Advice

‘What should I wear for my summer vac scheme?’

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I’ve heard dress codes are more relaxed now but is that actually true?

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one would-be lawyer about to embark on their summer vac scheme has a dress code query.

Hi team. I’m currently studying law and I have an upcoming vac scheme in the London office of a large international firm — I won’t say where for obvious reasons! We haven’t been given a dress code and grad rec has said we can wear ‘whatever we feel comfortable in’.

The vac scheme is both in-person and virtual and I’m slightly concerned with what I should wear when I go into the office. From what I’ve heard, in the City dress codes are more relaxed now but is that actually true? Also, do I email grad rec to ask what I should wear or will that just look silly?

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58 Comments

Head of HR

Men: cream linen suit

Women: ball gown or similar

Sooth

Err on the side of caution.

Anon

A point should also be made around being too “bling”. Have seen vac schemers rocking up with Chanel bags, Hermes ties, Gucci loafers, Rolex subs etc. As much as dressing down sets a wrong impression so does wearing any of the above around being entitled and spoilt before you’ve even started. People may even question whether you are up to such a gruelling job.

Fashion man

Don’t bother with a tie if you’re bloke. Blouse for a woman

Anon

This is quite interesting. I too have a vac scheme lined up and have been told the dress code is business casual, which I don’t feel is particularly helpful

common sense

If you can’t work this out yourself then you probably shouldn’t be going into law.

common sense pt 2

If you can’t work out words like ‘casual’ can have different meanings I wouldn’t want you drafting anything for me

Mr LinkedIn

In an exit interview (over Zoom) I once got laughed at for wearing a tie but I would still err on the side of caution especially to start with and then can always dress down as the scheme progresses

Trainee

We’ve just had our vac schemers in at my firm, where the dress code has been smart casual since the pandemic began. Most candidates still dressed in normal business wear – suits for men etc. and this was expected by the partners. Would always dress to impress if you can!

The truth

Dress like the public school kids did at university when they smartened themselves up for an event.

trainee

Oh dear.. perhaps not

Jo

This is clearly a comment from an international student where public school actually means a fee paying private school.

Not saying I agree with it, but they are saying to copy how private school students dress

Word Of Advice

WHAT TO WEAR IN OFFICE:

Ladies: smart black trousers with a blouse or a shirt with a black blazer. Try to match the blazer colour with the trouser. You can take the blazer off at your desk if you wish but do try to bring one just because you never know if you will get whisked to court like I did and it completes the look in my opinion.

If you want to get a formal dress, you can do so. Don’t feel that you have to wear those super figure hugging tight pencil dresses that they do in the Apprentice, a looser fitting but formal one will do.

As for shoes, a simple black pump court heel will suffice with a mid heel or you can do a higher heel if you feel comfortable. Flats are also fine.

GUYS: do not wear brown shoes. Do not wear a flamboyant tie. White shirt. Black or navy blue suit to be safe. Oh and don’t wear a skinny tie.

WHAT TO WEAR DURING SOCIAL ACTIVITIES AND DAYS OUT:

The firm might plan out of office social trips around the city. For example to a restaurant, games place like ping pong or escape rooms or a tour around the city etc.

They may tell you to dress casually for these as the firm I did the VS with told us in the email to dress casually.

To my surprise, nobody dressed ‘casually’ except for me. Everyone dressed smart casual.

The women wore a looser fitting trouser or ankle grazing trouser with a blouse or a shirt dress that looks like it could be worn in the office on a dress down Friday. They all wore flats except for me stupidly as I was running around the socials in pain in my heels.

The guys wore the same thing they would in the office but no blazer and no tie and they loosened up the top button of the shirt. Some even swapped the smart shoe for a sensible trainer.

James

Agree with all of this.

To the guys: wear a tie to the office regardless especially on your first induction day but if the general impression you get is that none of the male associates are wearing ties you can remove it afterwards.

Reece

Yeah I did this, just pop into the loo and take it off if no one else is wearing one

Graham

Exactly this – you can always take a tie off, but you can’t magically put one on without legging it to TM Lewin (if they are even open any more).

Not a mini skirt!!! Just a tip

Ladies, please make sure it you wear skirts or dresses, they are just above the knee length.

Don’t copy the partners lmao

When people tell you to sus out the general vibe of the workwear during your first day, it is important that you look at what the trainees and the associates in the office are wearing. NOT THE PARTNERS!!

Do not form your opinion of what to wear based on the partners as they can pretty much wear what they want. A male partner in my office wears jeans all the time and a polo shirt.

This might sound obvious but I know someone who did this once.

A

I’m glad you mentioned the socials because no one talks about this.

I made the exact same mistake of thinking dress down at the socials because this is what we were told by grad rec.

No matter how much they tell you to dress casually for socials, do not listen to this and dress smart or as least smart casually anyway as this is what everyone else will do.

I was the only one who rocked up wearing jeans to a social in the city and felt so out of place. I agree with the wearing a loose trouser or ankle length trouser with a blouse as this is exactly what the other girls wore whilst I was in jeans.

Yes

Yes to this but no black suit. Navy/ charcoal only

Joseph

Yeah and simply plain suit.

No strips or plaid or tartan!!

Gene Jeanie

On the subject of suits:

1) One button – button it up.
2) Two buttons – button the top one only.
3) Three buttons – starting to get a bit worrying, but if you choose that, button the middle one and no other.
4) More than three buttons – do not bother coming into the office.

Anonymous

I’ve seen many people in firms in black suits/blazers. As long as its not a bloody tuxedo I don’t see what the issue is.

Please, Lord, improve the standards!

Tuxedo? For heaven’s sake, this is not Kentucky. It is a dinner jacket. If a vacation student referred to a “tuxedo” it would be a real back mark.

Anon

Never wear a black suit in the office – those are strictly for funerals. Smart office colours are navy and dark grey (charcoal).

lol

This is all v good advice, but black suit for a bloke?! At least make it charcoal. Black suits are for weddings (sort of), funerals and black tie events.

Gary

Should be noted that the original commenter of this thread is clearly a female so she is just observing what other men wore rather than saying it is deffo what should be worn

blah blah blah

For the love of god, no black suits (never, ever, ever), unless you’re going to the Grammys or work as security in Selfridges.

Anon

Or just for their intended formal purpose… funerals

10 years' PQE

This is spot on. Perfect advice.

Trainee

Start off a bit smarter on the first day and suss it out – it can vary quite a bit between teams.

I’m a female trainee and usually wear a top/blouse, trousers and white trainers. At the beginning I wore smarter shoes but now I just keep them in the office in case I have a meeting. As it starts to get warmer people will be wearing more summer dresses etc too. Tip – always bring a cardigan or scarf because it is often freezing in the office!

Men – no ties

Anon

Men: smart trousers, shirt and blazer and tie for the first day. Avoid jeans.

Women: smart blouse, trousers/skirt. Stay away from jeans or pencil skirts. A smart midi dress also works for the summer.

The key thing to remember is that while most places no longer require a formal dress code, your team will be watching to see if you get the memo on team dynamics, amongst other things. If you rock up in a 3 piece seat everyday while everyone in your team wears jeans and trainers, that obviously might be a bit odd. Stick with ‘business casual’ and you’ll be fine.

Paddy

If you are unsure what to where, I would suggest sensible shoes (grownup trainers are fine), smart trousers, shirt and jacket or lambs wool jumper (or similar). Wear a tie if you like ties but don’t worry if you don’t.

If you have something you want to wear (other than the above), then wear that unless it is bold sportswear, ripped jeans, scruffy trainers or offensive.

It’s important to be comfortable so if you have a long commute or walk or cycle then dress sensibly rather than smartly – I guarantee you (please note this is not an actual guarantee or undertaking and is purely for descriptive purposes only), that people will be easy going.

The key thing is to show you are a good communicator and self-starter on legal topics/research.

Good luck!

HB

I came here for the advice, I stayed for the bracketed disclaimer

Actual NQ

Dress codes are relaxed for people who work at the firm, not for people trying to impress enough to work at the firm in future.

Victor

Guys: wear skimpy trousers that have been cut quite high up the thigh so that the pockets show. Sandals. Consider hats (too often overlooked in 21st century).

Kirkland NQ

Don’t speak to me if you don’t wear a Valentino suit

Anon

Valentino? Pfft, as chavvy as it gets. Gieves and Hawkes is the British formal pick, canali or zegna if you prefer Italian cut and if you must go American – Tom Ford. Obviously you would know all that if you were really at Kirkland…

Mr LinkedIn

But let’s face it – most people on the Vac Scheme and the start of the TC will be wearing a suit somewhere along the Moss Boss – Next – M&S – Charles Trywhitt axis

Anon

Yes and if you rocked up in a Tom Ford wide lapel suit on your first day as a vac schemer it would equally raise eyebrows. This was a direct response to the fake Kirklander

Kirkland NQ

Ok fresher, go to M&S

Siren's

Mit Oliver People’s glasses

or a Ralphie.

Oh dear

Valentino? Shows the gap between money and class, even if it is fictional money of a delusional one trick comment pony.

🚨🚨🚨🐔🐔🐔

Dark blue/navy or charcoal coloured suit. White, light blue or pink shirts. Black Oxfords or Oxford semi brogues. Dress down – navy chinos and formal shirt with brown suede shoes with quarter zip on top.

HB

Not the brown shoes 🤢

🚨🚨🚨🐔🐔🐔

On dress down Friday it is perfectly acceptable. Day to day it should be black Oxfords or semi brogues. Not wing tip brogue.

Anon

Brown shoes are never acceptable unless you’re in the med.

Brownintown

Or the country

Gene Jeanie

Shoes and belt must match. If they don’t you probably should not bother coming in.

Javi

Belt? Buy a suit that fits

Paul

This. Side adjusters every time by the way.

anon

Side adjusters? Really? Trousers and a belt is fine, Jesus. You’re not going to a black tie event, you’re turning some documents in an office.

Gene Jeanie

Of course that is right, but consider the target demographic. They are belt people.

Paul

Go formal the first day as a minimum.

Then gauge what to wear the others based upon those at the firm, in particular those in the team you’re in. If you feel comfortable, raise this with your trainee buddy or with your supervisor (likely to be an associate).

Even if you go casual, depending upon the team and firm there is a potential that you could be invited to attend a more formal client meeting or drinks in person at short notice. I’d therefore suggest having a suit to hand / in a locker if you’re assigned one during your scheme.

Incoming magic circle future partner

Men – go for a smart casual look, it never fails. Black suit jacket, navy pants, light brown shoes.

Simples

Find someone from your old school at the firm and take them to your club for lunch. Ask them all the questions you need. Your folks didn’t spend a few hundred grand on school fees just so you had to guess the dress code.

Name

Wear a suit and tie for the first day and see how the rest of team you’re placed with is dressed. It’s very likely that they will dress quite casually. If so, you can relax a bit for the remainder of your placement with that team. Repeat if you are moved to a different team during the vac scheme.

Don’t worry about it too much. As long as you’re not wearing anything too memorable, no one will really care what you wear.

Associate

I’ve decided my new toxic trait is going to be commenting on how I he vac schemers are looking “a bit casual for the office” and watching a hunger games unfold.

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