Paul L. Caron

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Law School Dress Code?

Interesting article in Inside Higher Ed:  Business (School) Casual, by Andy Guess:

The College of Business at Illinois State University is taking the imperative to “dress for success” literally. Starting this fall, students majoring in marketing or business teacher education will have to watch what they wear, donning business casual attire in class — or risk getting kicked out for the day.

Business schools offer plenty of reasons to look professional but tend to stop short of requiring a dress code, opting instead to encourage students to look sharp for interviews and meetings with recruiters. While medical schools routinely mandate personal hygiene and clothing guidelines (like these) for students in clinical facilities, and while a number of private religious institutions mandate dress standards, the step is unusual in a classroom setting at a business school.

But college officials have implemented the move, they say, with significant input from the students themselves and a good look at companies’ codes of conduct. The dress code is part of a larger set of standards designed to encourage professionalism and intended to prepare students for the “real world” of business after graduation. ...

“You can already just feel the difference [in attitude] between the kids who just come shuffling in with iPods and flip-flops, and then students who come in dressed for success.”

For more details, see College Freedom:  No Collared Shirt, No Dress Shoes, No Service.  A commenter contrasts business students with law students:

Unlike grad and law schools that accept students straight out of college, business schools typically accept applications from individuals who have already worked as analysts, bankers, and consultants. After working a few years in a professional setting and attending a thousand work happy hours, people kinda tend to get the hang of the whole business casual thing on their own.

I’m not in B-school, but I work in a professional setting and I definitely do not need my school to teach me how to dress. These rules are silly and frankly insulting. If anything, they make more sense for law students who are in fact fresh out of college and might find themselves unprepared for professional settings once they graduate.

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On Monday I wore a wrinkled button down shirt with shorts, sandals, and baseball cap to my law school classes. Except for the distinct lack of a tan, I looked liked I'd just gotten off a cruise ship. But I'm not straight-out of undergrad. My workplace switched to permanent casual. Not business casual, casual. I think the only restrictions are no flip flops and no halter tops.

But if B-schools and law schools are serious about teaching students how to dress for success, they need to cover the nuances of etiquette and cultural sensitivity. What is appropriate on Fifth Avenue may not be appropriate in small-town Mississippi or Los Angeles or even in a Hasidic community elsewhere in NYC.

Posted by: Apep | Aug 23, 2007 9:19:14 AM

Personally, I think dress codes like this are stupid. So you're a big shot attorney, do you really have to conform to the mold that society has built about the appearance of such? I plan on attending law school this fall and I have a mohawk, piercings, and tattoos. I'm a REAL person. I'm not afraid to be who I am. I also know when to take life seriously. I have a B average in my undergrad courses, a family of 6 (including myself), have served my country, and can still be myself. I refuse to conform to society and what "they" think I should look like because of my chosen profession. I'd much rather hire someone who is honest and not afraid to be themselves, than some monkey in a suit who is there to please everyone else. Just a thought to ponder.

Posted by: K.B. | Feb 18, 2009 10:03:05 AM