We all know how much your library time improved when you finally admitted to yourself that no one was going to pap you for your uni magazine's fashion page and took to wearing trackies and pyjamas. But unfortunately the academic side of your career is nearly over and it's time to move forward and find a training contract. Which means leaving the harem pants and trainers behind...
Do I need to wear a suit for my training contract interview?
In a word, yes. The law firm is assessing whether or not you would make a good solicitor at their company, and the way you present yourself is one of the factors they will consider. It might seem old-fashioned, but you will eventually be dealing with clients who are paying your firm a lot of money – and they want someone who looks like they are professional and take their job seriously.
You might not yet have an appropriate wardrobe for a solicitor, but you'll have to dress this way every day of your training contract – so it's time to start thinking about how to look smart.
How smart do I have to be?
So we've established you need something that resembles a suit – so a jacket or blazer with a shirt, with suit trousers or a skirt. You might want to be creative and unique, but a colourful suit is not the way to go. Stick to black, grey or navy. Once you've bagged the contract, you can see what your colleagues wear and decide if it's worth funking it up a little. The same goes for ties, socks and headscarves – go for a dark, neutral colour and keep the Daffy Duck novelty ones at home... Or in the bin.
Always button your shirt up to the top, and it's safest to go for white. Please avoid eating anything with ketchup beforehand.
If you decide to wear a skirt (you don't have to!), keep it knee-length and wear tights. Heels are also not obligatory, and you'll impress far more if you turn up in a smart pair of flats than if you trip over yourself and land in the interviewer's lap. Again, please no trainers. If you need to bring a bag, make sure it looks professional and keep it as small as possible, and ensure it closes properly – the interviewer doesn't need to see a disorganised mess of tangled headphones and chewing gum wrappers.
Keep make up and jewellery to a minimum. You want to look nice, but there's no need to strive for being unique – the impression you leave should be from your interview answers, not your triple nose piercing chain.
You don't need to wear a waistcoat, top hat or a pocket-watch, and these might even be pushing the smart thing a bit far...
What about my actual appearance?
You're not going to need to get a nose job. We promise.
But you might be best getting a haircut. There aren't any specific rules about hairstyles, but you'll need to keep it neat rather than fashionable. The same goes for facial hair – you can keep it if it looks professional, but maybe the beginning of your legal career isn't the time to see if that patchy stubble will turn into a Gandalf beard.
Essentially, you want to make it look like you made an effort, but the right sort of effort. You might take longer getting dressed up for a night out, but your interviewer isn't going to be impressed that it took you a solid seven minutes to get those eyelashes stuck on properly (although it is a difficult skill to master).
Do I need to spend a lot of money?
You don't need to run off to Dolce & Gabbana. But your training contract is the beginning of your legal career, and the way you dress for your interview is the way you'll be dressing every day, so it's worth investing in a few outfits now. You'll be able to upgrade your wardrobe once you finally get your hands on a salary, so for now stick to pieces that are versatile yet professional.
But no one else is wearing a suit!
You might find that at smaller firms or when not dealing with clients, colleagues dress in a more relaxed way. But these are the things you'll only find out once you've started your contract and become part of the team. Not dressing smart to an interview might make you feel more comfortable, but it won't impress anyone.
Think of it this way: you're trying to convince your interviewer that you'll make a great solicitor one day. If you look like a solicitor, you're halfway there.