Leading-Edge Lawyer – Is this YOU?

By Nicole K. Lundy

It’s not enough to be great – you have to look great too.  Whether you accept it or not, perception is what makes you fly or flop in your law career.  In other words, you can be the smartest lawyer on the entire planet, but if you look sloppy, you won’t be taken seriously, be seen as trust-worthy or considered a leader.  Shallow?  Maybe. However, this is how we humans work.  We judge every single thing.  Nowadays, you are judged on more than the law school you attended, your internship with the Supreme Court Judge or the law firm where you toil away 6.5 days every week.  Simply put, this is just not enough to make you stand out of the pack.  It’s not enough to make you the crème de la crème of the legal industry.

The obvious question now, is ‘well, how do I become seen as a valuable lawyer?’  The easiest way I can answer this is ‘define your personal brand.’  The reason why, is that this is the only thing that nobody else can copy.  You are the originator and the only version of you.

The foundation of your personal brand is your professional presentation.  You must look like you are ready for the spotlight at any given moment.  This means that you must find a grooming regimen that fits into your grueling schedule and a power wardrobe that gives you the appearance of looking smart and savvy.  I know that you are busy paying your dues, and working tons of hours and playing your part to reach the top of the game.  However, if you walk around your firm, meet clients and present yourself as if you are overworked, you set yourself back by at least one century.  Here’s why.  No longer can you hide behind a prestigious law firm name or logo because every lawyer represents him or her self.    You are solely responsible for being recognized as a leading-edge lawyer or not.

Here are grooming and wardrobe tips that you can use today to improve your professional presentation so that you are always seen as polished and sharp.

LAWYER-FRIENDLY GROOMING REGIMEN – It’s very easy to look haggard and over-worked as a lawyer.   There are not enough hours in the day for you to attend to your appearance.  It’s a catch-22.  Here are three easy ways for you to look refreshed during the entire day:

  • Cleansing Wipes – From now on, consider these to be apart of your career success team.  Always keep them on hand, for you to maintain a fresh and clean appearance.  Stress often causes the sebum production in your skin to go into over-drive, which results in you looking like last week, oily and yucky.  The great part is that you can also replace the cleansing wipes with your regular cleanser at home to keep your skin regimen as simple as possible.
  • Whitening Strips – Yes, it is true that a lot of lawyers drink a crap load of coffee, resulting in yellow-brownish teeth.  This is not the look that you want.  You don’t have to lose your coffee habit, I know it’s part of your survival, but add whitening strips to your to-do list a few times a week, to keep your teeth looking nice.  As a lawyer, you communicate a lot, and your teeth are hard to hide.
  • Lip Balm – A lot of talking, long hours, and stress lead to chapped, dry lips.  Now be honest with yourself, when you see somebody with chapped lips, do you focus on anything they are saying?  Exactly.  This also applies to you as a lawyer even though you are giving great advice at $500 per (billable) hour.   Lip balm is created in small convenient packaging, which makes it easy for you to discretely apply before an important client meeting, court appearance, or conference.

POWER WARDROBE – Yes, it’s true that being a lawyer is a road traveled only by exceptional people and ideally that should be enough to signify that you are a powerful lawyer.  But, it’s not.  You must insinuate your power through your wardrobe on a regular basis.  Here are three easy ways to do this:

  • Incorporate Dynamo Elements – For men, this would be your power tie – red or blue.  For women, this would be your power lipstick, bluered for cool undertones and orangered for warm undertones.  Now, you don’t have to overdo this and insert a dynamo element into your everyday working wardrobe.  However, you must discern which events and meetings that you need to play your power card.  This is when you step up and present yourself with either your power tie or lipstick.
  • Color Coordinates – Typically, lawyers go out and fill their closets with black suits.  The reality is that black does not look great on everybody’s skin tone.  In fact, wearing black can be the worst choice for some lawyers.  Instead wearing blues and grays is the best option.  Wearing the right color suits is very important.  Here’s a tip, if you have cool skin undertones, black suits will suit you and if you have warm skin undertones, blue suits look best. Gray colored suits look good on most skin tones.
  • Clean Shoes – There’s not much else that says unprofessional like dirty and scruffy shoes.  Whether your shoes are off the runways of fashion week or from a discount retailer, they need to be intact at all times.  This applies to men and women lawyers.  Clean shoes gives you the appearance of being a professional, well-put together lawyer.  Dirty and scruffy shoes say the opposite.

Finding a grooming routine and coordinating a power wardrobe that works for you are an essential part of becoming a leading-edge lawyer.   Perception is everything in creating a thriving legal career.

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