Legal Tech Job Interview Attire

Do you know what to wear to land the job?

Judge and lawyer talking in courthouse
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When I worked in BigLaw as a patent litigator, we’d often find ourselves at pitches in Silicon Valley tech companies, presenting our case for why this particular company should hire our firm for a given patent case. Of course, they were making their decisions based on perceived competence and so on, but they were also evaluating that elusive quality of “fit.” Did we understand the tech culture? Were we going to be able to talk to their engineers and get the information we’d need to defend the lawsuit effectively?

Believe it or not, one critical aspect of this evaluation was clothing! No one wanted to hire “the suits,” so we made a point to dress down for these pitch meetings. And it worked! You could typically tell which firms weren’t going to be hired – they were the ones dressed to the nines in the lobby waiting to pitch.

Similarly, if you’re interviewing for a legal job in a tech company, it’s important to think carefully about the impression you want to make with your outfit.

In many ways, interviewing for a job at a law firm presents fewer wardrobe challenges. Just put on a suit, and you’re good to go!

But in the tech world, you’ll have to put a little more thought into it. Being overdressed in this world is as bad as being underdressed, so you’re walking a fine line.

Should You Show up in a Hoodie?

Unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg or a highly-sought-after engineer, a hoodie probably isn’t the best sartorial choice for a job interview.

As a lawyer, you’re often going to be the “grown-up” in the room, so you want to look a little nicer than the average employee. That carries over to interviews, too.

Of course, you want to gather any intelligence you can on the culture of the company you’re interviewing with (and recognize that standards may be different outside of the uber-relaxed companies in Silicon Valley and San Francisco), but typically you’ll be fine with nice business casual.

You want to look put together without being too fancy.

So, what does that mean?

What Not to Wear

Generally speaking, jeans of any type are too casual for a job interview. The exception being if your company contact suggests them when you ask what they consider appropriate interview attire. In that case, feel free to wear jeans if you’re comfortable in them, but make sure they’re dark and well-tailored so you look polished and not sloppy.

Ditto on the sneakers. Although it’s quite possible you’ll wear them to work daily after you get the job, wear a nice pair of shoes to your interview! Your shoes don’t need to be fancy, but make sure they’re polished and well-maintained. There’s a difference between suitably casual and sloppy!

Advice for Women

It’s well known that tech, as an industry, has gender issues. As a woman interviewing for a legal job in a tech company, you’ve got an even finer line to walk than the average man, who can put on a button-down shirt, a pair of decent pants, and some nice shoes and call it a day.

Your goal should be to show some personality (so you don’t come off as too stodgy), while still maintaining a professional appearance. Easier said than done? Of course! Here are a few examples.

A couple of ideas: Wear nice pants and a cute, but professional, shirt (probably not a button-down, because this can come off as too formal). I once saw Arianna Huffington speak in a gorgeous green silk shirt with a fabulous bow at the neck. Granted, her shirt probably cost more than your first week’s salary, but the idea is great! It was professional but lovely, and her personality came through.

Similarly, if you’re comfortable in dresses or skirts, a dress with a relatively informal jacket can hit the line between casual and professional quite nicely. Probably not a formal pinstripe option, but something a little funkier and more fun.

Whatever you decide to wear, keep your eye on the ball. Yes, your outfit is important, but it’s more important that you’re fully prepared for the interview itself!