Are flip-flops part of the new uniform for lawyers?

At Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, no shoes, no shirt, no problem! Well, actually you’ll need the shoes, but the rest can be sacrificed if you need to for your own creativity.

When thinking of how lawyers are supposed to look, most people conjure visions of sharply-dressed men and women in suits, carrying designer leather briefcases. Back in the day, most, if not all lawyers, dressed the part. There’s a good reason for that; looking professional makes it seem as if a lawyer’s services are going to be equally as professional.

The majority of Biglaw firms have tried to keep the old school status quo in terms of dress codes (take Jones Day’s nanny-state dress code, for example). But for firms who like to think outside the blouse box, well, CHECK YOU FLIP-FLOPS.

That’s right, litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel cares more about your briefs than whether or not you are wearing underwear…

In an interview with Vivia Chen of The Careerist, Quinn Emanuel name partner William Urquhart said:

“We take casual dress to a whole new level . . . . The only dress code we have is that you to have something between your feet and the carpet — and that’s because our insurance company requires it!”

I can’t decide if that’s cool or not. But more importantly, if that’s the only real requirement, then what can an associate actually get away with wearing over there? I mean, really, in New York, it’s illegal to wear flip-flops to the bar exam, and here’s Bill Urquhart advocating for wearing them to work.

I assume that most would err on the side of caution and dress in business casual, but everyone has days when they just feel like rolling out of bed and leaving the house in their pajamas. I’m not even sure that’s allowed at Above the Law, but apparently you can do that at Quinn Emanuel.

But Urquhart says that there is a method to the firm’s madness. Because Quinn Emanuel allows its associates to let their freak flags fly in terms of professional dress, they write better briefs:

Urquhart says he’s convinced that sartorial freedom helps nurture legal genius: “What we [litigators] do is an exercise in creativity. You have a set of facts and the law — and you have to be creative with the two. Dressing casually improves our creativity.”

Is this to say that litigation associates at more traditional firms don’t write as well because their legal mojo is being constricted by suits, ties, Spanx, and stilettos? Sure, maybe if you’re more comfortable, you’ll be able to relax and take a nap write a little bit better, but wearing business attire probably isn’t hurting anyone’s “legal genius.”

That being said, I think that lawyers should aim higher in terms of fashion when heading into the office. You can dress however you want on the weekends (if you’re not still at work). Do yourself a favor and save the jeans, t-shirts, and Crocs for another time — especially the Crocs, because those are just gross.

Quinn Emanuel Takes Casual Dress to the Flip-Flops Level [ABA Journal]
High-Powered Lawyers Wear Flip Flops [The Careerist]


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