Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Every Day is Casual Friday at This Law Firm

File this under Casual Fridays Gone Wild: one BigLaw firm has changed its dress code to allow employees to wear jeans whenever they want.

Dechert LLP – with close to 1,000 lawyers in 27 offices worldwide – announced the move in March. It applies to lawyers and staff. Previously, jeans were permitted in some offices but not others, and only on certain days or parts of the year, says a firm spokesperson in this ABA Journal article.

“Despite the relaxed dress policy, lawyers will still be expected to wear business attire in court and in other appearances that call for a more formal look,” according to The Recorder. “And just in case of an unexpected meeting or visit, lawyers can change to business clothes stored in a garment bag provided by Dechert.”

Why the change? The firm says it’s “just trying to make life easier for people, make people more comfortable, more innovative and letting our talent do their best work,” per The Recorder.

But another reason may be lurking just beneath the denim: looser dress rules are favored by Gen Xers and millennials, two demographic markets that BigLaw firms are recruiting like crazy.

That’s one reason Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan has been allowing jeans, flip-flops and even shorts for years, the ABA Journal reports.

Bell Bottom Blues

Relaxed attire is increasingly being seen as a nod to work-life balance and reduced stress. Which should mean higher employee productivity.

But not all business leaders are thrilled. In a 2016 survey, nearly half of senior-level managers thought their employees dressed too casually for work.

“Almost a third actually used the phrase ‘too much skin’ to describe their employees’ choice of workplace attire,” writes Sarah Landrum for Forbes.

But the shoe – as in sneakers and Hush Puppies – appears to have already dropped. Some of the largest and most venerable institutions in the country like GE, IBM and JP Morgan are loosening their ties and breaking out the Levis.

What if Your Firm Doesn’t Have a Dress Code?

Dressing right can pose a challenge in workplaces that lack clear guidelines on attire. Landrum recommends striking a balance between casual and competent. Here are three of her suggestions:

  1. Shirts should have buttons. “V-necks and undershirts have their place in the office, and it’s underneath shirts with buttons.”
  1. Limit jeans to a couple days each week. “Jeans are fine in most business casual settings these days, but they’re also pretty pedestrian. Aim for a notch or two above ‘conventional’ when you dress for work if you want to stand out.”
  1. Hygiene matters. “This probably doesn’t need to be said among adults, but keep your makeup tasteful and maintain a measure of control over your stubble. Comb your hair once in a while. Use deodorant judiciously. The clothes you choose should complement an already clean and professional appearance — not apologize for your lack of one.”

In 2016, JP Morgan Chase shook up Wall Street with a memo to its 237,000 employees that made business casual the norm rather than the exception. Here’s what is now okay and not okay, courtesy of The New York Times.

Okay at JP Morgan Chase

  • Formal business attire
  • Casual pants, capri pants, dresses and skirts of appropriate length for the workplace
  • Business-appropriate casual shirts, polo shirts, sweaters, tops and blouses (including JPMorgan or Chase-branded apparel, naturally)
  • Dress shoes and dress sandals
  • Minimal, tasteful jewelry and fragrances


Not Okay at JP Morgan Chase

  • Athletic clothing — sweatpants, sweatshirts, T-shirts, jumpsuits, yoga pants or leggings (the last of which is helpfully defined as “tightfitting stretch pants”)
  • Shorts, beachwear, halter tops, tank tops or crop tops
  • Flip-flops, clogs, rubber-soled floater sandals or slippers
  • Hats or hoods
  • Distracting, tight, revealing or exceptionally loose or low-cut clothing
  • Torn or frayed clothing or clothing attachments that have profane, offensive or religious messages
  • Offensive or distracting visible tattoos, body piercings or unprofessional hair styles


Does your office have a dress code? What is it?

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

Related Posts