Steve Little and Lynda Shely speak on professional dress, Bar Leadership Institue, Perkins Coie, Phoenix, March 24, 2012

Last Friday, I told you about an event I was attending as a clothing model. (The demands on the lawyer-ati never end, I tell you!) Here’s a brief update on our appearance before the 2012 class of the Bar Leadership Institute.

Those lawyers who are selected to participate in the State Bar of Arizona’s Bar Leadership Institute are offered a wide variety of speakers and instruction on a great many topics. I am expecting that our meager offering in regard to professional dress will not be one of their year’s highlights.

Nonetheless, I was pleased to be able to pitch in, along with lawyers Lynda Shely (the session’s moderator), CLE Director Lisa Deane, Member Assistance Program head Susan Kayler and Bar Counsel Steve Little.

Aside from Lynda, the four of us were paired up in a good-bad formation (Steve bad, me good; Lisa bad, Susan good). And just like the Silver Screen, I suspect it’s far more enjoyable to play a villain than a hero. Steve, for instance, went to town with his impersonation of a bedraggled attorney who was seriously in need of a makeover. (Steve, that was an impersonation, right?)

Lisa Deane also did what she could to look downtrodden, though I don’t think she is really able to look less than put-together. I was dismayed to see that her “gnarly” look appeared to be no worse than the way I dress most days in the office. (See, the life lessons benefited not just the BLI participants!)

The attendees looked mildly attentive, but they were also superbly dressed, so what did they need from us? I suspect that our life-modeling, along with my suggestions as to where to buy good vintage (“used”) menswear (The Well-Suited Man, in Phoenix and Scottsdale), left them more bemused than enlightened.

Oh well, we tried.

Today, let me share part of my From the Editor column from the February 2008 Arizona Attorney Magazine. In it, I discussed our cover story, Judge Timmer’s article on professionalism—including how to dress.

It’s always hard looking back at your previous work. For instance, I think the column is OK, but I sound like I’m at least 200 years old. What a curmudgeon! Oh, well—read on (more photos at the bottom).

It is New Year’s Day as I write this (for our February issue), and this month’s magazine may reflect some of my own hopes for law practice in 2008.

Our cover story explores a host of issues that were never addressed as we labored through three years of law school. But these are the issues that may make law practice for you—and your colleagues—a blessing or a curse, depending on your approach.

Beginning on page 12, Judge Ann Timmer examines the steps and missteps that many of us have made in the past. Some of the “traps for the unwary” she unearths include how to accept (and decline) work, how to dress, how to interact with others—even how to joke. Perhaps if we had had the benefit of what “seasoned” lawyers know, we would not have made those mistakes (as much).

That article and others like it remind me of the old lesson about the rules—not the Ethical Rules, but the rules of civility. The inexperienced see them as dated obstacles to efficiency, and as mechanical in the extreme. In fact, they are nothing more than courtesy made visible, gentle reminders that civility and kindness exist to make those around you (remember them?) feel at ease.

I suppose it boils down to a question we should all put to ourselves: “Would you want to work with you?”

If it takes you a few minutes to answer, read and save the article. It’s good stuff.

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