What to Wear (and Bring) to Your Legal Job Interview
It's not always about the questions when you interview for a law job.
As soon as the initial excitement of having a legal job interview wears off, two questions are sure to follow: What should I wear? And: What should I bring?
Don’t panic! Help is on the way.
What to Wear to a Legal Job Interview
The rules for men and women are similar: err on the conservative side. With few exceptions, you should wear a suit to a law job interview. It’s typically better to be overdressed than underdressed on such an occasion.
There are, however, a couple of exceptions. If you’re interviewing at a very informal non-profit, you may not want to wear a suit (try to investigate in advance, or ask the person setting up the interview about the dress code, if that seems appropriate). Similarly, if you’re interviewing at a tech startup, you may not want to be a “suit.” There’s a known bias in Silicon Valley against dressing up, so plan accordingly.
Assuming you’re not in one of these rare situations, you should wear a formal suit to a law job interview. Here are some tips:
Make sure everything fits properly.
Lawyers aren’t known for their fashion sense, but get the basics right. Make sure nothing is too tight or too loose, too long or too short. For women, check skirt length carefully, and ensure there’s no excessive “button gap” on button-down shirts (look from the side in the mirror). If you need changes, enlist a tailor to make alterations or ask for help in the store as you’re trying things on.
These people are trained to make you look good!
Pay attention to local customs.
Interview style varies throughout the country. If you’re a law student from Alabama interviewing in NYC, it’s worth enlisting some allies to help you figure out how styles differ in the Big Apple. (Trust me, they do!) In some areas, only a skirt suit is considered typical.
In others, pants are fine. There’s no one “right” answer here, but you need to know what’s customary, so you can make a conscious decision to deviate (if that’s what you decide to do).
Get rid of wrinkles.
You can have the nicest interview outfit in the world, and it’s going to look lousy if it’s full of wrinkles. Especially if you’re traveling to interviews, think about how you’re going to keep everything clean and pressed. Will you iron in the hotel? Do you need to send things out? Can you take your clothes to a laundry for pressing upon arrival? Is a travel steamer the answer? There are lots of options, but waking up the morning of your interview and realizing your shirts are a mess isn’t ideal
Buy decent shoes.
Most women realize shoes are important, but men sometimes wear some. At a minimum, your shoes should match your suit (and pay attention to socks) and be leather or leather-like. No sneakers, no casual boots, etc. Think conservative!
What to Bring to a Legal Job Interview
Once you’re appropriately attired, it’s time to think about what to bring. Women have a bit of an advantage here because they’re expected to carry a bag. But, for men and women, a nice portfolio is useful for carrying copies of all application documents: résumé, writing sample, transcripts, etc.
Always bring copies! You can’t assume your interviewer will have them.
Also bring any personal care items you might need: gum, mints, a toothbrush (if you’re coming for a meal), extra hosiery, eyedrops, touch-up makeup, etc. And don’t forget directions (including parking locations, if you’re driving).
One note: You’ll probably bring your phone, but be sure to turn it off or put it in airplane mode before the interview.