Suit on first day at business casual law firm?
August 30, 2011 3:35 PM   Subscribe

What do I wear for my first day at a business-casual office?

I'll be starting work soon at a large law firm in New York as a first-year associate. Their normal dress code is business casual. Should I follow that on the first day, or wear a suit? I believe the first day or two will be all training, if that makes a difference. I didn't spend a summer there, so I don't have much prior experience with the particular firm to go on. My main goal is to make whatever choice will not stand out, so informed guesses about what others will be doing would be particularly helpful.

I'm trying not to overthink this. Thanks!
posted by rustcellar to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are you male or female? Male: nice slacks, buttondown and tie. Take the tie off if you feel overdressed. Add a blazer if you feel like you'll be underdressed.

Female: no idea.
posted by supercres at 3:37 PM on August 30, 2011

Response by poster: Male. Thanks!
posted by rustcellar at 3:39 PM on August 30, 2011

Female: slacks or nice skirt, blouse. Make-up is optional (always should be), as is jewelry. For shoes, anything semi-nice (flats, dark walking shoes). Pantyhose is also optional.

Basicaly NOT t-shirt, jeans or sneakers.
posted by jb at 3:40 PM on August 30, 2011

Wear the same things you'll wear every day, day in day out for the next decade. Special "first day of school" outfits do nothing but highlight that its your first job! And you don't know what's going on! But you're eager! In a way that isn't really good..

Since you're a dude, play it safe with a pair of nice dark pants (perhaps your suit pants), and a nice collared shirt. No tie, no jacket. Done!
posted by Kololo at 3:42 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a senior associate who has spent his entire career in Biglaw. Every year, the first years show up in suits for day 1. Some, by that first afternoon, ditch the jacket and tie. No one shows up in a suit on day 2.

It really is OK to show up in pants and a button down shirt, but I've never seen anyone do it.

Full disclosure: I wore a suit on my first day. It was particularly awkward, given that I elected to start on the last of three possible start dates (September, October and November of 1893), so most of my colleagues had been there for one or two months and had long since moved past their first-day suits. But there I was, looking like a n00b. A fucking suitn00b.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:45 PM on August 30, 2011 [4 favorites]

If you wear a suit and tie, you'll look like a dorky eager-beaver. But you're starting a job on a big law firm in NYC, so I bet half the new associates will be trying for the eager-beaver look. If I were you, I'd stick with business casual*.

*which includes a jacket, because just a dress shirt and pants isn't anything but an incomplete outfit. But I am in the minority on this topic.
posted by mullacc at 3:46 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like mullacc's style--if you show up with a nice shirt, a well cut suit, and NO TIE, you'll look a bit of a lad, but you won't stand out as either too dressed up or two dressed down.

We had a firm wide meeting at my firm a ways back and a number of the foreign attorneys flew in--I think the suit, no tie look was rocked exclusively by the well-dressed European attorneys.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:51 PM on August 30, 2011

1893? You should have rocked the sack coat, wing collars and contrasting single breasted waistcoat, Admiral.

I would err on the side of formality, then gradually go more informal once you get the groove of what everyone else wears. It's much easier to move down, rather than up the fashion scale.
posted by joannemullen at 3:55 PM on August 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Dark pants, nice button down or dress shirt, nice blazer/jacket. You'll look professional without being overeager and nice and put together for your first day lunch if someone takes you out.
posted by Cocodrillo at 4:05 PM on August 30, 2011

I would wear the pants from a conservative suit, wing tip type business shoes, and a button down shirt (blue) and have the jacket with a tie in the pocket just in case.

Also, depending how well you got on with the folks who interviewed you, I would call one and ask them what you should wear the first day. Something like, "Hey, it is Joe Rustcellar. Just wanted to call and tell you I am starting on Tuesday and wanted to thank you again for all your help." "No problem. I look forward to seeing you. If you need anything do not hesitate to stop in and ask." "Actually, I have one question now. What should I wear my first day? How does our firm define 'business casual'?"
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:06 PM on August 30, 2011

Best answer: Everyone else will be in a suit. Just wear one. Don't stand out yet.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 4:11 PM on August 30, 2011

(I'm assuming this is a firm with a large incoming first-year class, many of whom are starting on the same day as you. I would be shocked if they were not all in suits.)
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 4:12 PM on August 30, 2011

Just call the firm and ask. They'll know better than we do.
posted by John Cohen at 4:19 PM on August 30, 2011

Just call the firm and ask. They'll know better than we do.

With all due respect, I would really not do this.
posted by threeants at 4:39 PM on August 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a junior associate who has spent her entire career (such as it is thus far) in Biglaw. Wear a suit, with a tie. It's dumb, and you don't have to do it past the first day, but everyone else will be wearing a suit and you'll want to fit in. Unless it's Quinn, then freaking wear jorts and flipflops if you want.*

*Just kidding, don't do this on the first day, but do it every day after.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 5:54 PM on August 30, 2011

I work in Silicon Valley tech, which is as informal as you can get without actually being clothing optional. My advice: wear a suit. You might look too eager, but if everyone does it then it's sort of expected that you'll do it too. There is far more harm in under-dressing than there is in over-dressing on your first day.

The thing is, business casual doesn't mean any absolute thing. Jeans, khakis, or a sweater over a button-down shirt might be business casual for some and not for others. You can't just sit down and reason out what it means, so don't try.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 6:37 PM on August 30, 2011

Best answer: Wear a suit. Everybody else will. In the highly unlikely event that they don't, you can take off the jacket and tie and nobody will be the wiser.
posted by sinfony at 7:35 PM on August 30, 2011

I should qualify that by noting that I'm a first-year associate at a Biglaw firm in NYC where the normal dress code is business casual. Worth noting that some people still wear suits every day.
posted by sinfony at 7:36 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Speaking as someone in precisely your position (maybe at your firm, who knows...) a bit under a year ago: suit and tie on the first day.

As a practical consideration, on the first day you are somewhat likely to be photographed for ID cards, a headshot to be beamed around the firm encouraging your new colleagues to say hello, or other nefarious purposes.
posted by deeaytch at 8:36 PM on August 30, 2011

Best answer: Bern there. Done that. Suit is a must day 1.
posted by slateyness at 8:56 PM on August 30, 2011

I'll add a data point. I went with the suit on day one. The head of the litigation department (my department) made it a point to come up to me and say, "hey crLLC, don't you know it's business casual around here?" So if your goal is to not stand out, I'd say no suit. On the other hand, most other new associates also went with the suit, so I guess it depends on what you mean by "not stand out."
posted by crLLC at 7:23 AM on August 31, 2011

Though it was only five years ago, I can't remember what I wore on day one at a biglaw firm. But nthing those who say suit. My brother once said to me, "You can never be over-dressed." What he meant was, you can always take off your jacket, your tie, roll up your sleeves, etc. if you wear a suit. But if you go more casual, there's nothing you can do "formal-up" your situation if you feel uncomfortable and under-dressed.

Also, good luck!
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:56 AM on August 31, 2011

Suit with no tie

If their dress code is really business casual (every day?) I'd wear khakies and some non-descript short-sleeved short, especially if these first training days are at a separate location. On the other hand, since you'll always be the New Guy the first day, and will stick out anyway, I'd wear the suit -- and I wouldn't be unconmfortable wearing the necktie as well. Just as you could always take off the suit jacket, you could also easily ditch the tie -- or even, just come with it rolled up, in one the suit-jacket pockets. This way you're prepared if all the other guys are also wearing ties.
posted by Rash at 8:37 PM on August 31, 2011

Don't ever wear khakis or a short-sleeved shirt (unless it's Quinn). You will be severely underdressed. There are varying degrees of business casual, but in Biglaw, it tends to skew much closer to business.

I get the feeling that my firm is in the middle of the formality curve. Men always wear dark pants and long-sleeved shirts. Always. Khakis and (in some departments) jeans sometimes make an appearance on Fridays. I would recommend sticking to that formula at least for the first few days while you get a sense for how everybody else dresses, unless you show up the first day and its flip-flops all around.
posted by sinfony at 9:05 PM on August 31, 2011

*It's. Please kill me.
posted by sinfony at 7:03 PM on September 1, 2011

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