People will judge you based on your appearance. The only person you will ever meet who might not is your mom. Or at least she’ll love you anyway. Probably. The legal system is a very, very judgmental system. Hence why one of the key players in this drama is called a “Judge.”
Every time you walk into court, whether you’re coming in to drop off a piece of paper, make a child support payment, or even if it was just the closest bathroom on your way to somewhere else, you need to be dressed to the hilt.
Now I know you’re guys reading this, so a lot of this probably doesn’t come naturally to you. I personally don’t believe that just because you don’t know enough not to wear a brown belt with black shoes or to leave the bottom button of your suitcoat open, you should have Sally taken away from you. Stated like that, it sounds silly, and you’re going to want to discount this advice. But many of the judgments made against you aren’t even formulated into words in the minds of the people who have your future in their hands. Vague thoughts for or against you could make all the difference.
John Mahlo’s Dress for Success can help the fashion-hopeless with details like shoes and socks or making the knot in your tie. Which brings me to my next important point: the Tie.
Buy yourself a very nice, very conservative tie. Don’t make any political statements, don’t be funny, don’t express your love of fishing or duck hunting. A dressy, unexpressive, conservative tie, to go with your well-fitting suit. Nothing baggy or awkward, not the kind of suit a guy might borrow from his court-appointed lawyer to use for one hour before giving it back. We’re talking a suit that fits you and really looks like it’s yours.
One of the weird things you might notice about dressing well in court is that people often mistake you for an attorney. So you’ll be respected; people will be polite.
To keep these positive feelings, you need to make yourself memorable. The easiest way to do this is by wearing the same conservative tie every time you go to court. If you’re doing well, you’re polite, you’re passing through the metal detectors and sharing elevators with people, they need to have something about you pegged with this good experience.
That said, heaven forbid you have a bad day in court—badmouth someone, don’t get along with your attorney, jump on the table and scream swearwords at a random woman who looks kind of like your Ex. Now you need to change the color of your tie and show up in something different.
In my 11 years of experience, I can’t tell you how many guys go into court looking like they just fell off a truck and they want the judge or jury to see through all the crap on the outside and realize something that, at this point, is only apparent to long-term friends who’ve seen them in better times.
This is an excerpt from “Daddy Got Custody” by Fred Campos due out Summer of 2010. Copyright 2010.