Skirting the Ceiling: Finalizing that First Impression

My 1L year is done! Behind me are long days and nights spent cramming for exams and right around the corner lies my first day of work at the local District Attorney’s office and my first day in court as an advocate! Anticipation for these two big Firsts got me thinking about another big first—the First Impression.

Research shows that the first impression matters significantly and can be monumentally hard to change. So, whether it be the first 30 seconds or the first day in court or on the job, follow these four tips to finalize the first impression that you want:

  1. Wear professional clothing that makes you look and feel confident and collected. Countless blogs and websites are dedicated to what sort of attire is appropriate and professional for attorneys. There seems to be a consensus that what counts as professional for female attorneys can vary greatly from what is appropriate for male attorneys. Certain gender stereotypes can affect others’ perception of female attorneys based on their attire alone, and, of course, there is the myriad of rules that we place on ourselves. Do not give colleagues or members of the court reason to doubt you based on your choice of clothing. Choose clothes that you feel comfortable and confident in and shoes that allow you to put your best foot forward. Check out this post published on Ms. JD just last month for advice in greater detail!
  2. Have a good handshake. I know, I know, I know. People tell you this all the time—but that’s because it’s true. Everyone’s experienced a shudder-inducing dead fish handshake from time to time, but I’d like to point out another just as terrible handshake—the lobster claw. The claw, sometimes also known as the princess handshake, is where you reach out to shake hands and merely grab and squeeze the other person’s fingers instead of engaging in a full shake. Don’t do this! For some reason, the only people I’ve met that do this have been women. Signal to others that you want to be seen first as a lawyer, not as a lobster or lady-in-waiting, by doing the following: extend your hand for a firm shake, make eye contact, smile, and move your hand in an up-and-down motion for 2 to 5 seconds.                                                                 Check out this video to observe and chuckle at the top 10 worst handshakes. 


  3. Be authentic and sincere. Being yourself is hugely important. Use words and gestures that feel natural to you. Acting professional should not come across as if putting on a canned performance. Studies show that most trial cases are lost because the advocate failed to project sincerity rather than persuasively and accurately present the facts and the law. Some female attorneys feel pressured to dress more androgynously or act like one of the guys to fit in. There's no need for this! Don’t attempt to put on a persona that makes you feel more successful or professional—like the Queen Bee or your favorite lawyer on TV. When it comes down to it, be yourself. 
  4. Remember that you’re on the clock even when you’re off the clock. Outside of the privacy of your own home, all eyes are on you. A conversation overheard by your boss on your lunch break or an action in the hallway observed by a juror out of session may majorly affect how that person sees you. Keep the professional image and reputation you’re working hard to build and maintain intact by acting as if you’re making a first impression every time you’re capable of making an impression.

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