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Member Appreciation Month Tip: Lawin' in Style - Wardrobe Edition

We're ending our D4S Week 2 — Polish Your Professional Presence — in style. Literally. Your challenge is to evaluate the image you're projecting with your wardrobe and if it's working for you.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. - Will Rogers

You are more than your clothes. You are more than your job. But there's also no harm in wanting to make a great impression on clients and colleagues, and having a good sense of style will help you do that. Whether you're into creating a capsule wardrobe or have a closet that Carrie Bradshaw would envy, there's a style for every lawyer that will make you feel both comfortable and commanding.  

We contacted a few ISBA members who are well-known for their stylish ensembles to get their advice and insight on power dressing for lawyers. 

Meet Our Style Mavens. All four interviewees are active members in the ISBA — which is how we knew they were so stylish! — and come from a variety of backgrounds and practices. Meet Natali, Rory, Carol and Cory (kind of has a jingle to it, no?)...

Natali Marquez-Ponce is a member of the Young Lawyers Division Council who practices insurance defense exclusively for Liberty Mutual Insurance. Admitted in 2014, she's a University of Illinois College of Law grad, a native Spanish speaker and author of the fashion blog Legal Latina.

Rory T. Weiler is a member of the Board of Governors and Assembly, and a District Director on the Illinois Bar Foundation Board. As a small firm practitioner, his focus is family law - primarily divorce but also parentage cases. Admitted in 1979, Rory's a grad of John Marshall School of Law and the 2005 recipient of the John C. McAndrews Pro Bono Service Award.

Carol Jones is vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity and a member of the Family Law Section Council. She also practices in a small firm, whose focus is on serving the LGBT community in the areas of family law, estate planning, adoption, real estate and probate law. Admitted in 2003, Carol is an alumnus of Loyola University of Chicago School of Law and also holds an M.A. in Bioethics.

Cory White is chair of the Diversity Leadership Council and the CLE coordinator for the Business & Securities Law Section Council. A corporate transactional lawyer, he practices in a firm composed of attorneys admitted to practice in several jurisdictions in the U.S. and in Mexico. Admitted in 2009, Cory is a DePaul University College of Law grad and has authored several publications on corporate governance, corporate structuring, and securities compliance and regulation.

Natali Marquez-Ponce

In one sentence, what is your style mantra?

Natali: Dress how you want to feel.

Rory: “I'm too old to change my look now.”

Carol: Avoid fashion fads and stick with classics.

Cory: Wear clothes that fit.

Do you have a style uniform for work?

Natali: I try to keep my attire conservative but chic. For example, if I wear solid print pants, I pair them with a fun blouse and solid print blazer. Once the weather gets nice, you can bet that you'll find me in a dress or skirt and blouse combo. I wear heels every single day. I find that I am more confident and (surprisingly) more comfortable in heels than in flats.

Rory: My preferred shirt is one with white spread collar and French cuffs, almost without exception. My uniform for court is usually a three-piece suit. On Fridays, I might go casual with a sport coat and slacks. If I'm not in court, it's jeans and sweatshirt in the winter, shorts and a golf shirt in what passes for summer here. I hate having to wear socks and shoes, but they come in handy in the winter.

Carol: Sadly, I do. If you ask anyone that knows me, I always start with black pants as my base – every single day. Then I often pair those with something long and flowy – feminine, but professional.

Cory: I'm open to anything, as long as its professional. In that regard, there are some rules. Suits can't be too loud. What's a loud suit? You know it when you see it.

Are you a fashion minimalist or maximalist?

Natali: It depends. If I'm not on trial, I'll wear some fun prints. For example, I have a long sleeve flannel dress that I love to wear in the winter with some black tights and black booties. However, if I have a trial or an arbitration, I wear a solid print skirt suit with a light blue or white blouse and a pair of black heels.

Rory: I'm mindful of Oscar Wilde’s observation that fashion is an ugliness so intolerable that we change it every 6 months. Therefore, I don't wear “fashion.” My lawyer uniform has changed very little in the 37 plus years of practice. I guess that makes me a minimalist.

Carol: Definitely a minimalist. I read an article recently about someone that has 5 identical outfits that she wears every day. Something like that intrigues me more than expanding my wardrobe choices. I love the idea of just having one classic look – that doesn't go out of style with time. Having to sift through too much is just overwhelming and is not how I want to use my time.

Cory: No other jewelry other than your watch and cuff links, if you're wearing a French cuffed shirt. Make sure to have at least one watch that works well with any suit you own – I suggest brown leather band with a 42-45 millimeter face. Stay away from smart watches, those are for the gym. If you need to check your email on your watch, you're doing it wrong.

Rory T. Weiler

Do you have a signature piece of clothing or accessory?

Natali: Yes, I have two. My white blazer from H&M and my Burberry trench coat. As soon as I step outside of my home wearing either of these items, I feel ready to take on the day. I think that not only do you have to look professional in what you wear, but you also have to feel confident and powerful, like you could conquer the world, one lawsuit at a time.

Rory: I wear three-piece suits whether they are “in” or not.

Carol: Jewelry is probably my signature accessory. My stepdad is a jeweler and has made me some really beautiful pieces. I also love how changing out jewelry can change the entire look of an outfit – and can really dress it up when needed for work or court.

What one piece of clothing or accessory are you lusting after?

Natali: A waist length black blazer, sans the buttons.

Rory: Maybe because I generally wear neutral tone suits, I love pastel shirts and ties. My real weaknesses, however, are watches and cufflinks. Right now I'm coveting a yellow gold Patek Phillipe watch. Once I get that, I won't ever ask for anything ever again, promise.

Carol: A well-made, sturdy, but beautiful shoulder bag to carry my court files back and forth – I find that even paying a little extra does not always equal high quality and most bags that I have used have not been able to withstand the rigors of all the paper with which I often travel.

Cory: I need to update my shirts, so I'm in the process of doing that.

Carol Jones

Casual Fridays - love it or hate it?

Natali: Love, though I rarely get to take advantage of them.

Rory: I love every Friday, casual or not.

Carol: Generally, I am not a fan. While that might work in some professions, it has happened way too often that a client just stops by unannounced and I need to rush to court for an emergency motion. We are “on call” for better or worse. The casual stuff can wait for the weekends when the office is closed.

Cory: Love it.

Any (work) fashion pet peeves?

Natali: Baggy sweaters in court, pants that are longer than your shoes, and miniskirts.

Rory: The main one that comes to mind is how people dress to come to court (many lawyers included). I remember as a young lawyer clients would ask how to dress, and I would tell them dress as you do to go to church. Nowadays, many folks dress like they are going to change the oil in their car or forgot they were going out in public. [Inappropriate] clothing and baring tattoos are in my anachronistic interpretation a way of saying you don't care about the court, or yourself, since that first impression is often the most lasting one. I often think, that person had to look in the mirror and say, “yep, that is exactly the look I was going for today.” Sad and frightening, all at once.

Carol: Wrinkled clothing is probably my one major fashion pet peeve – whether for work or otherwise. I never want my clients imagining that I dug through a pile of rumpled clothing on the floor to find my outfit for the day. I don't think that would instill a lot of confidence in them about my capabilities professionally.

Cory: Jackets that are too long. Monogrammed initials. Tie clips on ties that are too wide for said clip. Dirty shoes. Pants that are too long.

Natali's style muse, Olivia Pope

Do you have a style muse?

Natali: Yes. Olivia Pope even though she's a fictional character. I bought so many clothes from The Limited’s Scandal collection before The Limited went out of business.

Carol: Yes – attorney Jackie Birnbaum. There is something really wonderful about Jackie’s style – it conveys confidence and maybe even a little bit of power – not in an over-the-top kind of way, but when she walks in a courtroom, people just know she is someone to be reckoned with. She's just glamorous.

How has your style evolved since you started practicing law?

Natali: When I graduated from law school, I started with just suits and solid colored shirts. That attire got redundant when I started going to court almost daily on case management statuses. I branched out and started wearing fun blouses, which turned into fun skirts and dresses. Now, I wear a solid bottom and a fun top or vise-a-versa. Of course, I don't get too crazy with my bottoms, some stripes, some polka-dots, never animal print (I do have a leopard print blouse though!). When I started practicing law, I only wore black or nude heels. Now, I wear a bit more daring shoes – two of my favorites are a flower pattern pointed toe and a burgundy crisscross strap pointed toe.

Rory: The only element of “evolved” I can point to is that I sometimes wear bow ties now, and I like the look. Thankfully, I'm married to a lovely woman who knows how to tie them, as I still haven't figured it out.

Carol: I have steered away from the idea that you have to wear a really boring suit to be seen as a professional. With my work most heavily focused in family law, clients are coming to me at a really pivotal point in their lives. You are learning all of the intimate details about them and their, now failing, marriages. I think that clients are relieved when they first meet me to find that I am not stuffy or rigid – I believe that it makes me more relatable so that clients open up and tell me their story.

Cory: Suits have gotten more fitted to account better for jacket length, pants length, and pants width. Most suits I see are ill fitting. This is the biggest mistake most professional men make. Your jacket sleeves should rest about .5 inches above cuff of your shirt when standing up. Most jackets I see are too long. Pants should be tailored to give you no more than a half break when meeting your shoes (your tailor will know what this means). I actually prefer a slight break (i.e., less than half), but that's all about personal preference.

Share your favorite outfit with us on Instagram for a chance to win our D4S Week 2 prize!

Post (1) a photo of your favorite work outfit by Friday, May 19 at Noon.

Tag your post with #isbadesk4success, #lawinINstyle and @isbalawyers.

***We'll choose our favorite post to win a $150 Visa Gift Card.***

Winner will be announced May 22 on ISBA Instagram and Illinois Lawyer Now.

Posted on May 12, 2017 by Sara Anderson
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