East Coast Law Firms

19 05 2008

East Coast law firms are neither as formal as their counterparts in the South and the Midwest, nor as casual as their counterparts on the West Coast. Even within the East Coast, however, there is a wide range of styles. Of the three major law firm cities, Boston is the most formal, Washington, D.C. is the most casual, and New York is in the middle.

New York

New York firms fall in the middle of the business casual spectrum. Official office dress codes have become more relaxed in recent years, now permitting everything short of jeans and flip-flops, but typical attorney attire remains more formal. Khakis and polo shirts are rare and it is not unusual for men to wear ties to the office. Women should keep their shoulders covered and only wear skirts that fall at or below the knee (although wearing stockings with a skirt is not required).

New York is also the world’s most fabulous city, so dress up and look good. As long as all your important parts are covered, you can wear edgier styles, cooler accessories, and way higher heels. Flats are considered office appropriate, but you didn’t watch six seasons of Sex and the City just to wear flats to work. I mean, what’s the point of a six-figure salary if you don’t rock Manolos, right?

Washington, D.C.

Law firms in Washington, D.C. tend to be the most casual firms on the East Coast. I mean, the city practically invented Casual Fridays. This means that in addition to typical business casual clothing, associates can wear khakis, polos, capris, and open toe shoes (which—trust me—you will want to take advantage of during the ridiculous summer humidity). You lucky dogs also get denim Fridays.


Perhaps as a result of being so historical, Boston is a little more old school. The law firms have been there forever and so have the partners so don’t be surprised if you see a lot of suits around the office. Most office dress codes only require business casual, and associates should feel free to take advantage of that, but don’t get too casual or you will start to hear grumbling in the corner offices. For those who don’t like hints and innuendo, this means you should stick with dark colors and conservative styles, and minimize deviation from collared shirts and slacks.




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