Published Irregularly Weather or Not We Feel Like ItAny Damned Time We Please Important Dislaimer: In case any reader doesn't quite get it, this is parody protected under the first amendment of the Constitution of United Statements of America. If you don't like the law then feel free to go try and change it. If you are interested in further information on freedom of the press we suggest you start with John Milton's masterful essay "Areopagitica" (1644) http://www.uoregon.edu/~rbear/areopagitica.html Gordon Geckko as Style Icon Returns
Published Irregularly Weather or Not We Feel Like ItAny Damned Time We Please
Important Dislaimer: In case any reader doesn't quite get it, this is parody protected under the first amendment of the Constitution of United Statements of America. If you don't like the law then feel free to go try and change it. If you are interested in further information on freedom of the press we suggest you start with John Milton's masterful essay "Areopagitica" (1644) http://www.uoregon.edu/~rbear/areopagitica.html
Gordon Geckko as Style Icon Returns
Traffickers in Tragedy: "Litigation is Good Buddy Boy"
This gem below from the WSJ brings me back to the not-so-fond memories of early 1990s where financial misery and misgivings reined supreme. Citibank was broke along with all the other banks. Citi, in desperation, kissed a frog that turned into a Prince from the east whose reputation grew along with his bank account and the price of Citi's stock. Later, another Prince would become head of the joint who turned out to be a frog-- not of the French variety. All our fairytales have become twisted and may turn into our worst nightmares.
So looking back maybe things weren't as bad as they seemed at the time. Add to the banking mix, the thrift crisis, Charles Keating, empty skyscrapers strewn across the country, half built strip centers all anchored by a Chinese restaurant, a karate school and a dry cleaner, the $300 billion junk bond market in disarray. It all seemed pretty gloomy at the time and guys went to jail for misdeeds.
Now just add three zeroes to the magBut it was a time time when institutions we trusted got the job done. The Resolution Trust, the Fed, FDIC, OCC, SEC, the rating agencies were actually effective. In hindsight things back then weren't so bad. But it felt unseemly at the time. One favorite "collection firm" for the hard core intractable debts was a bunch of former special-forces, Blackwater types who literally wore a shoulder patch bearing the phrase "one shot, one kill". A bankruptcy judge referred to bankers and their "tools" as "traffickers in tragedy". Which brings us to the curious case of Bickel & Brewer, the fashionistas of old-school power attire.
I read this article and was a bit confused. Have the Bonfire's Masters of the Universe have been re-invented as Bastards of the Universe in the form of litigators with double breated suits, yellow ties and shoe shines. I am going to send them a a gross (12 dozen for those of you who have never been in the retail trade) of those patches that say "say one shot one kill". The partners should consider sewing them on to their $160,000 a year newbie associates to remind them of what their job is. Traffickers in tragedy. Something tells me the partners at Bickel & Brewer don't need the patches. Clients will trust these attorneys because they dress to kill and look the part? Shakespeare was right.
Inside a Bastion of Old-School Power Attire
Bickel & Brewer Scorned 'Business Casual'; Now, the Firm Looks Prescient as Formality Returns
At law firm Bickel & Brewer, even the mailroom clerks wear suits and ties. Until recently, that might have been considered extreme. But now, power dressing is coming back in style, and the old-school law firm has a new relevance.
As law-firm layoffs mount, fear of unemployment appears to be speeding up the resurgence of power clothes, even among the youngest recruits. Legal interns have begun flouting business-casual dress codes and wearing suits instead, says Gretchen Neels, a Boston communications consultant who works with law firms and graduate schools. "In our economic times, you really want to have your game on. You can't be too formal," she says.
Power clothes are selling well at menswear retailer Paul Fredrick. Those white-collared, colored dress shirts that Gordon Gekko favored in the 1987 movie "Wall Street" have been big sellers in recent months, says Dean White, executive vice president of merchandise. So are yellow power ties, another 1980s dress-for-success accessory.
The return of old-school power dressing is something of a "duh" moment for Bill Brewer, co-founder and managing partner of the law firm, which has offices in Dallas and New York City. He never really got the appeal of khakis and rubber-soled Gucci loafers at the office. He prides himself on custom three-button suits with a center vent and shirts from Bruce Clark in New York. His voice tightens with disdain when he describes "those square-toed club shoes" that some young recruits wear to the office.
Litigators Michael Gardner, left, and Bill Brewer, right, are known for their dedication to traditional power dressing.
"I think people expect high-powered lawyers to look like high-powered lawyers," Mr. Brewer says. "Anything else is sending the wrong signal."
Even six months ago, that kind of talk might have sounded as outmoded as John Molloy, who penned "Dress For Success," the 1980s bible of corporate style. Casual clothing has long been seen as a sign of a modern attitude and has become an important job perk. In a 2007 column I wrote, a number of young lawyers defended working in Ugg boots, jeans and clingy T-shirts, arguing that they needed to be comfortable at work. They felt entitled.
But people's sense of job entitlement has evaporated as unemployment figures rise. Ms. Neels suggests that any law graduate with a job should prepare to invest in whatever the firm asks. "If they want you to dress up like Big Bird every day, for $160,000 a year, just do it!" she says, citing the going starting salary for law associates this year.
Alicia Russell, an executive recruiter for legal jobs with Boyden Global Executive Search, says Bickel & Brewer's all-inclusive power-dress code is unusual. "I can't say that I've ever been in a law firm where every single person is in formal business attire," she says. But she isn't opposed to the concept. In fact, she recommends that lawyers stick with dark, conservative suits. Men should wear ties and women should add an accessory that has "panache" -- such as a piece of jewelry or a sharp-looking purse or briefcase.
Heard on the Runway
At Bickel & Brewer, the power code is made clear when recruits are invited to "Call-Back Weekend" in Dallas, which takes place each fall. "When I greet them at 9 a.m. that Saturday, I'm in a suit and tie -- and so are they," says Michael Gardner, the firm's hiring partner.
In conversation, Mr. Brewer, 57, and Mr. Gardner, 39, manage to sound like the calendar says it's 1985. As they describe the corporate-litigation firm, which employs more than 40 lawyers, they evoke a work-hard-play-hard ethos, tossing around hard-driving football analogies to convey that work comes first. And second. "This is a star system," says Mr. Brewer.
Mr. Gardner sounds as though he'd like to hold his nose when he discusses business casual. "It's actually a little offensive to my sense of style," he says. Without a suit, he says, "I would feel like a football player who ran out on the field without his shoulder pads."
Young lawyers who arrive ignorant of the power-suit ensemble get a little tutoring from Mr. Gardner "in a mentoring way," he says. Let's just say that if Mr. Gardner invites you for a quick cup of joe at Starbucks, you might want to reconsider your footwear. Next door to the Starbucks in the lobby is a shoeshine shop. "You know," he tells those with scuffed shoes, "I'm going to get my shoes shined. Why don't you join me?"
Adam Sanderson, an associate of the "millennial" generation born after 1981, accompanied Mr. Gardner to the shoeshine shop after joining the firm in 2006. Mr. Gardner says Mr. Sanderson's shoes were too trendy. "I was thinking the next best thing would be to get his shoes shined," Mr. Gardner recalls. But he didn't stop there. "I just told him, 'We gotta get rid of those shoes.'"
Mr. Sanderson says he had been planning to get new shoes anyway -- and he bought the cap-toed Ferragamos that Mr. Gardner suggested. "Shined shoes are a point of pride here," he adds.
There was a time that even Mr. Brewer's confidence in power attire wavered. In the late 1990s, says Mr. Brewer, "we were doing work for people who were very high-profile in the new space -- high tech. Many of them were business casual, or less than casual." Mr. Brewer asked during a corporate retreat whether the firm should test business-casual for the summer.
"That's ridiculous," he says his partners countered. "That's not Bickel & Brewer."
Write to Christina Binkley at firstname.lastname@example.org
Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page D8