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I Am Not My Clothes

I was waiting my turn to speak before a seminar directed towards newly admitted attorneys. The duo before me was talking about ethics and professionalism, and their advisory words included attire.

“Dress like you did at the job interview,” said one. “Always dress up to impress,” said the other. I don’t think the audience saw me shudder, and I know the microphones didn’t capture my almost-silent “Uh-oh,” but boy, did I want to shout, and “You are not what you wear!”

I am never informally dressed when I attend a closing (or a contract signing), but I very rarely wear a suit (it would be a guess, but it’s likely that I last wore one in 2011). Who would I be trying to impress with upscale apparel rather than my mastery of the field?

My clients are paying for my advocacy, observations, verbal skills, and experience, so all they care about is that I be groomed and not attention grabbing. As for the other people in the room, I don’t want to sway a single one of them with my outfit.

I once had a closing with an attorney who reeked of sweat, cigarettes, and other stenches that I couldn’t really identify. His shirt was rumpled and his pants had a couple of oddly-placed stains. Did he think he’d get whatever his clients demanded because the rest of us would want to get away from him as soon as possible? Or did he even care at all? I haven’t got a clue, but I know his clients were mortified enough to say, “I’m so sorry” when he left.
I don’t believe I’ve ever had a client who had to apologize for my aroma, and I know I’ve never received a referral because of how I dressed. There are no judges and juries in the conference rooms where I’ve closed, and that suits me just fine.
 

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