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London Law Firm Nets a Controversy With Ban on Fishnet Stockings

The Daily Mail reports that a London law firm is netting plenty of controversy for banning women lawyers from wearing fishnet stockings on the job. The firm determined that fishnets conveyed an "unprofessional image" and posed "too much of a distraction for men."

Not surprisingly, lawyers had plenty to say about the fishnet ban after a lawyer from the firm commented about the restrictiveness of the policy at Legal's Career Clinics blog. Some criticized the ban from a fashion perspective, complaining that the ban stifled individuality and personal style. Asked one commenter, "why should female lawyers be consigned to wearing a uniform of boring suits?" The Daily Mail's fashion editor, Natalie Theo, agreed that "fishnets are totally appropriate for the office" and pointed out that they offer "an alternative for those who don't want to bare their legs -- which is arguably worse."

Some lawyers argued that fishnets helped capture clients or win in court. Said one lawyer: "I've always found a brief flash of fishnets under a skirt suit a very effective method of tribunal advocacy." Another remarked, "At my firm, our investment banking clients were always happy to see us girls at negotiation meetings in very short skirts. Our male colleagues were very happy about it too." And from a third: "My male partners openly coo when I'm wearing Jimmy Choos, short skirts and nicely cut tops as it all reinforces the image they wish to project about themselves, the people they work with and the quality of bird they've attracted to the partnership."

On the other hand, some lawyers defended the ban. One commented that "Some of our trainees and newly-qualifieds look like lap-dancers... I know I wouldn't take them to a client meeting looking like that." And another asked, "Fishnet stockings? Are you out of your mind?? Which law firm do you work for? Soho Working Girls LLP? If you want to be recognised for your legal skills ... stop being so stubborn."

Since I know very little about fashion, I'll have to assume, based on Natalie Theo's opinion, that women can incorporate fishnets into a work-appropriate wardrobe. Thus, from an image perspective, banning fishnets seems like overkill. But what troubled me most is that many of the comments suggest that women lawyers prefer to rely on their physical assets rather than their professional merits to impress clients and male colleagues. If that's the case, our profession has far greater problems than fishnet stockings.

What's your view on fishnet stockings in the workplace, and law firm dress codes in general?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on April 4, 2008 at 05:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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