How To Dress For Your Summer Internship

How To Dress For Your Summer Internship

Are you starting an internship this summer and wondering what to wear?  In this post, we give you tips for how to dress for your summer internship!

How To Dress For Your Summer Internship

The dress code for a legal internship can range from anything from completely casual (e.g., blue jeans) to business formal (e.g., suit and tie).  Wearing the incorrect clothing can cause stress. It might even make the difference between whether you receive a full-time job offer at the end of your internship.  Here are some tips for navigating this broad spectrum of appropriate office wear:

Take hints from the interview.

You may be too nervous at your interview to pay much attention to what the interviewers are wearing. However, remember to make a quick note of what the other individuals are wearing. This can give you a strong sense of the formality of the office dress code.  Are the men all wearing ties and jackets?  Are women wearing suits?  Do they all have dresses or skirts on?  If everyone is wearing similarly formal attire, that will give you a general sense of the dress code for the office.

That being said, don’t assume that the dress code is casual if everyone is dressed casually.  Even if everyone seems fairly casual at the interview, you may want to dress formally until (or unless) otherwise instructed.  Showing up on the first day dressed casually just because the interviewers were casual doesn’t make a great first impression.  Maybe you caught the interviewers on a casual day and they generally dress much more formally; you don’t want to make that mistake!  When in doubt, err on the side of formal.  If you overdress, you will probably know after the first day.

Don’t be afraid to ask!

If you don’t want to wait for the first day to find out the formality of the dress code, feel free to send an email to your contact person at the organization before you start and find out what the dress code is.  This is the best route if you need to acquire more clothes suitable for work prior to the start of your internship.  If a suit is a requirement, you may need to go out and buy more suits!

When asking, be sure to address the situation in a professional manner.  If you noticed that everyone was wearing jeans at your interview, you should not ask “is it ok if I wear jeans to work?”  Instead, you could say, “I want to be sure that I come dressed appropriately and was wondering what the dress code is.”

Know that the dress code may vary day-to-day

Some offices have varying dress codes, depending on the particular situation.  For instance, some offices have a “casual Friday” on which employees get to wear less formal attire (sometimes even jeans!).  Keep in mind that “casual Friday” NEVER means you should show up in sweatpants or a t-shirt.  While you may get away with jeans, you should still try to remain as professional as possible.  Other offices may have a formal dress code, but it becomes more relaxed when the boss is not in the office (Be careful with this one!)

On the other hand, if you are working in an office that has a “business casual” dress code, but you have to appear in court, you MUST wear a suit to court!  Judges can be extremely strict about lawyers’ court attire and you don’t want to give your firm or mentor a bad reputation by showing up without a jacket!  There is no such thing as too formal in court – men should wear a suit, tie, and dress shoes.  Women too should wear a suit with a conservative shirt underneath.  If you know you are going to court, you may want to ask other lawyers in advance if the particular judge before whom you will be appearing has any special rules for his or her courtroom regarding attire.

When in doubt, overdress.

Chances are, you have a short time to make a good impression at an internship.  If you are interning somewhere that you hope to work full time after law school, or even if you are just hoping for a good letter of recommendation, making a good impression is crucial.  The way you dress is a great way to tell the employees at the firm that you take yourself and your work seriously and that you would be a great full-time employee.  For this reason, if you have any doubt as to how formal you should dress, err on the side of too formal.  Showing up in jeans when the dress code is “business casual” will definitely raise some red flags while showing up in a suit if the dress code is “business casual” will demonstrate a high level of professionalism.

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