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Last updated on February 1st, 2023 at 10:01 am
The legal profession across the world is starting to come to terms with mental health issues among its members. One of the factors being touted by mental health professionals to explain the crisis is unhealthy thinking habits among lawyers or the so called “lawyer thinking.”
This Lawyer thinking includes “I should” or “I must” thought patterns. When these thought patterns are applied to lawyer marketing, most lawyers invariably think that dressing in expensive attire – especially suits which are regarded as a lawyers’ uniform, driving an expensive car and generally being in possession of expensive paraphernalia bolsters their rate cards.
“ When you combine all this with a legal professional’s typical heavy workload, long hours and little time for rest from work and there is a perfect storm for stress, anxiety and burnout to develop ” says Elizabeth Rimmer of LawCare.
And there is a psychological element to it. Expensive appearances are used to communicate to the unsuspecting potential client that the lawyer is worth a handsome fee.
“When you have just interacted with a person, you do not know so much and it is those small things that are used to determine what he/she deserves.” Julius Galisonga, a high flying lawyer in Kampala told me.
So what about the lawyer who just can’t afford?
At the heart of lawyer thinking seems to be a clear conflation between looking well and looking expensive. Many of us in society equate expensive with good and best. And this is driving us into debt and other forms of financial stress as we are lured into living beyond our means.
A cursory look at social media feeds of some young lawyers suggests frustrations at the realities of the legal market. Young lawyers are coming face-to face with mismatches between their expectations and the realities.
For example, young lawyers are realizing that whereas some of the firms they work for demand them to dress in pricey suits at work, they are not willing to shore up the cost or compensate them well in terms of salaries.
No wonder people get surprised at the discovery that lawyers “don’t have money” as they appear.
Julius Galisonga is a Managing Partner at Galisonga and Co. Advocates which means he is in charge of staffers including lawyers. He told me: “At my firm, there is no strict requirement to dress in a particular way. But I know for a fact that because of the way I dress, the way I hold out myself, it impacts on them to also work dressing well.”
According to Galisonga, it is wrong for senior lawyers to exert pressure on young lawyers to go and buy specific kinds of clothes. “They should just show the example that you need to be smart.”
Galisonga calls for differentiation between dressing well and dressing expensive. He notes a lawyer can be smart without being luxurious and references his own colleagues who have personal tailors to tailor for them suits at affordable rates.
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“Look the Part without breaking the Bank“
Winnie Begumisa, a budding tax lawyer who works at URA and confesses a knack for “looking good” and being around people who look good shares in Mr. Galisonga’s comments. She tells me lawyers can look good on a budget.
“You can do whatever that is within your means. There are things that really look good that are not so pricey. You just need to know where to buy them from, how to balance your books. You can buy something high end – like two things in a year. And the rest on a medium budget. You don’t need to lose yourself or break your bank just because you are trying to create an image.” She advises.
Don’t Get it Twisted
Appearances play an important role in all forms of marketing – self marketing, corporate marketing, among others. When we know we look good it gives us a confidence uplift. We communicate in the way we look. But we should not chase appearances at the expense of our serenity.
So all of us need to mind the way we appear depending on who we are and the messages we are trying to carry.
For budding lawyers, appearances are more urgent. As Julius Galisonga puts it:
“At a certain point in time you must dress in a way that draws respect to you. Until they know how good you are as a lawyer, how an orator you are and how much you reason in courts, you must impress them.” He tells me, adding:
“You will find me even on Mondays when I am dressed in T-shirts and shorts because I have reached a certain point where people do not have necessarily to look at how I am dressed in order to determine if I am worthy being instructed.”
For Winnie Begumisa, there is actually an inspirational value in “looking the part.” I mean if you are aspiring to be a CEO, imitating the CEO look could drive your ambition.
“Imagine yourself as your best self and always show up as that person. Most times when you look the part people will assume you are the part. Advance yourself as the best version of yourself.
“By doing that you are not falsifying. You are not impersonating. You are not lying about who you are. You are just giving yourself the opportunity to grow. You are tasking yourself to look like what you are presenting.” She says.
But importantly – more than anything else – focus on your substance because appearances are just a form. Ability, and your network will beget the advancement of your career.
“No one is ever going to promote you because you dress really well.” Winnie Begumisa says.
Benjamin Ahikiiriza is a Legal Writer And Digital Communications & Marketing Specialist majoring in Lawyers, Law Firms And the larger Legal Sector.
Benjamin currently Works as the Director of Content and Business Development At LegalReports.