Law schools often claim that they are teaching students “how to think like a lawyer.” What is less touted, however, is that students are learning how to look like a lawyer. They receive this message from multiple sources (faculty, alumni, peers, the career office) concerning a variety of situations: class, interviews, moot court, trial team, symposia and conferences. For law students who are first generation, these sources may be the only avenue (apart from the entertainment industry) of determining how to look like a lawyer. For law students who are transgender or gender non-binary, dress code advice dispensed along men/women categories reinforces that they are outside of the typical framework.
After discussing the role of attire in joining a community, I turn specifically to the concerns of law students of “what to wear.” Are they required to wear certain clothes? I review the formal dress codes (or lack thereof) of over 100 law schools and summarize the findings. Focusing on Title IX, I discuss the possibility for litigation as a method to challenge dress codes. After concluding that litigation, at law schools, is an unlikely source of change, I then describe the unofficial, informal advice given by career offices. Finally, I conclude with the personal experiences of law students and graduates to conclude that many of us in the legal academy should take a moment to consider what messages we are sending about “how to look like a lawyer.”