If you have ever met with me in my office, you will know that I say consistently that any lawyer that makes you a promise is a liar. Want to know what else makes a lawyer a liar? If they say they have nothing else to learn. Boy, do we all have stuff to learn.
Let me give you an example of something that I had to learn the hard way. I had a client ask me early on what they should wear to Court. I told them to wear something that they would wear to go to see their grandmother. That’s safe, right? Nope. Apparently this guy’s grandmother was a big fan of Metallica and ripped up jeans. Okay, lesson learned.
Given that experience, I switched to telling clients to wear something they would wear to church. I really should have thought that one through. Apparently bras are optional at some churches.
I have now learned that being more specific is always better. Rookie mistakes above, right? We can move past those. What should you wear to Court if you are charged with a crime?
I have seen the whole range. I have seen pajama bottoms to suits that cost more than mine. I have seen t-shirts with pot leafs on it and hats with beer logos on them. Typically, those are bad choices. Especially when you are charged with possession or DWI.
The thing that I would like my clients, well, really anyone charged with a crime and going to court, is to think about who you are trying to impress. You are going to be standing in front of a Judge. That Judge holds in their hands something that could effect the rest of your life. Don’t we want to try to take every advantage to get a good outcome? You may be thinking, I’m a good guy, why should it matter if I wear a t-shirt or not? Well, the answer is that the Judge does not know you. I cannot in five minutes convey adequately how good of a guy you are. Yes. That Judge is judging a book by the cover. Let’s put a good cover on you.
I ask my male clients to wear slacks or clean jeans. I would prefer a button up shirt, but a polo shirt will work. Everything must be clean! Also, unless you have a very nice beard, I ask my clients to shave before coming into court. No jewelry besides a wedding ring. Take all earrings out! Yes, you are entitled to make a statement about who you are; let’s just make that statement at the right time. One of the Judges, before becoming a Judge, made a joke about yanking a nose ring out of one of his clients. Do you want that Judge looking at your nose ring rather than listening to me make your case?
I ask my female clients to dress in slacks, jeans or a skirt that is below the knees. I have also learned that one the hard way. Just because you look good in it does not mean this is the time to wear it. Button up shirts or sweaters are just fine. I do not want to see any skin above your elbow on your arms. Sounds tough? I don’t mean it to be. I am just looking out for you and the average age of our Judges in Greene County is well above 55. This is what the Judges expect. Limited jewelry is okay, but do not go overboard!
I am not going to ask you to go buy a suit. If you have one, great; please wear it. But do not go buy one. It is my job to wear the suit. I am used to it. In fact, I cannot remember the last time when I did not wear one on a weekday. I have gotten to the point that I like it and it is just my uniform. I am required to wear one, you are not. But if you do wear one, please make sure that your shirt is ironed (or at least steamed in the bathroom when you take a shower) and you are not wearing white socks. I am starting to sound like the fashion police here. I am going to stop. You get the idea, right?
If you are in doubt about what to wear, you should ask me. This, believe it or not, is part of my job description. There is no such thing as a dumb question. The fact that you do not know what to wear to court is actually a good thing. That means you do not go often enough to know. My job is to make the outcome on your case as good as possible. How you dress does not play a huge role, but it does play a role. If I have someone that looks right, I will often time direct the prosecutor to look at them in the courtroom. I want to show that prosecutor that my client is the most put together person in that courtroom. That has helped with a client’s case on many, many occasions.
I tell my kids that the little things matter. I believe this more than anything else. The little things add up to be the big things. I hope this little peace of advice helps add up to be something bigger for you and your case.
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