firm, issued its own edict, warning employees it would repeal the "biz cas" policy unless "people dress in a more businesslike manner."
A Canadian judge drew the line on a different fashion issue. Ontario Court Justice Micheline Rawlins refused to hear one lady lawyer's case March 26 until the woman changed out of her low-cut blouse.
"They don't have to look at my cleavage," Judge Rawlins said. "I shouldn't have to look at theirs."


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