In general, lawyers can have piercings.
But for many reasons, most lawyers choose not to wear them in the legal setting.
Can Lawyers Have Piercings? (Discussion)
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We lawyers look to the rules first to determine whether things are okay or not.
In general, if you are looking to practice in a certain jurisdiction (and a certain court), you should check the Uniform Trial Court Rules (or something similar which applies to all the courts in your state) and the Supplemental Court Rules (or something similar which applies to specific courts in a specific place.
In general, in the jurisdictions we know, there are specific rules for court for attire for attorneys.
In general, male attorneys are required to wear professional attire specifically including a suit jacket, and female attorneys are required to wear “the equivalent” of what men are required to wear.
There’s no language about tattoos, or piercings.
There’s generally no specific prohibition against piercings.
Judge’s Preferences Rule The Day
However, just because the rules don’t state something specific doesn’t mean that judges don’t have their own preferences that they enforce.
For example, this author knew of a judge who required that female attorneys wearing skirts also wear pantyhose.
She would send out attorneys who didn’t have them on with their skirt and wouldn’t let them return until the hose had been acquired.
Another judge this author knows of personally refused to allow attorneys into his courtroom wearing the color purple.
He was an avid sports fan of a specific team, and the team’s rival sported the color purple.
He would outright refuse to hear the cases of people wearing purple suits.
In the end, if you decide to wear obvious piercings in court as an attorney, you may come across a judge who doesn’t approve of them and asks you to remove them.
Why Lawyers Avoid Piercings In Court and The Office
Even though the rules don’t prohibit them, lawyers tend to avoid piercings in court and in the office.
Piercings have become less of a statement of rebellion and are much more mainstream now (like tattoos).
However, they have not reached the level of professional.
We’d all like to think that the strength of the argument carries the day.
But in the practice of law, the way an attorney looks matters.
A judge (who is likely to have a lot of gray hair and antiquated notions) may not look favorably upon the attorney who is wearing piercings in court, and thus turn that disfavor upon the attorney’s client.
Attorneys want their clients to succeed, and will usually conform their appearance to what is expected to make sure the client receives every opportunity for a favorable result.
Piercings might be cool with some clients.
But many potential clients cannot see past piercings.
A person wearing a suit and piercings may be perceived as unprofessional, inexperienced, or less competent.
They may be less likely to trust the attorneys advice, or even want to work with them.
Even if an attorney removes the piercing but evidence that the attorney usually wears a piercing in a specific spot can be observed, it may change people’s perceptions and conclusions about the individual.
Hiring partners at law firms are often looking for the “right fit.”
They know what their clients expect to see when meeting with an attorney in their office.
And while the law protects employees on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, etc, there is no protections for tattoos or piercings.
But What About Originality? Personality?
Sadly, the costs of law school tend to squash a lot of the exuberance of youth.
When you are young and free of substantial debt, you can do what you want.
But when you suddenly owe six figures in student loans and you are facing down a monthly loan payment of more than $1,000 a month, you find yourself compromising your personal feelings about originality pretty darn quick.
When the choice is getting a law job with a conservative firm that doesn’t like piercings vs living off ramen noodles in perpetuity, you can see how many young people end up conforming.
As lawyers get older and more experienced (and have more clients), they might start to take more chances with their physical appearance.
After all, they have years of experience backing them up, and people won’t be making hiring decisions based upon piercings.
And if the client walks because he doesn’t like the jewelry, then the attorney has other clients to assist and earn money from.
What If You Like Piercings?
There’s nothing stopping you from having piercings.
Many attorneys have piercings, and tattoos as well.
But they often choose piercings or tattoos that can be covered or taken out.
For example, a tongue piercing, nose piercing, or eyebrow piercing can be taken out, and most clients won’t look closely enough to see it.
But plug earrings (gauges/tunnels) are difficult to minimize when the jewelry is taken out, because the ear lobe is permanently changed.
Why Wearing Piercings Could Be A Good Idea
Clients often choose attorneys that they feel they can trust, or relate to.
A very conservative gray haired man or women might not be someone the client can identify with or trust, if the attorney’s life and lifestyle seems far from the clients.
An attorney who enjoys piercings (and other non-mainstream elements of life) might be better off being himself, piercings and all.
This might repel certain clients.
But it also might attract others.
And these clients might be more enjoyable for the pierced attorney to assist and serve, making his practice of law that much more enjoyable.
Thinking about going to law school or becoming an attorney? Check out our law school and career guides in our legal library.
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