What to Wear to Law School

How to Build a Wardrobe for Law School | CorporetteWhat clothes should you add to your wardrobe before you attend law school?  Reader N has a great question:

I am in my mid-twenties and will be starting law school this fall. I’ve spent my time since undergrad traveling (living out of a backpack) and working with kids (only wearing clothes that could get messy).

I’ve set aside some money to buy a new wardrobe for law school, but am looking for advice on what I should invest in that will be part of my wardrobe over the next three years. The school I’m going to is in a city that has a long, cold winter, and the sense I get is that the school generally has a preppy vibe. Any advice?

Good luck to Reader N!  I’m one of those people who enjoyed law school more than the practice of law so I think fondly of my years there — they were intense but fun.* We’ve talked about which bags are great for law school (way back in 2008!) but we haven’t actually talked about what to wear to law school.  I think this is a great question, and mid-July is a perfect time to think about it. Where I went (Georgetown ’03) people wore everything from business suits to sweatpants — one professor actually gave us a list of tips during our 1L finals week that included tips like “don’t forget to bathe.” So “laid back” can be an understatement, and I suspect a lot of your wardrobe will already work just fine for the classes themselves.

So instead, let’s look at what clothes you will definitely need for job hunting and networking, and focus on that instead.

Suiting separates. A blazer, suiting pants, a sheath dress and/or skirt are all pieces you should have in your wardrobe for interviews and networking events (anything that doesn’t specify “business casual”). Make sure you dryclean the suit pieces together, but note that you can break those pieces up and wear them to class as well — a suiting pencil skirt can be worn with a sweater, tights, and knee-high boots; a blazer can be worn with jeans.

– A warm winter coat to wear over a suit.

– A new bra or two.  Hey, even if you’re wearing the most casual clothes a new bra (that fits you properly) will instantly make you feel and look a zillion times better. (Readers have discussed their favorite lingerie brands in the past.)

Business casual clothes such as:

– Versatile workwear accessories, such as:

– Layering pieces that also work for a business environment

For my money, I would NOT spend a big portion of the budget on items that often make our don’t wear to work lists, unless you already know that you’ll wear them a TON in your personal time and are A-OK if they never see the light of a networking event:

  • sandals
  • peep toes
  • knee high boots
  • designer jeans (although I fully acknowledge that this may fall under the “I’m going to wear them so often that I don’t care” category)
  • anything with cleavage
  • anything sheer
  • shorts
  • mini-skirts

Finally, I have a few thoughts on bags.  Back in 2008, I thought the best bags for law school would be those big enough to contain “a cute laptop sleeve,” a cosmetics case/wristlet for personal items like lip gloss, another small bag to house your laptop cords, and a bag large enough to hold all the law school textbooks, leading me to recommend large nylon bags (and even suggesting that folks look at diaper bags).  My point being: a good bookbag for school is different than a good interview bag, which should in theory be a lot smaller and sleeker.  That said, I’m curious to hear from readers who’ve been to law school more recently.  Have e-books completely obliterated the need to carry fifteen pounds of books with you at any given time?  Are people taking notes on iPads and other super lightweight devices (or using things like bluetooth keyboards to keep notes on iPhones)?  (I think my laptop in law school was just under 10 pounds, which was good for the era.  My newer netbook is under 3 pounds, though, and while I know that everyone pokes fun at netbooks, I still love mine and would heartily recommend it for anyone who just wants to type on a regular keyboard and have a full Office/Internet suite available to you, and has another more powerful desktop or laptop back at your home base.)

Readers, what are your thoughts on what to buy for law school in terms of wardrobe — and a perfect book bag?  Do you have any other tips for hacking law school that you’d like to share?

(For my $.02, I do still recommend Planet Law School, and possibly getting one of Glannon’s guides to start reading over the summer for a class you know you’re taking first semester, such as torts or civil procedure— they’re very conversational and easy to read, but will help you prepare your mind for law school.)

* Upon finding the picture above I actually exclaimed, “AWW, the Bluebook!” Pictured: Law School Textbooks, originally uploaded to Flickr by jessemichaelnix.


  1. In home massage? :

    Sorry for the immediate TJ-

    What is a reasonable price for an in-home massage service? I’ve never gotten one before and the prices seem to be negotiable. Also, any recs for this type of service in NoVa?


    • generally speaking the hourly rate for in-home massage appears to be the therapist’s regular hourly rate plus an increment for travel. For instance, my normal MT charges $110 for an hour and a $20 surcharge to come to our house – if my husband and I both get massages it’s just the one surcharge for the trip, not per person. I have had therapists charge as much as $150 for an hour and as little as $80, this is suburban NYC.

    • WriterKate :

      I have had great experiences with Rebecca Wolfinger. I see a physical therapist regularly for an ongoing issue and she recommended Rebecca. If you do a Google search, her website will come up.

    • AnonymousNoVA :

      This is not in-home, but for anyone looking for a less-expensive massage in NoVA, I go to the National Massage Therapy Institute. It’s a massage school in Falls Church that charges only $35. The guarantee that the students have studied anatomy is a huge plus for me.

  2. wear whatever you
    want while you still can because
    lawyer clothes are dull.

    • Anonymous :

      This is the truth. The legal rainbow in very formal offices for major pieces is as follows: black, blue, gray, nude/tan, white, ivory.

      Wear all the colours and crazy clothes now. Dye your hair, cut it weird, get piercings, paint your fingers all different colours, do it all now while you can.

      • disgruntled anon :

        Politely disagree. As a recent grad who took the “be yourself, be free!” message to heart, LAW SCHOOL IS ROUGH IF YOUR PEERS/PROFS DON’T TAKE YOU SERIOUSLY. (Sorry for the allcaps, but deserved.) Very easy to say that your ideas will overcome your appearance. Hard truth is, often they don’t, or not for a while. And this matters, because your peers will be your network (near- and long-term) and your profs are your constant evaluators. Don’t be that person whom nobody takes seriously until they publish a brilliant paper in 3L year–the accompanying trouble developing faculty relationships, student leadership positions, etc. is just not worth it.

        Things law people don’t judge against in everyday wear: casualness, sloppyness, colorblindness. (Though if you’re going to office hours to talk paper, maybe no sweatpants.)

        Things law people do judge against: overly fashionable/trendy, non-age-appropriate (interpret as you will), general skankiness (no, always no). Anything that can be really clearly defined by a 90s high school clique (excepting Prep). Anything that suggests “crazy” (e.g., blue hair).

        With all that said, I do agree it’s too early for corporate armor; that will only get you branded as a gunnerdouche. You are of course free to do all these things; law school won’t fire you like a law firm could. It’s just that there’s always consequences to freedom which people tend to gloss over.

    • I agree with the content of this and appreciate the form.

    • Agreed. I guess it depends on where you are going to school, but at my university everyone just wore jeans/regular casual clothes. Enjoy it.

      • brilliant :

        I was wondering why one would need to build a wardrobe for law school.

    • this

    • yup. that and even if you can go business casual, it gets monotonous quickly

    • Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler :

      C*rp*rette haiku FTW!

  3. I’m going to disagree on the knee-high boots. In cold weather, knee-high boots can be a lifesaver by adding an extra layer to your legs (especially when wearing skirts or dresses). Depending on the school and the employers, they might even work at an informal networking event (e.g., happy hour hosted by a club). In a biz-casual law firm, I wear my knee-high boots to work with skirts and dresses in the winter when I don’t have formal client meetings.

    • +1. Knee high boots are ok in many business casual offices. I went to law school in New England (graduated a few years ago) and jeans tucked into flat knee high boots were basically the uniform from October-April. I think one pair would definitely be a good investment.

      • Boston 2L :

        Agreed. I attend law school in Boston currently. I would say that boots (especially knee high) are basically the uniform.

    • +2

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      I love my knee high boots. Over the knee boots I could see as being more questionable. But I agree that the New England fall wardrobe is North Face fleece, dark skinny jeans, and flat knee high boots.

    • If you live in a cold enough place (ie Chicago), knee high boots seem to have become appropriate footwear, even for interviews requiring business formal wear. It’s function, more than anything.

      • I will confirm that I wore knee high boots to an interview last Spring in Chicago. However, they were sleek high heeled boots (Cole Hann) and they were under my suit pants. Other boots that wouldn’t fit under pants (such as a pair of flat heeled Merrells I own) may look a bit casual with suit pants or a suit skirt at an interview, but if it is really cold and snowy your interviewer could possibly let that slide…

      • Even if they aren’t appropriate for your future office, I can attest that there is no.way.whatsoever to survive Chicago (or similarly cold places – Boston I think too) winters without knee high boots. Do you intend to wear snowboots and then change into regular shoes every time you go to class, restaurant, a bar, your friend’s place? If not….then waterproofed leather (or similar material) boots are a must.

        Note – don’t get suede. Rock salt stains suede.

        • +1 on the knee high boots especially since she really does still have 3 years left. If she wears them a lot that might be the extent of their life span anyway

          Bags: I recommend the Modalu Pippa as interview and first work bag and the Knomo Riley tote or Lo and Sons OMG bag as book bags.

          Laptop: I love my surface pro because its small but packs a real keyboard and real pc functions. It still has a few bugs but thats nothing too major and normal for first adopter items. I think samsung is bringing out smth similar soon.

  4. Thread jack –

    How do you refocus yourself when you’re extremely distracted at work? Just not in a focussing mood today, but I need to be!!! Routine, alone, computer work

    • Techno.

    • Try the Pomodoro technique. There are smartphone apps for it, but you can do it with a normal timer. 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes of play (to reward yourself for the work). Every 4 times, the break is half an hour.

      And if you find yourself on facebook, etc, use a browser plug in that will only let you access whitelisted sites while it is activated

    • Do a half hour to an hour of work and then break for 15 minutes. Tell yourself that you just need to focus for half an hour and can “play” soon. At least you’ll get something done rather than nothing.

  5. Rising 3L here – E books have had very very little impact on my law school career. I own a kindle fire and love it, but even in cases where I CAN get a textbook on my kindle (not all of them are available), it doesn’t mean I want to. I’d much rather have the old fashioned paper books and be able to highlight/mark up in that fashion. I’d find my kindle to be too distracting and i associate it more with fun and relaxing time rather than reading cases time (I mean, hungry shark vs. federal income taxation…not even a question, honestly.) So in considering your bag, I’d say unless you are SUPER tech savvy and not as easily distracted as I am, don’t fool yourself into thinking you won’t need to carry gianourmous books around, but you’ll probably have a locker (find that out before hand), so it’s not like you’ll need a wheelly suitcase or something.

    • Another 2L :

      Ditto. While I know a lot of people who take notes on their iPads (and even more who take notes on MacBook Airs, which are super light), I don’t know of anyone who uses e-textbooks. People either buy a hard copy or scan the library reserve copy (not something I would recommend, for various reasons!). You absolutely will be lugging around a lot of stuff.
      I would recommend a backpack. This is not a situation where you need to impress people by looking polished, and it’s not worth the stress to your back to carry your super heavy books in a shoulder bag. Save that for when you need to be professional.

      • Another THREE L :

        Ha, I’m actually a 3L. Clearly I am subconsciously in denial about that.

      • Graduated 3L :

        I definitely recommend a backpack unless you do all your studying at school and keep all your books at school. I tried to carry a cute, work-appropriate bag, which turned into a giant tote, which finally gave way to one of those ugly backpacks with padded straps and cushioning.

        My lower back, neck and leg pain magically reduced once I started carrying a proper backpack instead of the cute tote bags :)

        • I agree with this, and I never found the school-provided lockers to be very helpful, as they were located in the basement far away from all my classrooms, so I would have had to go up and down several flights of stairs between classes if I wanted to use them between classes. It was helpful to have a place to keep my gym bag or lock up my laptop and books when I wanted to hit the bars right after class on Fridays though.

    • Boston 2L :

      Agreed. I used my locker more than most and still ended up lugging a heavy load back and forth last year. I found a couple of great bags (I prefer one of the black Swiss Army ones – I’ll post the link later if I can find it) on eBags, which I recommend – great quality, price, and warranty (especially on their own brand of bags).

      I would leave as many books as possible in my locker (including my binder on nights that I could, which were not often) in addition to my second laptop and cell phone charger. I’d keep some extra papers and the barbri, themis, etc. review books (they give them out during the year). I usually would be bringing one or two casebooks (which doesn’t sound like much, but they are heavy), maybe a supplement book (tiny), my binder, and my laptop in addition to the regular backpack stuff (pens, medicine, etc.). Especially for those days when you are carrying three or four casebooks, the backpack is the best bet. Another thing I do is keep a pair of nice shoes that go with everything (flats or ankle boots, for instance) in my locker along with a large bag. That way, when I wear my boots to school, I don’t have to bring shoes in my bag. The large plastic bag is to put the wet boots in without ruining your stuff.

      I know some classmates who did the multiple bags thing. One of the bags was usually a backpack, so I don’t know why. I also had classmates with rolling bags (which I think are probably more of a pain with stairs and Boston weather (rain and snow), but to each their own). Essentially, whatever makes it easiest/lightest for you is the way to go, because nobody really notices after the first day (if then).

    • Rising 2L :

      I definitely agree with the suggestion of using a backpack or messenger bag. My books are still really heavy, so even though I use a Macbook Air, I still need a real book bag to carry it all. I kind of cringe when I see classmates carrying a laptop bag, a book bag, and a purse or lunch bag. Way easier just to use one bag for everything. Of course I bought a nice tote for interviews or networking events.

    • I used to take my textbooks to one of the many printers in town and have them cut the covers off and re-bound in 2-3 volumes and I just carried what they needed. I want to say it was less than $50 or so and instead of 4 textbooks, you’re carrying he equivalent of four thick magazines.

      • Young Associate :

        I also had my textbooks cut, but I had holes drilled in them and put them in a 3-ring binder (Kinkos will do it). Then, I would only carry my readings for the week. It required a little extra time management, but because I had a long commute it was worth it to reduce the weight. I also had friends who did almost all of their studying at school and then left their books in a locker to avoid carrying around the textbooks.

  6. Re the wardrobe for school: You really can wear whatever you want. My school had the whole range. Some girls wore yoga pants everyday and some wore carefully put together preppy outfits. Neither one got a second glance. The only thing that would be inappropriate would be to wear business attire every day. No one does that, and it would definitely get some looks. Just wear whatever is comfortable for you. Some people feel better when they’re wearing nice clothes, so if that helps you perform better, than do it. I did that sometimes. But other days, particularly towards the end of the semester, it was all I could do to put on an old sweatshirt.

    What to wear to job interviews/summer jobs is obviously a totally different can of worms. But you aren’t going to need that stuff until at least the second semester (unless your school is way different than mine was), so I wouldn’t worry about it too much yet. Maybe just have one suit and a couple business casual outfits on hand in case you’re too stressed out at the last minute to go shopping.

    Re the bag: I graduated a year ago, and gigantic textbooks were absolutely still in use. I had some professors use a “coursepack” or a few (mostly for seminars) who would post readings online and have us print them. But I never used an e-textbook. So, I would say you definitely need a bag that can hold some serious books.

    • A propos of Blue’s second paragraph, I got my very first suit in the spring semester of first year law, in order to attend my first articling job fair (which wasn’t even that relevant to first years anyway – it was more of a reconnaissance situation). My friends and I stayed for about an hour and then went for hamburgers. I didn’t need the suit again until the fall semester of second year, when I actually started interviewing for things.

      Which is really just a way of saying: If you are on a limited student budget, get one suit in first year and save the rest of your money for food. :-)

    • Nordies Lover :

      Yes, I would agree with all of this (I graduate ’12).

      I would add that some people at my law school dressed in business clothes every day. Nobody wore a full suit, but a number of men wore button down shirts, nice slacks, and even a tie daily. One woman regularly wore pencil skirts and heels. If that makes you comfortable, great. But honestly, these people had few friends and were sort of out of touch in general. (Not because of their clothes, but their personality. But I think the clothes were a reflection of that.)

    • Boston 2L :

      I agree. I am someone who is more comfortable dressing up a bit, but I ended up almost never wearing business attire – even business casual is a bit out of place. (I still wore what I am comfortable with, just toned it down a little from business.) I would say that whatever you wear daily is fine. I actually found law school less dressy than undergrad (but I think my undergrad dressed a bit more than most).

      I would suggest a few business appropriate dresses/shirts/pants (whatever you prefer) and at least one suit. My law school had business attire events in the fall and many in the spring. Plus, then you aren’t running out to find them before something like an interview during a busy time of year. You will also use these during your 1L summer (job and SO MANY networking events). By 1L summer, I would suggest a second suit. I am currently attending multiple networking/firm/law events a week, and with many of the same people (and not changing between work and an event), you don’t want to be wearing the same suit almost every day.

  7. I just finished law school. Don’t bother buying a wardrobe. Whatever you wear in your off hours is fine – it is just school.

    And don’t go overboard for “networking” clothes. One suit, or a blazer and two bottoms, is fine. Most people I went to school with found they didn’t use their suits more than once or twice!

    • Sydney Bristow :

      I completely agree. I wore jeans and sweatshirts almost every day of law school. It was helpful to have a nice pair of dress pants and a couple of tops to wear for miscellaneous events that don’t require a suit but you want to look nice for. Also get 1 suit at some point during your first year for interviews. Other than that, wear whatever you want!

    • I agree with the wear whatever you want consensus (though do keep in mind that your classmates will be your colleagues one day and maybe leave anything too questionable for outside the classroom/library).

      But I would say that if you have some money set aside, it’s not a bad idea to start building your wardrobe basics now so that when you don’t need to spend a whole lot of money all at once when you actually need them for work. I think Kat’s list is pretty comprehensive. If it were me, I’d probably invest in one suit with multiple pieces (dress, skirt, pants, blazer in navy, black or gray) and a simple pair of low to mid heeled pumps. Of course, do bear in mind, that a lot of what incoming law students think of as “work clothes” are not actually appropriate for work (I know I did) so if you’re going to be spending any substantial amount of money on this, make sure you do your research and go for something really simple and classic that fits properly (i.e., not too tightly).

      And I totally agree on the bags. Get something lightweight with supportive straps. I got a shmancy leather bag that I thought would be my “awesome lawyer bag” and I could barely lift it once I threw in my macbook and even a single text book. I ended up just getting a canvas tote.

      • Anonymous :

        +1 on the bags thing. Also, your bag will probably go on the floor in lecture halls, and the floors are sometimes dirty. Canvas bags are great.

        • Boston 2L :

          sometimes dirty… always dirty… we realized partway through the year that the cleaning crew MIGHT vacuum the easy areas sometimes. the amount of chalk you could see under the chalkboard was disgusting.

    • From someone still paying down law school debt: DO NOT SPEND LOTS OF MONEY RIGHT NOW. Get a suit and decent-looking tote or portfolio for interviews. Live poor now and you may be able to avoid the shackles of Biglaw. :)

  8. big dipper :

    Get a backpack for your every day law school life. I was adamantly against backpacks before law school – I hadn’t used one since middle school. But everyone carries them (at least at my law school) and it’s for a reason – you need to lug heavy stuff around.

    While I had a locker, at night I’d usually bring home my lap top + one textbook + my lunch bag, and that alone required a backpack. Plus, if you’re walking to school or commuting any distance that involves prolonged standing on a subway, a back pack is ideal.

    I have one of the generic North Face ones but you see all kinds. It can be as stylish or as practical as you want, but it’s the most common bag used for daily life in law school.

    • Interesting, at my law school most of the girls used tote bags rather than backpacks. In retrospect, it probably would have made more sense for me to use a backpack, but I never did.

    • 90% of the people at my school use backpacks. Even if you use your locker, you’re going to be toting lots of heavy books to classes and the library. On the random days where I go straight from interviews to class and only carry a tote, my back definitely feels it.
      No one cares if you look cute or professional in your 8AM Torts class. Save your back while you can!

      • “No one cares if you look cute or professional in your 8AM Torts class. ”

        This reminds me of my accountancy training days, when a M-F workweek was anywhere from 40 to 70 hours, and plenty of weekends had all-day lectures starting at 9am.

        Many of the women showed up in full makeup. WHY. Those mornings, cleaning my teeth was the extent of my beauty routine.

    • +1. I didn’t get a proper backpack until my third year because I went to a preppy law school where all the girls carried tote bags (frequently the Longchamp bags). Yes, they’re cute, but a backpack is way more practical. I found law school to be very much like high school in that there were certain high-priced clothing brands that all of the “cool kids” seemed to wear, so if that’s the case and you care about that sort of thing, you should probably disregard Kat’s advice about designer jeans. And if you want to play that game, invest in some Lululemon to wear during finals periods. Other than that, if you’re at a more preppy/polished school, then you should probably be fine as long as you look put-together. Hoodies, sweatpants and pajama bottoms were not the norm at my school, but neither was professional dress.

      • Yes, law school is much like high school in many ways (the lockers, the cliques, the weird preoccupation with status symbols). I agree with most of the previous commenters that there is no need to dress professionally on a daily basis. Have one good quality suit (you can always buy more as you can afford them) and a few things that could be good networking wear (pencil skirt and blouse, nice dress, black dress pants and sweater). Then I would recommend not dressing to excess in any direction. If you wear a suit, people will ask how your interview went. If you wear a wife beater, faded light wash jeans, and drink a can of O’Douls during class, people will remember you for years. If you wear nice jeans and a t-shirt or a cute dress with a chunky necklace, or whatever your style happens to be, you will blend in nicely without breaking the bank.

        • Emerald City Law :

          Jennifer’s comment is awesome.

          Keep in mind that potential employers are all over the place at law schools (especially during on campus interview season). I would rather look like an over-dressed uptight person to my classmates then shake the hand of a potential employer while wearing LuLus.

          I disagree with Kat on the jeans. I think you should invest in designer denim. I tried to dress for law school like I would on a casual Friday at the office – trouser jeans and a great cardi with pumps or skinnys with a tunic sweater and a fun necklace and flats. I ended up at many a surprise meet-up or networking opportunity in those outfits and always felt reasonably appropriate.

    • Sort of a tangent, but if it’s your style, I have nothing but good things to say about LL Bean’s leather/canvas hiking style “knapsack” (I’d try to find it for the link, but I’m at work right now). It’s around $200, which sounds pricey for a backpack, but it’s AMAZING. Again, if it’s within your tastes it’s a lot cooler looking than a jansport or whatever, and it’s so incredibly rugged. I’ve crammed it full of really, really heavy books things and I can’t imagine anything you could do to it that would make it rip. Plus, the straps are shearling-lined and really comfortable.

      And if anything should happen to it, LL Bean has a no-questions-asked, no-receipt-necessary returns policy. You could literally bring it back in 20 years ripped to shreds and they would smile and give you a new one.

    • +1. backpacks were for nerds before I went to law school, then I realized they were a necessity. (or maybe I just turned into a nerdy loser…)

    • westcoastjd :

      Another +1 on the backpack. Graduated law school w/in the last five years, and it was a necessity, unless you really study only at school (and even then, I think it would be difficult, depending how far away parking / bus / locker / various classrooms were) I hate backpacks – I didn’t use them in undergrad, I don’t use them on trips, and it really devastated me to have to use one, but I couldn’t find another workable alternative. (Full disclosure: I had a regular laptop, not a fancy macbook air, or anything)

  9. studentette :

    My advice to her would be that you really don’t need to change your whole wardrobe a lot for law school. My school is pretty casual, although I hear there are some schools on the East Coast that can be a little more formal and preppy.

    Students just wear whatever to class, but you certainly don’t see sweatpants as often as you did in college. You should def. look presentable. But a backpack is absolutely necessary – unfortunately, law professors still assign you work out of real, live textbooks, and then require you to bring those real, live textbooks with you to class. I almost pulled a muscle trying to look cute by sticking them in a book bag for a day instead. Trust me, for 3 years, your health isn’t worth it.

    You’ll want one suit, and a few business-casual outfits for casual networking events (not all of them require a suit, such as talks by judges or visiting professors).

  10. Personally, I wouldn’t go overboard buying clothes for school. As others have said, school is pretty relaxed, so whatever you wear normally (jeans, etc) is probably fine. If you do want to buy some clothes, I’d definitely wait until you’re in school and you can see what people are actually wearing. Don’t spend a ton of money in advance because you may be surprised. At my preppy New England law school, nobody wore suits or suiting pieces to class. Since it was chilly most of the school year, the uniform was designer denim, flat knee high riding boots or Uggs, Ralph Lauren sweaters and Longchamp bags. Girls would ocassionally wear blazers, but the casual preppy kind, not anything that would be part of a suit.

    As far as business clothes, I agree with others who say you don’t need much. I had one suit all throughout law school and was fine. If you want a little more variety, you could buy both the pants and skirt option that go with the same jacket and that way you sort of have 2 suits. Add one basic pair of black pumps (assuming your suit is black or gray) and a few shells to wear under your suit and you should be fine through your first firm job. Once you have a summer job at a firm, you can buy more clothes once you see what the dress code is in your office. You probably still wont’ need much in the way of suits unless you work in a very formal place or have a job that involves going to court a lot.

  11. You’ll need a suit for interviews, moot court rounds, interviews, etc. If you have a legal job or externship during school year, you’ll need some nicer clothes for that as well. Probably not suits every day, but at least business casual.

  12. SoCalAtty :

    Layers! Our classrooms could be warm and stuffy or freezing (usually freezing) depending on the day. I did a lot of jeans / flip flops / tshirt /sweatshirt outfits. I always had a sweatshirt with me or in my car.

    Depending on how far you have to walk between classes and the weather, some go-to comfortable shoes.

  13. Anon in NYC :

    A backpack is a lifesaver in law school. Seriously. I graduated a few years ago, so E-books weren’t a big thing yet, but I also wouldn’t have been able to really read a law school textbook that way either, so I needed a roomy bag to carry my laptop and variety of large and heavy books. Forget carrying a le pliage or whatnot (although people will do it).

    In terms of your wardrobe, anything goes in law school. Wear whatever you would normally wear – jeans, sweaters, t-shirts, etc. Although, you might want to update your wardrobe for going out, since you’ll probably be more social than in the years since undergrad.

    I agree that you should have a solid winter coat that is also professional (so you can use it for interviews), but also have a casual winter coat that you can wear every day.

  14. Yay healthcare :

    Thanks to a new job, I have more-than-catastrophe healthcare coverage for the first time in three years, and the first time since I left school. Other than the OB-GYN, what appointments should I make? I saw on the earlier thread notes about a physical – is that necessary? Do I absolutely need to find a primary care doctor? (I’m pretty healthy.)

    • I combine my yearly women’s health exam and physical into one appointment with a primary care/family med doctor. I feel like this is pretty common. The physical part of it is very brief (5-10 mins) but then I have someone to contact if I have any general health issues throughout the year.

    • Anonymous :

      Having a primary care doc and at least one post-college physical is helpful in the event you find yourself in the ER one day.

      • Also good so you can establish a relationship with a doctor before you are sick and need to see one more urgently. The practice I go to requires a routine appt at the outset.

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      I posted late in that thread, but my doc recommended at least one comprehensive bloodwork test in yours 20s, both to look for any red flags, and to set a potential baseline for the future. Most of my friends have done this and have had a variety of minor things (vitamin or iron deficiencies, high cholesterol, etc), none of which needed medication but all of which were cautioned with a “make sure you get this retested in 5 or so years.” So that would probably be good to do.

      A tetanus booster would also be good, if you are overdue, so you don’t have to worry about getting one after the fact if you unexpectedly cut yourself.

    • I think you should absolutely find a primary care doc so you have someone you can call just in case (its relatively easy to get an emergency apt with my doctor but impossible to see someone quickly and easily for a walk-in) and in case you need prescriptions or something. Plus my doctor is adorable

    • Can you get the HPV vaccine?

    • See a dermatologist for a skin-cancer screening, even if you think you don’t need it.

    • It can’t hurt…when you say you are pretty healthy, have you had your cholesterol checked (for example)? You may not feel ill at all but you could have underlying issues that a physical would reveal while there is still time to fix them.

      I too finally got real health insurance and went for my first physical in probably 10 years…They checked me for a really large number of things, including cholesterol, liver function, anemia, and other stuff…the doctor actually read to me from a list of things they could check my blood for and I ended up being tested for most of them, including STDs and other illnesses, because why not double check for free, even if you don’t have symptoms? Luckily I was fine on all of them except a vitamin D deficiency which is easily fixed by taking vitamins. But I would never have thought to take Vitamin D if the doctor hadn’t checked that.

  15. Hey guys, I’m looking for recs for legal recruiters in the Bay Area. I’m a fourth year lit associate. Thanks a lot!

    • Haven’t used them myself, but I believe Major, Lindsay & Africa is considered the gold standard.

    • Years ago, I used Mo Lee at Watanabe Nason. She’s based on So. Cal. but was excellent!

  16. Freshman 15 :

    Save your money because you will need it to buy a new wardrobe after you gain weight your first and second years. Some people were lucky and got away with a 15-lb weight gain. Mine was more like 40 lbs. And that wasn’t abnormal among my friends.

  17. Hello! I graduated from Law School in 2007 and I had the idea that I needed a cute preppy wardrobe as well. I was wrong, and after about week two that went out the window. I wore jeans, tshirts, and hoodies through out all of law school. The hoodie was critical because classrooms and the library could be cold. I also carried a backpack — not a cute bag. Cute bags are nice, but law school textbooks (and everything else you’ll be carrying) are heavy and cumbersome. Some girls carried little cute tote bags, but most of us carried backpacks. We also did have lockers but I agree with the commenter who mentioned bringing work home. You can still get a super cute bookbag, but your shoulder will thank you for sharing the load.

    Finally, I would invest in one functional black suit (with both a skirt and pants), a few separate blazers, and a few nice cardigans. For shells I love the t-shirt like ones that you can find at Limited or even Target. They fit sleekly under a suit jacket, but are comfortable. Button-downs fit me oddly in law school (since I was plus-sized then) and now they still fit me oddly (since I have long arms for a woman apparently) but I have a few 3/4 length ones I wear sometimes (admittedly I am currently a full time PhD student and I work in the nonprofit world (not as an attorney), and before when I was a magistrate our wardrobe was business casual). Also I’m a flats girl. Do not be afraid of the kitten heel or flats if you are not a pumps kinda woman. I’d rather be graceful and comfortable in cute flats than fall over my feet in “expected” heels.

    • So, I’ve always been told that interviewees should get navy or dark grey suits rather than black. Is this an antiquated suggestion?

      • I do not recall being told this, if it is a “rule” its definitely antiquated. I believe I was actually told either black was the best because it was the least exciting. Anyway, all three are definitely acceptable for interviews. I would say somewhere probably 75% of the women at my law school wore black suits during OCI.

      • Rising 2L :

        I’ve hear this rule for men, but not for women.

        • This. Traditionally, men only wore black when mourning. Working women, though, have always worn black (not navy or gray). So it’s actually more traditional for women to wear black and more modern for men to wear black.

        • I think it was actually a post on this site – http://corporette.com/2012/08/13/the-hunt-navy-suits/

          Kat mentions that the navy suit is considered the “power suit,” but that black suits are okay too. My career services office at law school also made this suggestion. Personally I assume black is just fine, but I’m curious why there is this older rule.

  18. I’m in my fourth year of law school, taking classes at night and working full-time during the day. I only have one or two classes a night, but I rarely have to bring a larger bag than the purse I bring to work. I can buy almost all of my textbooks in e-book form, and the kindle app for ipad is excellent. I take notes using evernote (getting used to typing on the ipad is easier than you think, and if you take public transportation, you will really appreciate not having to carry a laptop and textbooks with you!) I usually just need enough room in my bag for a bottle of water and my ipad and I’m set!

    • Wildkitten :

      I used a backpack and come finals I was always jealous of folks with rolling backpacks to carry textbooks, hornbooks, outlines, etc in the final weeks.

  19. Thread jack–anyone have any recommendations for comfortable, adult looking cream colored flats? I’ve had an unbelievable hard time finding these! Wide toe box preferred, but I’ll take what I can get. Thanks!

    • Baconpancakes :

      Not cream, but taupe – Cole Haan’s Air Julianna Skimmer, with a gorgeous almond toe. The sides of the heels rubbed a bit the first two times I wore it, but they’ve stretched out a bit. Definitely size up -.5 to 1 full size, particularly if you’re wider of foot. I got a half size larger than normal, and they’re perfect after two wears. The Air Nike technology is my favorite.

      • Wide toe box and cole haan do not mix! (Sadly..)

      • Wildkitten :

        Do they not stretch out? I got the 9West knock off and they are so stretchy you can see inside the shoe next to my foot at this point.

    • These Rockports are comfortable. Does “wide toe box” exclude a pointy toe? This is only mildy so.

  20. Not entirely cream, but I was pleasantly surprised when I tried these on – they were comfy and cute on the foot. I have been avoiding patent leather shoes so I didn’t buy them, but am reconsidering now that they are on sale. My feet are wider in the front than at the back of the foot, and these fit well. http://tinyurl.com/mpecjum

    They come in blush/taupe, too.

    • That was supposed to be to Batgirl.

      I also like these: http://www.6pm.com/calvin-klein-ebony-oatmeal-antique-white-stingray
      (though haven’t tried so can’t speak to comfort).

    • onehsancare :

      And they don’t start coming in wide until size 7. Nope, short people don’t have wide feet.

    • Anonymous :

      I have these in the blush/taupe, and I’ve had random people stopping me to admire them. They have a tiny wedge (maybe 1 inch?), which makes them more comfy than your average flat.

  21. I just graduated from law school in May. People still primarily take notes on laptops, although many have switched to iPads. At my school, zero professors utilized e-books. 15+ pounds of books (my daily haul weighed in at 45 second semester 1L year) are still quite common. I usually had a traditional backpack (North Face was my favorite brand) along with a large Longchamp Le Pliage bag.

  22. Anonymous :

    I’m surprised at the “don’t bother” reaction of the commentators so far. I’m a recent graduate (2012) and I would recommend a slight upgrade to your wardrobe. At my law school, there was almost always something going on — lunches, networking events, lectures, etc. — and it’s good to be prepared to meet someone at any time. I don’t mean wear a suit everyday (!), rather, look generally neat and professional. For me, neat and professional translates to: dark jeans, blazer or cardigan, real shoes (heels/boots) and polished hair (not fancy — a clean pony suffices).

    (Don’t be a slob in front of your professors — they will write all of your recommendations!)

    • It’s just a know-your-school situation. My school was EXTREMELY casual, but others obviously are fancier. Dress in nice jeans or trousers and a casual sweater or top for the first week or so and see what other people (2L’s and 3L’s) are doing. Then adjust. Don’t buy any new clothes just for class.

    • Boston 2L :

      I think it depends on what people were doing before law school. I worked in offices, so I toned down. For the person asking the question, I’d definitely upgrade from messy or backpacking clothes. I’d say 1-2 suits (I always get the pants, skirt, and dress if possible), a variety of business casual (I mix my business casual with casual to tone it down but then I have the ability to dress it up as well for networking or other events), and then some more adult casual clothes (jeans/skirts/dresses and shirts – stuff you wouldn’t want to get messy from children!).

      I think a lot of people are trying to emphasize that people generally don’t wear business attire daily, which I agree with. I do always try to look nice, since these are your network and future colleagues – and you never know what attorneys or other people to make a good impression on you’ll run into on campus (or last minute openings in lunches or events).

    • I agree with this. At my school there were adjunct professors who were judges, partners at firms, etc. While I definitely don’t think you need to dress business or even business casual, I didn’t like going to school in yoga pants and a t-shirt when I knew it was very likely I may run into someone I wanted to network with.

    • westcoastjd :

      I definitely agree with this. Fairly recent grad (<5 yrs), and at my west coast, hypercasual law school, I wore lots of polos + cardigans, tidy jeans, button downs, casual skirts, nice flats, etc. – the same types of things I would wear on casual friday at my biglaw job now (and, for what it was worth, frequently similar to what my professors wore). I think it helped form a good impression amongst my professors and (since I was k-jd) made me look like I was taking it seriously. For what it's worth, at my law school, this made me more dressed up than most on an average day.

      I think OP has the right idea – Looking back, I wish I had focused on investing in quality pieces in law school more than I did. I would suggest (or echo Kat's suggestions) for a nice winter coat; a good pair of flats, pumps, and heels; quality cardigans or lightweight sweaters; and an appropriate purse or clutch for networking events. My advice would be to buy a few basics for fall / winter now, but also keep some of that $ so you can buy some basics next spring / summer. I would also quality work-appropriate dresses – this is a category I'm still behind on, and it would have been a lot easier if I had accrued these gradually over the years.

  23. Re bag. I love my Longchamp Planetes Tonal bag! I got it from nordstrom but I saw the longchamps site had a different color for cheaper. I chose this bag after reading several reviews on here which said that it was sturdier than the pliage one and easy to clean and very spacious. It can apparently also be folded up but I haven’t tried that yet. I bought it for when I start working at a big four accounting firm in nyc this fall. I have already started using it though and I love it. It’s way lighter than my laptop bag from target when both are empty which is a good start! I don’t want to carry 2 bags! It’s pricey but worth it imo. http://m.nordstrom.com/s/2985183/?siteId=J84DHJLQkR4-WJ3fwSdEaebDuQulsEtFow

  24. Another rising 3L here – I’d definitely recommend starting with at least one suit and some business casual basics. If your school is like mine, there will be random networking events throughout the year where you’ll want something nice to wear. Figure out what size you are at, say, Banana Republic & J.Crew, then keep an eye on their sales throughout the year, and you can pick up some pretty good bargains and have a nice wardrobe by the time your start your summer job.

    Seriously consider investing in an ultrabook or similar small, lightweight laptop. No one uses ebooks, so you’ll want to shave pounds off your load where ever you can. The smaller size is an advantage, too, since many classroom desks are not designed to accommodate a full-size laptop.

    I use the canvas tote from everlane to carry my stuff. It’s surprisingly roomy, and the leather shoulder straps are a big plus.

  25. I hinted at this above, but I was surprised at how much labels mattered to many people. After going to high school in the rural midwest (where the “popular” girls mostly wore GAP) and an engineering college, my preppy New England law school was the first time I saw people really decked out in labels. And for the girls who cared (which was a huge majority) there was a very definite brand you were supposed to have for each item of clothing – e.g. Citizens and Sevens jeans, Tory Burch flats, Longchamp tote, etc. That’s what I think you might want to wait before you go spend a lot of money on clothes (if you care about that stuff, which I definitely didn’t).

  26. NationalAnthem :

    I just graduated, and I’d agree with the general “wear whatever you want, but probably buy a suit” theme for 1L year. That said, a substantial number of my classmates had some sort of work or internship going on during 2L and 3L year, so people were wearing business clothes pretty frequently. I worked the last 2 years, and I wore work clothes at least 3 out of 5 days a week, sometimes more, depending on my work schedule that semester.

    My advice would be that you don’t need to run out and buy a whole new wardrobe, but when you are shopping (at whatever rate you normally replace items), think about whether the new purchases could also be worn at least in a business casual setting. That way, if you end up working while in school you’re not going to have a closet full of clothes that are inappropriate for your new job.

  27. I am a partner in a firm in Atlanta and was in law school 15 years ago. I am back at graduate school for some updates. My clothing advise for female law students would be to look at Ann Taylor stores – I think they have discounts for students. Being a partner I would appreciate the clothing choice and being a student I appreciate the price point.

    Regarding a bag. I used a Coach ladies briefcase 15 years ago. I took that same case to Tax court last week. I still get compliments on it. It is worn and BOY the stories it could tell.

    Now, I carry a Vera Bradley bag, a tablet and portable keyboard AND a paper notebook to class. I also have various papers and books but the Vera Bradley is fine and at the price point I can get something else next year. Just remember, there is NO perfect bag.

    Good Luck – the world is yours!

  28. PennyPincher :

    I’m starting law school soon too and I’ve been trying to basically not buy anything since I’ll be going from a comfortable full-time job income level to an I’m-taking-on-debt-in-addition-to-not-making-any-money income level. Unfortunately, I don’t have any book bags, and it looks like the ones that have been recommended here seem to be $100-$200. Would my back and I die if I were to use my LV Neverfull bag? It’s basically a gigantic tote bag that’s super durable. Or are there cheaper alternatives to some good book bags? Before anyone scoffs at a girl who has a LV bag and is scrimping on a $100 for a book bag, the bag was gifted to me and I’ve been extremely strict about saving every cent from now til school starts. A penny saved is a penny earned?

    • Boston 2L :

      I posted this above as well, but I highly recommend this bag: http://www.ebags.com/product/swissgear-travel-gear/scansmart-backpack/205059?productid=10111179

      I just finished 1L and think that a real backpack is important. I also save my money to an almost ridiculous level, but, knowing now how helpful this bag was (it makes things so much lighter on my back, I don’t understand how), I’d easily pay twice as much for it. (I think I paid $50 for it last summer, but the current price is still beyond worth it.)

      I look at it this way: I’m paying/paid a lot of money for my books, laptop, etc. and don’t want to have to pay even more for medical issues. It saves me frustration to be able to carry these things without hurting myself or ruining them. For less than the price of a book, I can do so. I personally don’t see a giant tote bag being helpful for this, though I know some in my class used totes frequently. I think most switched to backpacks or other options (such as carrying 3 – 4 bags) by the end of the year.

      • PennyPincher :

        Thanks so much! I appreciate the response and even more so the great reasoning.

  29. Anonymous :

    If the law school happens to be Boston University, I strongly recommend dressing in layers because the temperature can be unpredictable to say the least.

    • Charlotte L :

      I agree. Don’t go overboard with buying stuff before school starts. I attended law school in the South and got some weather appropriate “snappy casual” pieces before the start of school. Imagine my surprise when every single day the buildings blasted A/C and were kept 55-60 degrees. Yikes. I had to wear socks and long sleeves in August.

      You just never know what you’re going to get until you get there.

      And I think 1 suit with a button-up or two works fine. Like you, I’d never had an office job before law school. That was all I had my first year, and I survived and built on my wardrobe as I could afford it.

  30. I go to an ivy league law school. I sometimes don’t shower.

  31. Get a suit or sth for interviews. Rolling bags and backpacks are good – just to keep your back healthy. And I agree, just leave books at school whenever. Not many ebooks out there.

  32. I am currently a law student. Hold off on new purchases until you need a suit for your first Summer interviews. A lot of gals gain weight the first year (sometimes a couple of sizes worth) because law school is such a stress-filled, sedentary life. Be comfortable but don’t look like “the slouch” in class. (Right now I could name off the gals who show up to SBA looking like they just rolled out of bed.) Don’t be that girl, but pamper yourself with comfort.

    Bag-wise, get practical. I started with a backpack and ended up with a rolling duffle, but one of my 1L classes used 8 books! Save up for a cute leather tote for that first summer job. By the end of your 1L year you’ll have earned it!