Legal Industry's Fashion Crisis: $20,000 Watches or Clients with Spoons?

By William Peacock, Esq. on March 03, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.

-- Epictetus

It seems we've come to a crossroads in the legal industry, both within our ranks and amongst our clientele. The issue is fashion and it is not going away any time soon, apparently.

On one end of the spectrum, we have attorneys preaching the merits of $20,000 watches, multi-point pocket squares, and, of course, the three-piece suit. And on the other, we have clients showing up to court with exposed underwear, pajama pants, and in one extreme case, a crack spoon tied around his or her neck.

It might be time for a little self-reflection.

Orange County's Denny Crane

Know your clientele.

We're assuming Wayne Gross, formerly of Greenberg Traurig, now of Greenberg Gross, probably caters to a high-end client base. That would explain the three-piece suit, the $20,000 Patek Phillipe watch, and that ridiculous pocket square.

You'd be forgiven for mistaking him for Denny Crane on first glace. Above the Law, which has his photo shoot from the "OC Style File," called him a tool.

We're gonna go with aloof. His rants on fashion are more of the young lawyers need to dress like it's 1876 trope, including a comment about how young lawyers shouldn't use their smartphones to check the time and should, instead, be sporting a wrist watch. We don't necessarily disagree -- it's just his over the top wardrobe, from this single photo shoot, probably costs more than most recent grads' take-home pay for a full year.

Texas Court's Crack Spoons

At first glance, News-Journal reporter Ken Herman's take on a Texas court's "Appropriate Courtroom Attire" sign reads as pure naiveté. Yes, people show up to court in pajamas. But we've heard stories about people showing up in Harley Davidson leathers while packing heat. PJs and slippers would be a refreshing change of pace.

And on an ordinary day in Alameda County criminal court, I witnessed a number of fashion crimes, including a lawyer in Uggs and another with a waxed hipster mustache. Amongst the laypeople, there was a man in an oversized plain white t-shirt and another, ironically going into traffic court, wearing motorcycle racing leathers.

So, a sign explaining that pajama pants, slippers, booty shorts, and sagging jeans are inappropriate was unsurprising. There was one item, left off the sign, that was a shocker though: someone apparently showed up to court with a crack spoon hanging around his or her neck.


What's Appropriate?

Lawyers? Again, it's context. If you're not in court (always wear suits to court), look to the client. If you're repping startup companies in Silicon Valley, business casual might suffice. If you're appearing on late night personal injury commercials, and want to impress the proletariat, mimicking Denny Crane or Saul Goodman might be a better move.

As for your clients, it might be advisable to discuss proper court attire with them before you head to court, or if you're billing by the hour, maybe give them a handout. It may sound patronizing, but seriously folks: thongs and spoons.

What's the most ridiculous choice of attire you've seen in court lately? (Bonus points if the perpetrator was an attorney.) Tweet us at FindLaw for Legal Professionals.

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