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This article has been written by Diya Banerjee, from Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA. The article discusses how the right attire for a lawyer is especially important during virtual proceedings.

Introduction 

Do it Big, Do it Right and Do it with STYLE.” – Fred Astaire

The pandemic has twisted and turned most of our working pattern upside down. Now, wherever one has to go for work, the first thought is to maintain a good amount of distance from the person standing or sitting next to you. In the field of law, the concept and application of virtual courts became a popular alternative to release some of the burdens of pending and slow proceedings. This could be done because first, technology is much faster and more accessible and second, virtual courts proceedings could be carried even on days where there might be some kind of staff shortage or unavailability of litigants. 

Virtual courts are working in full-swing in countries like the United States and China, though dealing with only limited types of cases, with the help of Artificial Intelligence and have disposed of cases which were repetitive in nature. The first virtual court in India was initiated in the year 2019 in Delhi’s Tis Hazari Court and then in Punjab and Haryana High Courts specifically to deal with traffic challan cases. Although, arguments continue to take place in Regulars Courts.

The importance of virtual proceedings is quite understood by people and lawyers alike, but another thing that equally matters is the way one dresses during a proceeding. After all, clothes reflect one’s personality and aura.

Your wardrobe is the way to great success

It is not new news that one’s wardrobe gives an idea to the other about their job, ambitions, emotions and spending habits. For example, if we look at an actor like Amitabh Bachchan or Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, we see how their dressing style speaks of their glamour and fame. On the other hand, when we look at sports legends like Sachin Tendulkar and Mithali Raj, we see that while their style also screams glamour, they are more sober and elegant in their colour. Similarly, if one dresses up smartly even if his/her position is of an intern only, that person is 25% more likely to be under his/her senior’s good books. 

Interviews are meant to test a person’s intelligence and mental prowess. Then why do people dress up so well when what matters is the skills they bring with them? This is because first, clothing helps to make the desired first impression because the first thing one’s boss or potential recruiter notices is the way a person presents themselves, in terms of intellect and style. Second, it is a valid ground for eliminating the non-deserving candidates. The reason behind 50% of the applicants getting labelled as ‘non-undeserving’ is that, is it not expected from one to present themselves well if they are serious about the job or position? 

Another point regarding dressing well is that it can change how one performs in one’s workplace. Take it like, whenever someone dresses smartly, he/she is bound to feel good. Wearing bright clothes helps in maintaining a positive and cheerful attitude. Feeling empowered, smart, and positive will definitely give a person the motivation and confidence to see through his/her task.  All in all, dressing right means working right.

5 expert tips for a lawyer’s refined formal get-up

These dressing tips are not exclusive to lawyers alone, they are for professionals from all walks of life. However, keep in mind that all these tips are not for a lawyer working in courts because there is more to the law than just work related to the court. These tips are for occasions which are essentially related to and revolve around legal gatherings.

  1. It is important to dress in formals but with style. Experts say that for a job interview or a presentation, the panel already has an image of how a perfect candidate or speaker would be dressed like. The image is all white, grey, and black, but a splash of colour makes the person stand out. However, colourful does not mean wearing clothes which are meant for a fashion show, more like, if wearing an all-grey suit, add a silk royal blue tie with a gold or silver tie-pin. And do not forget the shoes, it goes a long way to make sure they are polished and match with the suit. 
  2. Always have suits and formal dresses in neutral colours like black, beige, grey, a shade of blue, which one would prefer, although the most favoured is navy blue. The collection of formal shoes is best limited to leather shoes in black and brown and for women, pump heels in black, white, and shades of nude. 
  3. Whatever be the occasion, clothes must be clean, crisp and fresh, and so is advised for socks and ties as well. Accessories should be limited to working, trusted watches and simple cufflinks for men and for women, along with a watch, the jewellery should be limited to a simple pearl or light diamond set. Make-up should also be kept as simple as possible with the most bright facial features being the eyes and the lips, but bold-coloured cosmetic products should be downplayed as much as is feasible. 
  4. Shop strategically. Remember, no one cares if your clothes are from a local shop or high-priced brands like Zara and Louis Phillippe if you cannot give desired results to the task assigned to you. Look at Steve Jobs and Bill Gates- they might be wearing plain sweaters paired with simple jeans nevertheless delivering laudable and tremendous lectures. Of course, that does not mean you wear a sweater and over-washed jeans to a formal meeting, but whatever you wear, keep it smart and collected.
  5. If we go specifically for Indian wear, women should wear sarees of one single colour paired with a single coloured blouse which has an appropriate neckline and sleeves either ending just before or covering the elbows. The sarees should be bordered with properly measured pleats and the pallu, the loose end of the saree which is draped over one’s shoulder, should be of the same colour as the rest of the saree, that is to say, that it should either have little or no over-the-top designs. One can look up the sarees worn by the female Indian diplomats, political icons like Indira Gandhi and Sushma Swaraj, and Indian female flight attendants of the Air India airlines. As for men, although Indian wear is not permitted in many workplaces, wherever it is permitted, the Indian suits should be limited to galabandh or bandh gala, resembling a Nehru jacket or a Jodhpuri suit.

Importance of a lawyer’s attire in virtual proceedings 

The colour ‘black’ is always associated with lawyers. Over the years, the importance and the critical role of legal professionals have made people hold black as the colour of power and authority. That is why a lawyer is expected to be dressed in black and white. The combination of these two colours has a sharp impact of intimidation along with determination, an air that every law aspirant and lawyer should possess. This need to look sharp, intimidating, and determined cannot be successful if the suit and robes are not properly put together.  Therefore, below listed are the reasons for and benefits of physical beauty for lawyers.

  • Lawyers are generally supposed to wear black or grey suits. It is necessary to make sure that your wardrobe reflects your personality and the kind of day you have ahead. If going for a client meeting, it is alright to be dressed in business casuals but in darker shades. When going to the court, it is important to wear whatever is given in the dress code policy which varies from country to country.
  • While it is true that a lawyer’s wardrobe is mostly in shades of black and grey, keeping up with the trend is also important. It does not have to be anything flashy, just enough to enhance your features or clothes like a shiny watch or an eye-catching piece of hair accessory. It could also be a formal but trendy makeover to add as a bonus to your entire look.
  • Inner beauty and brains are imperative for a lawyer but in today’s market where how one looks governs most of the successful endeavours, a lawyer should literally never make a fashion faux pas by wearing heels which hurt as if walking on needles or suit pants one constantly needs to pull up. The discomfort caused by painful shoes or ill-fitted clothes can make one fidgety, seen as a sign of unprofessionalism. 
  • Fidgeting too much with one’s clothes can irk the judge who might take it as a sign of disrespect or annoy a client to the point of him/her ridiculing the lawyer. 
  • A lawyer’s reputation precedes his/her self. Wearing clothes which show them at their best is the way to establish and increase one’s personal brand.
  • In many corporate set-ups, the looks matter to an extent that it can be the deal maker or breaker.

Identity for virtual proceedings

  • In a physical atmosphere, a lawyer’s intelligence can compensate for minor mistakes or loopholes in his/her clothing but in the virtual environment, where it is not possible to make out the other’s overall demeanour, dressing well is the way to climb up the ladder of being in everyone’s good looks.
  • Just like how a text message can be misinterpreted for its vague tone, not being in formal clothes will definitely be seen as a sign of disrespecting or slacking-off.
  • In the virtual world, what you show is associated with your identity and behaviour, and it will stick throughout. So be careful and extra cautious when presenting through video conferencing.
  • A lawyer is hard-working, so make sure to channel your hard work on your attire to be more convincing and persuasive.
  • No one ever says this, but how one dresses is also taken as proof of their common sense and observation skills. For example, if you know that the judge presiding over the case is strict, especially regarding the dress code, you are more likely to put an extra effort to look perfect and flawless from head to toe. Of course, the judge might not compliment you on your efforts outright but will be subconsciously pleased with the fact that you dressed up to his/her liking. 

All these help to establish your goodwill and personal brand, both of which will help a lawyer be respected and identified as worthy and accomplished. 

Consequences of poor taste and choice of attire

If one was not aware of how strict corporations and firms are regarding the dress code policy, one should go through the 40-page long dress code policy of the Swiss Bank which went viral because of its strict rules, from one’s outerwear to underwear and even bathing rules.

Although most corporations do not have such strict and intrusive dress code policy, one cannot blame them for trying their bit to uphold the company’s image. And all of such policies are laid down by the top management so that their human resource does not suffer from the following consequences for bad professional dressing-

  • Dull performance: just like a great professional outfit has the power to lift one’s spirit and maintain an attitude of motivation and confidence, a poor choice of attire can demoralize one to be distracted from their job and leave them uncomfortable in their clothes.
  • Weak rapport with customers or clients: no one would want to be given a tour of a house they would like to buy or be represented by a lawyer who cannot dress up to look the part of a professional. Such blunders will make it hard for any employee to establish good relations with their customers and a poorly dressed lawyer will scare away any potential client for good.
  • Violating Company dress code policies: companies and firms build their goodwill from purchased advertisement and from the word-of-mouth. Both these will only be positive if their employees uphold the image of the business through their personal image. Anyone found violating the dress code policy and shaming the business image runs a high risk of being demoted, salary reduced or if worse comes to worst, employment terminated.
  • Tense employee relations: just like no third party likes to be linked with a shabbily dressed person, neither do teammates want to be affiliated with the same. A badly dressed teammate will not only become a source of ridicule and annoyance to those who actually put in the effort to look their best, but it will also gradually lead to tense and strained team and employee relations, which will harm the organization later on.

Conclusion

Virtual courts might not be a forever concept, but it is definitely to stay. It might not be considered as strong as In-court sessions but it definitely is a way to fasten up the pace of disposing of petty and repetitive cases like cases of challan and tortious offences requiring only nominal compensation for the loss. Specific reasons, why virtual courts would probably not be included in the mainstream court procedures, are as follows-

  • To access the virtual world of justice, one would need access to electronic gadgets and a working internet connection. Till 2017, 72% of the Indian population had no access to the internet and till 2019, only 27.57% of the rural population has a subscription to the internet services compared to the high probability for those in urban centres. 
  • In-court sessions enable the litigants and judges to decide whether a witness or any of the parties are giving false statements or evidence through studying and scrutinizing their demeanour, which may not be possible through online modes.
  • Virtual Court proceedings are a cause of concern because there is a high risk of identity theft by either the parties or a third party altogether, and there may not be anyone to hold accountable.
  • In-court sessions uphold the objective of criminal punishment highly because criminal punishment is awarded through an exclusive procedure of negotiations and arguments which would not have the same effect virtually because the entire scene includes the presence of the litigants, witnesses, victim and accused along with experts. This kind of environment can only be achieved through the physical presence of all the stakeholders.

All the reasons considered, a lawyer is not limited to only court matters. They are involved in various other forms of work cultures like debate, teaching and pursuing educational courses. And all these can very well be carried out through virtual modes which reinforces the need to dress up with appropriate style and manners. A lawyer should not only be his/her best in the court but even when walking on the streets, should have an effect of turning heads and inciting respect. Lawyers are those people who can inspire confidence in the right and at the same time, fear in the wrong, and that cannot be done with a suit which does not fit.

After all, the right vanity brings out the best in those who have what it takes to be successful as was once said by Oscar Wilde, “It is curious how vanity helps the successful man but wrecks the failure”. And vanity is not all about good looks, it also comes from the clothes one wears and presents to the world at large.

Reference 

  1. To refer to the article on Virtual Courts and why it has low chances of being implemented in India on a higher scale, access https://www.barandbench.com/columns/virtual-courts-a-sustainable-option
  2. Research on How Clothing can change one’s performance can be referred through https://www.inc.com/molly-reynolds/research-shows-that-the-clothes-you-wear-actually-change-the-way-you-perform.html

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