Although many tipsters emailed us about it, we never wrote about this buzz-generating Wall Street Journal article, reporting on how many older lawyers are displeased by the overly informal, even sloppy attire of their younger colleagues. We didn’t write about it earlier because we felt preempted: the piece received lots of online attention, from such widely read outlets as the ABA Journal and the WSJ Law Blog, where it generated heavy comment traffic.
But now we have a new angle on it. Focus on these portions of Christina Binkley’s WSJ article:
[Winston & Strawn D.C. managing partner Thomas Mills] says he is partial to well-fitted Brioni suits for himself. He notes that the going rate for new associates in New York, Los Angeles and Washington is $160,000 a year — enough to buy suits while paying down school loans. Yet all too often, associates show up at work in jeans — attire that he doesn’t condone “unless it’s moving day.”
Winston & Strawn brought in a personal shopper from a local department store last year to address associates on how to shop and dress for work. Mr. Mills says that when some associates do make an effort to dress up, they seem to base their look on Hollywood. “You get the TV-woman lawyer look with skirts 12 inches above the knee and very tight blouses,” he says. “They have trouble sitting and getting into taxis.”
These remarks apparently didn’t go over too well back at Winston:
W&S DC office’s managing partner comes off as a total a**. His comments re: his custom suits are one thing. But his comments re: the way women in the office dress have created a stir….
People are seriously pissed, particularly the women. Man comes off as a total pig…. Read the article, you’ll see why.
This is prime ATL material. Firm has called impromptu associates meeting for 9:30 Monday, no topic given. But the guess is it is damage control.
The guess was correct. More about the meeting, after the jump.
One reader of the piece was surprised by Tom Mills’s quotes:
surprised you didn’t have anything on this. what about the cadwalader girl getting quoted as saying it’s “hard” to put on a suit, or cadwalader and winston/strawn coming off sounding like such hardasses – I know cadwalader doesn’t care about recruiting (see, e.g., layoffs), but do winston strawn and manatt phelps really want to come off sounding so uncool?
(also, what about the partner at manatt admitting she gave an assignment to a less qualified associate because she thought he was prettier?!)
Okay, so back to Winston & Strawn. On the Monday morning after the article appeared, the firm’s Washington office held a meeting about the kerfuffle:
On Monday morning, a meeting was held at which managing partner Tom Mills [pictured] apologized to all the associates. He said his remarks were taken out of context. He asked for a show of hands as to who was offended by his remarks — and a number of female associates actually raised their hands.
Mills explained that he wasn’t referring to Winston associates (who can NEVER wear jeans). He was merely saying that lawyers need to dress in a manner that clients will view as appropriate.
From a more supportive source:
At the meeting, Mills apologized for what was said, explained that he was taken out of context by the reporter, and emphasized that he was absolutely not referring to any Winston attorneys in his quotes.
For what it’s worth, I believe that everyone should know that the DC office in general — and Tom Mills in particular — has an outstanding commitment to diversity. By reputation, Mills is tremendously loyal to his people, and I think everyone should take him at his word that he did not mean to be quoted this way and regrets what has happened. Mills has spent years working to improve diversity, and I believe that he deserves the benefit of the doubt here.
We don’t think Thomas Mills has anything to apologize for. We kinda love old-school white guys. And we don’t have too much sympathy for lawyers complaining about overly formal attire. Isn’t part of the fun of practicing law the ability to play dress up?
When you spend twelve hours a day reviewing documents in a windowless conference room, or serving as some partner’s word-processing bitch, you may not feel like a lawyer. But if you dress up in a fancy suit, at least you get to look like one!
Law Without Suits: New Hires Flout Tradition [Wall Street Journal]
Are Associates too Freewheeling With Fashion? [WSJ Law Blog]
‘Abysmal’ Associate Attire Leads to Fashion Counseling [ABA Journal]