‘What do I wear on my vac scheme?’

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By Legal Cheek on


Fashion advice required

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series an incoming vacation scheme student is on the hunt for some advice on suitable workwear.

“Hello Legal Cheek. I think this question has been asked before but I am wondering if the position has changed since then. What do I wear for a vac scheme? I am a man btw but advice for women might also be helpful for your female readers! I have a vac scheme lined up at City law firm (I would prefer not to say which firm) and want to know if suit and tie is still expected? I understand the rules around office wear have relaxed a little bit but I obviously don’t want to make a fool of myself. I was thinking dark suit trousers, jumper and a shirt?”

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



Dress formally on the first day and then scout out what everyone else is wearing on the scheme and mirror the general vibe. Usually I would only wear a tie for the interviews, no one really wears them at law firms unless doing formal client meetings anymore. Associates and partners will otherwise dress quite casually but as a prospective applicant you shouldn’t benchmark against them.

I would advise against wearing flashy designer pieces. I’ve seen vac schemers coming in with all sorts from Gucci loafers to Hermes belts and Chanel bags, it will only attract the wrong kind of judgement and make people question why you want to do such a demanding job if you already have enough money to get those kinds of things. Plus – it just looks tacky.

Grow up

Dear Legal Cheek,

Stop pretending someone seriously sent this question in. This question has been asked hundreds of times before. It’s so obvious someone in your team wrote this lol. Perhaps go back to reporting about the SQE and the “city pay war”!

Justice prevails

Chill out brother. No one’s interested in your opinion here. Back to your document review now.


You could always bypass this type of article. You don’t look like an awesome person by trying to reprimand LC for posting this up. If you’re not interested, go read stuff that interests you. Bore off.


You should receive something from your firm saying this, but I would recommend a full suit and tie. Black shoes if you can (they don’t need to be fancy but it would be a good idea to make sure they’re in good nick/polished by yourself. Really not the end of the world if your smart shoes aren’t black but just my personal recommendation as I see brown shoes in LC’s image for the article). Likewise iron your shirts. If any of this is too basic, apologies, I am just assuming you have no experience of this stuff.

If it’s more informal, you can always take off the tie, jacket etc. Easier to dress down than vice versa. In my vac scheme, people started taking off their ties after a day or two, but it’s nice to look smart for first impressions (and likewise looking too smart is a better gamble than looking too informal).

I am a guy so no idea on what women should wear but I hope other commenters send their advice on as I reckon it’s probably a bit more confusing.

Kirkland NQ

Easy. Get yourself down to Savile Row and get some proper clothes. When the offers come rolling in you’ll see the return on your investment.

Sir Digby Ponsonby

What a ridiculous question – you should be turning up in a full three piece suit every day no matter the weather with a top hat and pocket watch! How else is the firm going to take you seriously?

Senior lawyer

You should invest in two made to measure / bespoke suits, a couple of nice shirts, and a decent pair of oxford (£300-500).

You’ll thank me for this advice a decade later.


Sensible advice for an NQ who wears suits most days (assuming this is city bespoke, ie around £1k, and not top-end savile row, which is over £5k) but mostly over the top for a vac schemer.

Most people in the city wear the 4 for £120 CT non-iron shirts. Similarly a mid-range (CT, M&S or similar) suit (navy/charcoal/mid grey) will look smart. Virtually all trainees and junior associates, and lots of senior associates and partners wear this level of suit. Bespoke usually takes a couple of times to get right and it’s easy to end up with something that looks a bit old fashioned. And in lots of offices, most men will be wearing chinos and a shirt (which is basically just as smart as a suit without a jacket, which is what people who do wear suits tend to default to for most of the day). So bespoke items may end up being mostly unworn.

I agree with the recommendation on shoes though. A good quality pair will be comfortable from the outset, will look good without looking obviously expensive, and will stay looking good and virtually last forever. C&J for example do rubber-soled oxfords which are very durable and where they will replace the sole when worn.

All of this is a response to the above comment but also a digression from the original question…

As per a couple of comments higher up in the thread: wear a suit with a shirt and black shoes. You can wear a tie and will probably find that some people do and some don’t on the first day, and everyone (or nearly everyone) loses them after a couple of days. Over time you’ll get a sense of whether you want to dress down a bit (eg chinos and shirt) or stay in a suit.


A clown, zombie or vampire costume, because you got to fake it to make it and because once you qualify, you’ll become of those three.

Get out before it’s too late.

Fashion Police

Here is a tip: do not wear what the person in the picture is wearing. Shiny brown shoes, a suit which has a checked pattern on the jacket (no) but with mis-matched trousers that do not have the same pattern (double no), and a watch that looks both flashy and cheap. Swap that for a plain suit (dark blue, grey, or charcoal), black shoes, and a simple watch. You might look a bit boring but at the junior level looking boring is better than looking like an interesting twat.

Mind the watch

Agree with this other than the watch statement. You don’t need a mega expensive PP or AP but you can buy a decent Omega, Cartier, Tudor, Breightling or Rolex for £3000-£6000 which can make your wrist pop and get the attention of the partners / associates you are trying to impress without being in their face. Watches are always good talking points.

Elite elitist

You can’t go wrong with a PP 5140R


great trolling


No Brown in Town!

Tweed is for the weekend only

Full three piece, ideally a top hat but bowler will suffice

Pocket watch and pocket square are compulsory. If your cufflinks are not 24 carat gold get in the bin

Monocle is desirable but not compulsory

Reed Smith Dosser

Burberry baseball cap, Stone Island top (get that badge in) designer jeans, Adidas Gazelle’s

You’ll look like crap but at least non of the partners will mess with you


Even a simple question becomes a cesspit of idiocy in Legal Cheek comments.

Even if this question has been asked by an LC employee, it will no doubt help one or more real vac schemers who read through the comments, so…

I think it’s best, as some others have said, to dress professionally (but no need to go too far – you won’t need or be expected to wear a three piece). Get yourself a nice pair of trousers and a suit jacket that matches, and buy a few shirts to alternate between for the duration. I think you will understand more once you start the VS anyway, so don’t worry too much about it. Just keep an eye out for what others are wearing and adjust your wardrobe accordingly.

Forever Associate

Fake question or not from LC, still a good topic. My City firm expects work experience/vac scheme students and trainees to be presentable to clients, as being brought along to client meetings, mediations, court visits etc are fantastic training opportunities. This is what “presentable to clients” looks like:

You’ll want two suits: 1 charcoal grey, 1 dark navy blue. Maybe a dark grey (but lighter than charcoal) one as a third option. Go for a plain flat twill wool. Avoid ticket pockets, patterns/designs, peaked lapels and/or skinny lapels. The important thing is that everything fits right: trousers properly hemmed, suit jacket arms not too long, jacket not sitting to high (it should cover the bum), and not too tight but also not way too big. Someone looking like they borrowed their dad’s suit is something that gets talked about in the office.

A few dress shirts, perhaps a rotation of two of each of the following: white, cream, sky blue. No stripes or checks but maybe a simple pattern like herringbone. Doesn’t matter if the shirts are double cuffs or button cuffs, but again, just make sure the shirts fit. Make sure they’re ironed and looking crisp. Dark blue tie, burgundy tie, maybe a tie with a subtle pattern on it (like regimental stripe tie in dark colours). As with the suit lapels, no skinny ties. A few people mentioned these are often ditched. If you keep them on it definitely doesn’t go against you.

Plain black cap toe oxfords. If your suit trousers have belt loops, a black leather belt to match. It’s old fashioned, but the “never wear brown in town” rule is always the safest option. Have a slightly dressy watch, but if you’re minted don’t be a complete see you next Tuesday and show up to the vac scheme with a Rolex or AP. If it has a leather/fabric strap, black to match the shoes/belt.

I’m not well versed in women’s tailoring, but from what I see in the office more or less the same themes generally apply. Subtle dark colours and minimal patterns and well fitting, maybe some more colour and pattern options for shirts than guys but nothing crazy. If you want to wear heels, make sure you can actually walk in them comfortably and not go full Bambi-on-ice in front of partners, or a client, on a tile floor. I witnessed a trainee do that once… the entire room was mortified.

Play it safe

First day: dark grey/blue suit, a pair of black shoes, and a simple tie (no flashy patterns or bright colours). Adjust as appropriate following the first few days.

brown shoes

Not brown shoes with a blue suit – that’s for sure!


Suit: navy
Shirts: white or light blue
Tie: dark blue
Shoes: black

Get the highest quality you can afford without breaking the bank

For the gals

Take a look at the firm’s website to get a feel for the vibe.

Trousers and a blazer (fitted or oversized) works well for a lot of situations, you could wear this with a shirt, blouse, or smart fitted plain t-shirt. Avoid jeans at all costs. Some people go for a midi skirt or dress. Don’t go with anything too short (mid thigh as an absolute minimum) with low necklines, cut outs or spaghetti straps. I’d avoid huge logos, and depending on the firm, loud colours and patterns.

Avoid trainers until you’ve sussed out if anyone else wears trainers. If so, make sure they’re clean, a simple design, and don’t have huge flashy logos. Loafers, mid heels or smart ballet flats are best. You’re fine in a slingback but wouldn’t suggest a mule. Open toed shoes are a no-go. No one wants to see your toes regardless of how recent your pedi is.

You don’t need an expensive bag, a smart backpack or handbag that is big enough to store all your stuff is better than a tiny designer handbag and scruffy tote.

Minimal jewellery is best and everyday makeup won’t look out of place.

Ultimately you want to feel empowered and confident, so don’t wear anything you’re uncomfortable in. You don’t need to spend a lot, no one’s expecting you to rock up in designer gear.

5PQE corporate lawyer

Agree with a number of comments here. Go for navy/charcoal suit. White/sky blue shirt. Black formal shoes, socks matching colour of your shoes or your trousers. Wear a tie on your first day, it’s the safest impression you can make. Take it off if the environment dictates. Also hygiene and smell, don’t overdo it with the aftershave but don’t smell of BO. If you follow the above you’ll be broadly fine. You want to blend in as much as possible and let your work and abilities do all the talking. Good luck

My experience

In my vac scheme, the men wore suit, no tie, every day (the women wore the same or equivalent — I’m not too knowledgeable on the nomenclature. Both dresses and suits were worn). This was not because it was a requirement at all, but we were apprehensive and business formal-ish is easier to style than business casual. I turned up in business casual on one of the days but as I was the only one, went back to the suit. No one had a problem with the business casual outfit. The dress code at the firm was business casual (unless you have a client meeting/going to court). You will not be judged for what you wear but chances are you will feel more comfortable wearing what the other vac schemers are wearing and playing it safe. Please don’t spend too much money on clothes/ use what you have if you already have a suit . The associates and partners are aware you are on a student budget and are not judging you on your fashion. As long as you look presentable and act professionally, they’re looking for your potential at being a lawyer. Taylor made not necessary, it just needs to fit you so don’t wear something twice your size or from when you were 14. Zara have brilliant suits for a budget, and you can do with just one as long as you switch the shirts. Overall, you will be apprehensive about fitting in and about what people think of your appearance. The other vac schemers will feel the exact same, so they will pay attention to whether their outfits look good enough, not yours. If you do want to wear a more formal tie, that is also fine — this will not be held against you either way. Success in vac scheme= be nice, respectful, excited to be there and good at the tasks they give you.


Wear what you’d wear for an interview, because that’s essentially what a vac scheme is.

The reality is that most vac scheme students are stepping into a law firm having received no/minimal income and are a sitting on a modest pile of student debt, and most lawyers appreciate it this. I have no issue with (and almost expect) most vac schemers wearing an ill-fitting suit and shirts with frayed collar etc, polyester ties and faux-leather shoes, possibly even brown leather shoes. If someone wants to wear obviously expensive or ostentatious clothes, that isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it can reflect poor judgment if they stand out for it.

As long as someone knows how not to stand out in a bad way, acts professionally, shows commitment and demonstrates an aptitude for the law, that’s enough.

Those who do most well in our profession are often those who know how to overcome adversity – not just for themselves but also for our clients. A pair of well-worn but polished shoes from Dune/Aldo says much more about a person’s desire and ability to do that than a 21 year old rocking a different Hermes tie each day with Ferragamo loafers. Although that in itself is a slightly superficial assumption, so it really does come down to how they perform on the job.

All that said, my reverence towards junior staff wearing worn out/cheap clothes has its limits. For example, when a 4 PQE turned up to interview with us from and for a US firm paying Cravath scale, wearing a jumper with holes in (no tie/suit), that did p*** me off.

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