Monday, January 17, 2011

The Street Lawyer: A Walk In My Shoes

The Street Lawyer is the Cultured Barrister’s necessary counterpart. Offering a viewpoint sometimes at odds with CB’s, the Street Lawyer takes a no-nonsense approach to the realities of law practice. Sometimes cynical, usually irreverent, and occasionally serious, the Street Lawyer welcomes your feedback. 

Many apologies, dear readers, but we can’t get off the topic of shoes just yet!  My last post got a bit ahead of itself when it left things at how to shine shoes, but said absolutely nothing about Vermont legal footwear.  I mean, can you honestly say that you have never had a conversation with a fellow attorney about shoes?  Don’t tell me that you’ve never asked a colleague where to find the perfect black boot that one can wear with a skirt suit or slacks but won’t lead to a broken tailbone when the sidewalks ice over. What do you wear to meet a client at a gravel pit?  And flats! Need I say more?

I know there are a few self-proclaimed manly-men out there who are tuning out right now.  Seriously though, I know you’ve come back to the office and snickered about the guy on the other side who wore Danskos to court.  We’re all in this together, people!

Only in Vermont do shoes become an item of almost daily consideration.  Ask your law school pals at BigCity BigLaw how often they have to think about shoes.  The toughest challenge they have is to peel themselves away from the pretty shoes at the department store in favor of ye olde conservative heel.  (Add to this that even as a newbie at BigCity BigLaw they can actually afford to buy said shoes . . . even if they never have free time to actually wear them.)  For BigLaw guys it’s even easier: Brown. Black. Buy new pair. Repeat.  At BigCity BigLaw, you wear snow boots to work during the once-a-year blizzard when you get credit for even coming to the office.  A woman in black pumps instead of those faux-suede L.L. Bean slip-on-walking-shoes will never stick out in the BigCity.

We could all do better service to the profession if we observed a common code of footwear.  After all, we can’t ignore the fact that our clients expectations for our appearance largely flow from Law and Order with a dash of Sex and the City.  I’ll leave it up for debate, but I put this out there:  Does a suit count for anything when the wearer’s shoes are covered in manure? (Trust me, I’m just as guilty of this last one!)

I’m envisioning a few “shall” rules, such as “a lawyer shall not wear Danskos other than to the office.”  We could throw in a couple of helpful “may” rules, too—particularly for out-of-state newbies.  “From November 1 to May 1, a lawyer may bring a pair of dress shoes to change into when one argues before SCOV.”  Maybe next year’s Mid-Winter Thaw should include a guided shopping excursion for that perfect black boot.  (You know our Quebecois neighbors have the three-season business boot completely mastered.) 

Seriously, this Street Lawyer is somewhat new to the profession.  The newbies among us are so carefully scrutinized day-in and day-out, and we’ve been enduring it since the beginning of law school.  Back then we thought that if we just passed the bar exam, we would finally know all the rules, and it would stop.  But with such an close-knit and aging bar, that hope could not be farther from the truth than in Vermont.  The subtleties of Vermont practice are so numerous and sometimes overwhelming, (and beyond anything a 12-week clerkship could prepare us for) it’s hard not to spend a lot of time staring down at your shoes . . . which has left me wondering if I’ve missed the boat there, too.  Why not keep a few things simple?  If not, I plan to embrace the eccentric side of Vermont lawyering: *h#t-kickers, here I come!  

Let me know your rules and tips for footwear across the seasons.

—The Street Lawyer

1 comment:

  1. Harry's Law & Fine Shoes..............i'm just sayin'