Introducing our new fashion writer // Style Counsel

Introducing Precedent's new style columnist, Emma Williamson

By Emma Williamson

On Friday March 30th, 2012

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 Today we relaunch our Style Counsel column with Emma Williamson, a fashion-obsessed corporate commercial lawyer at FMC whose mission is to inspire Precedent‘s female readers “to break out of a style rut while obeying obvious and not-so-obvious workplace dress codes.” (She’ll offer occasional bits of advice for fellas, too.)


Dear Young Female Lawyer:

Your secret’s out. I know what it’s like to be you when it comes to workwear: you wake up in the morning and throw on yet another black suit and that ever-present Banana Republic dress shirt (we’ve all got ’em). You sigh in frustration when those nude stockings bust a run as soon as you take them out of the package. You put on the same old black coat and boots and traipse along to the office, wishing you were Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada.

For so many of us, grinding away in Bay Street towers or the fluorescent cubicles of government, fashion is a mirage in a sea of paper. We want to know how to develop our own style; how to incorporate trends into classic work wardrobes. We want to be taken seriously, but we also love fashion. What’s a professional, educated girl to do?

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m a fourth year corporate/commercial lawyer at FMC Law, specializing in technology and intellectual property. And although I enjoy negotiating software agreements, I’m also a fashion appreciator and consumer. Ever since my first Adidas bell-bottoms and crocheted skull cap in the 80’s (true story), I’ve been obsessed with fashion, scouring the racks at Forever 21 and buying fashion magazines in bulk (I once supplied a doctor’s office with old issues for a year!).

If you’re anything like I am, you don’t want to dress like one of those women from early episodes of Law & Order, rocking a drab suit with nary a shred of individuality. After all, if you’re wearing this outfit for 16 straight hours, you probably want to actually like the outfit. Lawyers like us need to find work-appropriate clothing that is fashionable, without causing the male partner you work for to say: “My 10-year-old daughter has that!” (Not that such a comment has ever been directed to me. Let’s just say that I do not recommend bringing a pink umbrella to work. Even if it is a really good umbrella).

In writing this column, I hope to grow with you, exploring ideas and trends in a way that works specifically for us and the unique demands of our jobs — both practical and political. The reality is that appearance matters in the business of law. Unless you’re one of those desk jockeys who never leaves your office or cubicle, you’re likely attending networking events, taking clients for dinner or chatting up the senior partners for some practice advice.

Being put together and well-groomed conveys trustworthiness and competence; being fashionable endears you to younger clients, the entrepreneurs and lovers of social media, the new generation of businesspeople. Many conversations among we female lawyers begin with an “I love your [inset any item of jewellery or clothing here]!” It’s the start of a beautiful friendship.

I’m looking forward to helping you — and myself — dress like the hip, stylish lawyers we are. Fashion is wearable art; the practical meeting the fantastical. And aren’t we all looking for a little more creativity in our lives?


Have questions or a column idea for Emma? Send them to tips@lawandstyle.ca