Advice

‘Can I wear a nose piercing to my winter vac scheme?’

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Readers’ guidance required

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, an aspiring solicitor wants to know if they can wear their nose piercing during an upcoming vacation scheme.

“I’ve been lucky enough to secure a winter vac scheme (in-person) at a London law firm and I am wondering if I’ll be OK wearing a nose piercing. While I’ve done a couple of vac schemes already, these have been 100% virtual due to Covid — so it hasn’t really crossed my mind until now. I feel the piercing is part of who I am, so I am reluctant to remove it. It would be good to get your readers’ views on this.”

If you have a career conundrum, email us at team@legalcheek.com.

53 Comments

Yeah

Yeah

Truth hurts

No. Dont expose yourself as a chav at work. Although I’m sure it will come out in time in other ways…

Surprisingly not a student

What a surprise there’s a bigot fresher in the comments.

Some firms are more than happy for staff to openly be who they are and show off tattoos and piercings (my firm included though admittedly have had to remove or cover up in front of some clients). Other firms have an unofficial no tolerance culture against it.

If in doubt, ask grad rec I’d say. Grad rec will (normally) respect you asking – just had 4 trainees rotate into our team, 2 have septum piercings.

Truth hurts

Ok sure. Some firms might ‘allow’ it, but what leading lawyer have you ever seen with a septum piercing…

Such a pathetic scream for attention. The people who try so hard to ‘stand out’ with dyed hair/piercings are often the most boring and trying to compensate for something.

John

Flexibility is part of who you are

Barney the tree

What do you care more about:

making the best impression you can and potentially landing a TC or risk jeopardising that so you wear a piercing?

Most partners probably won’t care but you get the odd one who is traditional and wouldn’t be keen.

If you seriously care more about showcasing your piercing than getting a TC then go ahead.

Alan

Heavens no. Not if you want a job anyway. I tell graduate recruitment to turn away anyone exhibiting this type of uncouth and informal dress without adequate reasons (religious and medical).

Matthew

Alan, joining us from Victorian England. Feel like I’ve just watched Jurassic Park with those dinosaur like views.

Anon

Commercial law is a conservative profession which rewards those who conform (and who enjoy conforming to a large degree). Details of appearance matter. There are partners who genuinely care what tie knot juniors use. A nose piercing, rightly or wrongly, is still going to be viewed by some partners as too alternative.

If you feel being able to express yourself at work is important to you, commercial law probably isn’t going to suit you.

That’s not to say law generally won’t accept it, NGOs, GLS, family law boutiques etc., won’t give a hoot.

Sigma Male

Fully agree with this. If you a corporate lawyer at a top firm you pretty much by definition need to be conformist to some extent with your appearance.

‘I feel the piercing is part of who I am, so am reluctant to remove it’ is also very indicative of someone who is not going to do well in the long-term, rightly or wrongly. If the very obvious solution (remove it for the vac scheme) is too much of a slight against you as an individual and creates this level of angst, then you are likely not suited to corporate law, where as an individual you will be reduced to your billables and your ability to keep clients happy by any means necessary.

This person should have a serious think about whether she is cut out for it or they will have an Eve Cornwell situation where they quit months after qualification when the rose-tinted glasses come off and they see the profession for what it is.

I’m not saying this is how it should be, but it is how it is and how it will probably always be.

Associate

Do what you like. I’m an associate at a top international firm and have piercings/tattoos/paint my nails (I’m male) and no one bats an eyelid.

I’d say just make sure it’s a professional looking piercing and not a 12mm septum horseshoe. Like along the lines of what you’d wear as an earring.

Will some people not have recruited me in the past because of this? Perhaps. Do I feel comfortable at work now knowing my team hired me regardless of how I present to them? Yes.

Pro tip

When people say ”top international firm,” they almost always mean some tosh like CMS.

Nobody cares you goon

Thanks little gimp, back to drafting you go.

Associate

Even if I was at CMS, which I’m not, that’s surely good enough? I think people here forget that Kirkland isn’t the only firm out there that someone might be applying to. There are plenty of firms that will have entirely different perspectives on things like nose piercings, the majority of which are not represented by people in these comments.

Seriously

How do you know the person asking the question isn’t going to a firm like CMS?

Be yourself

Shouldn’t be a problem really. I’m at a top US firm, nose piercings and tattoos are not uncommon among the trainees and associate population.

I call bs

Good one, lad. Name the firm then. Anyone who knows anyone at US firms can vouch for the fact that there are LITERALLY zero people with visible piercings or tattoos.

Please don’t say White & Case (that’s not a top US firm).

Lmaobantah

LMAO I’ve several tattoos, some more visible, some less, and the partner I work with at a NYC-HQed law firm has a few as well.

Back to your cave codger.

LW 3PQE

I work at Latham and while still not exactly common, some people do indeed have piercings / tattoos / funky dyed hair etc. at the office. No one cares.

But I still probs wouldn’t wear a nose ring on a vac scheme.

nope

Clearly anyone saying ‘yes’ does NOT actually work at a ‘top’ firm. Whilst you can wear your nose piercing once you have qualified or landed the job, you should not be wearing it during your vacation scheme. Also, I’ve never seen anyone wearing nose rings when meeting with clients either.

If your vacation scheme is with a ‘woke’ firm that is controlled by a ‘woke’ HR then you are likely fine, but, in the end, you won’t be making connections with HR but with lawyers.

Get real fresher

Clear anyone saying a definite no is a dinosaur / has bought into perpetuating a firm culture that at most top firms is dying (or frankly, they’re a fresher).

People don’t care more about whether you get work done or not. I’m 2PQE and trained and qualified at Baker McKenzie and have coloured my nails for years (am male) with no issues.

FF Sake

The normative answer should be that no one will care and the hire is based off meritocracy. That’s what I truly believe in. But I agree that you shouldn’t wear it in this instance as you never know which dinosaur might pick on it (even if not overtly).

Think

There’s no doubt that in a vac scheme you will be judged on how you would present yourself in front of clients. Displaying ‘merit’ during a vac scheme involves more than completing some dross task your supervisor sets you

Regional Hack

At Vardags yeah. Slaughters not so much.

Anna

Ignore the tree huggers telling you to be expressive and whoever you want to be. As a hiring manager, the simple answer is no. Individuality is one thing – and is encouraged – but nose piercings are an obnoxious statement. Tattoos are fine on show provided they are relatively inconspicuous and not obviously offensive.

Anonymous

Proceed with caution. Once in, reveal your true self. Then the onus is on them for being pricks.

Natural selection

Yes do it it won’t disadvantage you at all

Sir Chasm

Wearing it will give the impression that you are free spirited, rebellious, not concerned about fitting in with those around you or the culture of the workplace. I am really sure those are things that will be seen as a positive by those assessing your future career.

MC Associate

Currently working at a Magic Circle firm and people express themselves far more than a nose piercing. One lad (5pqe) rocks up every other day in a suit covered in flames (no satire – very real). I don’t know about vac schemes but once you’re through the door no one cares. Not entirely sure many people in this comment thread have actually been to or a law this side of Covid.

Anonymous

Flame suit? That’s utterly cringe inducing. Exactly the type I’d expect at a magic circle firm

Sarah Stop

That type is more bearable than the wannabe influencers infecting my MC firm. They upload TikToks focused on doc review and diversity drinks, but the LinkedIn posts are full of grammatical mistakes and their office buddies are pretentious social rejects from *insert bland hometown here*

Blaze of Glory

“One lad (5pqe) rocks up every other day in a suit covered in flames (no satire – very real).”

I’m all up for freedom of expression and openness but surely this has to be a joke. A flame-emblazoned (excuse the pun) suit just sounds silly, and I say this as someone who walks around the office at a SC firm with multiple visible tattoos on my arms, and no one bats an eyelid.

Second year student

Urgh what firm lets you do this? So I know to avoid. Thanks

CC 4PQE

If you’re at CC then that’s me and it’s not flames its falling gold blossom. If you’re not at CC then I’m pleased to see that there’s someone else out there in the Magic Circle being expressive with their clothing (although I think flames is a bit edgy for my tastes).

Back to OP’s point though, I do think that while it may be acceptable for a qualified lawyer or even a trainee, I would be extremely cautious at the interview stage. I also have a full body tattoo which I don’t bother to hide now but there is absolutely no way I would have rocked up to the interview with that on display. As unfair as it may be, you never know who is going to interview you or what their perceptions might be.

Cheers

Glad to hear that you wouldn’t turn up naked to an interview.

Archibald Pomp O'City

Generally speaking, in the workplace you need to establish the dress code and cultural norms before you wear anything that might conflict with either. Some law firms might not care; many will. Some will see a nose piercing as a sign of defiance or rebellion. At work, you have to play the game. Being ‘true to yourself’ doesn’t necessarily extend to personal attire and sundries, especially in very staid, corporate businesses. Decide which is more important, your piercing (surely the sign of a person desperate to shoehorn some individuality into themselves if it’s something they cannot bear to remove) or your career. If the latter, then leave the piercing out until you’re through the door, then politely ask if it would be acceptable to wear it. And respect their answer, whatever it might be.

A realist

I wore a nose stud throughout my TC at a top 100 law firm and was offered a solicitor role in the commercial team, where I still work. Literally nobody in the firm has commented on it, and I’ve worked here for 5 years now. If the firm is willing to sacrifice talent for the sake of a 3mm piece of metal, that’s their loss.

CHIEF Inspector Boggs

Top 100? So 99th ranked then?

Archibald Pomp O'City

Well, it would be your loss as well.

US firm senior associate

There are some absolute jokers on this thread. You’ll be fine. You’ll be judged more on your communication skills, tone, and general enthusiasm for work than anything else. Yes, it’s a risk still with the dinosaur population (I had a mate back in Australia who was told to clean shave every day)…but by and large, the firms where you’d rather work won’t bat an eyelid.

MC to US firm

Just do a risk-to-reward analysis.

Action: Wearing a nose-piercing during vac scheme.

Risk: Not get a TC, as some mentioned already, there may be some traditional or bigoted partners/associates that may jump to adverse conclusions about you. Not saying that you will definitely not get hired – just saying that there is that risk/possibility.

Reward: Piercing is part of your identity, and you get to showcase who you are.

Something that you need to work out is gauging whether the Reward outweighs the Risk or not.

Diamond in the rough

This is the only comment this article needed. Everyone can go home now.

Keen observer

It is the only comment that just restates the question in more words…

Archibald Pomp O'City

It is the only comment that reveals how fatuous the question(er) really is.

FFS

It’s a free country, so no-one is stopping you from wearing the piercing.

However, you cannot stop clients or partners from judging you and forming their own opinions about it.

You do not live in world that will mould itself to your love of the piercing just because you like it.

Realist at US firm

Simple analysis required here:

Upside: nil
Downside: potentially alienate an old-school partner which prevents you getting a TC offer

Stop making this about firm’s values etc – if you’re at a city law firm, there is a reasonable chance such a partner exists at your firm, no matter how much you believe HR’s waffle about inclusivity and diversity…

Wokery Blokery

New question:

Where can I work in law that will let me wear a Batman cape and a nappy on my head?

It’s part of my need for self expression, you see.

I might just cry if I can’t express myself.

Professor Puddles

Barrister?

I know at least one barrister with nose piercings too!

Are you cattle?

If no, then no.

US Firm 1 PQE

Reminds me of when Eric on Industry tells Harper on the trading desk: “Why do you have a ring on your nose ? Are you cattle ?”

Never got the obsession with this generation and nose rings. Nose rings are generally ugly.

h8ers gonna h8

My nose ring is gold and very thin. An old-school dinosaur probably wouldn’t even notice it. If it’s subtle and you still look sophisticated on the vac scheme, wear it.

Bandito

There is the way things should be in the City and there is the way things are. Training Contracts are like gold dust, so it’s really not worth jeopardising your one shot. All you need is one person who has an issue with it to blackball you and you’ll be eliminated no matter how hard you work. It’s really not the hill to die on and once you are in, qualified and retained, you can start showing more of your true self (whatever that may be). We all have to play the game. The legal profession (as much as I wish it was as someone who loves to create) isn’t really a place for flair and creativity.

maybe

maybe but i think that you should wear flame suit with it, it will go down excellently. I am a top lawyer at a top firm.

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