Fashionable, Professional Bags for Women Lawyers

shutterstock 165587621 640x378 Fashionable, Professional Bags for Women Lawyers

Well designed, fashionable, professional-yet-functional bags for women are so hard to find. I surveyed over 500 women lawyers on email lists, Facebook, and Twitter, in order to compile this list of briefcases for women. The list includes a wide range of names, styles, colors, and interesting lesser-known brands, all of which can accommodate a laptop.

These are my three rules for a well-designed bag for lawyers:

  1. Strap. Some bags don’t come with straps, which means you have to carry it in your hand. This is impractical and annoying. You often need both hands to grab something out of your bag, and you can’t do that if you have to carry the bag by the handle instead of over your shoulder. (Bonus points if the strap doesn’t dig into your shoulder, especially right over a bra strap.)
  2. Functional. This obviously depends on what you need to carry. I tend to travel light and often the most I need to squeeze into a bag is a laptop and a one-inch folder (along with the usual woman stuff like makeup). Carefully considering how much room you need and what you will be carrying will make your briefcase more lovable in the long term. Another nice-to-have feature is a bag with feet that can stand on its own. It is nice to be able to set down your bag without worrying about it falling over.
  3. Feels good and/or feminine. When I graduated from law school, I had a men’s Coach briefcase, similar to this one. I bought it because I loved the feel of the leather, it was highly functional, and it was well built. Back then, I wanted a bag that will help me blend in and having a bag that looked similar to the ones my male counterpart was carrying helped me feel more comfortable.
    As I matured and became more comfortable as a lawyer, I felt it was important to bring more of myself and my personality not only to what I what I wore, but to all aspects of my law practice. Having a bag that I felt comfortable carrying, with the right blend of femininity and function, became more important to me. I didn’t want to be a generic lawyer, and leaving behind the men’s Coach briefcase was one small step towards finding my footing.

In the previous version of this post, Staci Zaretsky spoke with Kat Griffin, the founder, publisher, and editor-in-chief of Corporette. Griffin said:

I think the fact is that women have to put SOMETHING on when they get up in the morning, whether it’s cute or not. Similarly, they have to carry their papers in something. And the sad fact is that what you end up wearing and carrying — they ALL reflect on your professionalism. If it’s dowdy and frumpy, you look out of touch with the modern world. If it’s too sexy or feminine, it may suggest that you’re dressing for your social life rather than your working life.

This balance between professional, functional, and not too frumpy or too sexy makes it a challenge to find a briefcase or bag. The recommendations from the lawyers I surveyed were mostly a variation on the traditional briefcase or tote. There were also many suggestions for rolling bags, which are especially helpful if you have to carry a lot of weight and negotiate high heels at the same time.

First up: bags under $100.

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  • BL1Y

    The Jamie Raquel looks like a really nice box, but the bulky, rigid shape seems impractical as a bag you’ll carry around with you, especially if you rely on crowded public transportation. Also, consider that the open top means you have to keep the thing pointing up, or risk spilling the contents, and you’re going to be a target for pickpockets (bye bye Blackberry).

    The Mobile Edge would be good for when you have to travel, or if you’re a student, but doesn’t really look professional as your day-to-day bag. The design is like something out of the mid-90s when laptops were still 3 inches thick and weighed 20 pounds.

    The Jack Georges is spot on. The minimalist design means you can pick it up and walk out the door without spending time trying to match your bag with your shoes. It’s not frumpy, but also doesn’t scream that you’re trying too hard to impress people with your bag, and the interior design looks good. It’s not just a re-purposed large purse, it’s designed to hold a laptop and files, and still let you get to your phone, pens, etc, without digging around.

    If you’re in a more laid back, casual office and want something that won’t be too “Andreeeaaahh” go for the Cassette Tape Tote:

  • Adrian Baron

    Nice post Staci. It helped me pick out a gift for my wife who is graduating law school.

    I just did a post on lawyers wearing fedoras again.

    • Staci Zaretsky

      Thanks, Adrian! Which bag did you end up going with? I’m dying to buy the Jack Georges for myself soon.

      • Adrian Baron

        That’s the one I got her. She’s picky though. You better be right. lol

  • Randall Ryder

    When can I for the post on Captain America t-shirts and Birkenstocks?

    • Staci Zaretsky

      I’m actually planning on writing about smart casual wear in the future, but I’d save the Birks for Coachella.

      • Randall Ryder

        Pretty sure 99% of Coachella attendees are barefoot.

  • Jennifer Gumbel

    When I was in law school, clerking for a summer, a young female, single with no kids attorney in the office had a Kate Spade briefcase. When commented that I loved the briefcase and didn’t know that Kate Spade made briefcases, she said that they don’t, it was a diaper bag. It was the only Kate Spade bag that would fit legal files. It looked great. Sometime you have to think outside of the box.

    Me? I’m still using my Franklin Covey briefcase I got in lawschool by saving up westlaw points. It was free (except for becoming hooked on westlaw), still looks stylish, holds legal files and zips shut.

  • LzzJne

    I have to second the Kate Spade diaper bag comment. I’m still a law student, so cost is a huge issue- but I serendipitously found that Kate Spade diaper bag at the thrift store in perfect shape for six dollars and it truly is the best bag ever.

  • Mitch Jackson

    My wife and law partner has shared her “challenges” with me about proper attire and accessories (is all about the accessories right?) both in the office and court. With her help, I share a popular article last year entitled, “Never Wear SpongeBob Squarepants Underwear to Trial” Mitch
    Here you go!

  • Alina

    Personally, none of those bags are a combination of professional and feminine. The first looks like a box, more like an accordian file than a briefcase or shoulder bag, the bottom one is a bag one would use as a student to carry a laptop, not a bag for the office or for court. Amongst the 3 the Milano is the only one that satisfies my requirement that the bag be leather, for starters, but still looks cheap. The stiching/piping looks like those on target bags. Fine if you are spending 29.99 but not $285! My bags need to be: 1. leather or leather trimmed, no pleather!!! 2. large enough to carry several legal size file folders or accordians 3. decently priced 4. great quality 5. while not a requirement but ideal for a bag for court, is the ability to throw in a small pocket book into the bigger bag, I can carry whichever personal handbag I want to the office and lunch and just toss it in when I go to court, no need to carry the bigger bag all day or to transfer my personal items into the briefcase/court tote
    What about these:

  • jessie

    Just saw this and wanted to add a plug for the Susan B. Anthony bag!

    • Staci Zaretsky

      Not really my style, but it could possibly work for some people. First thing that’s jumping out at me, though, is the price you’re going to be paying for a fake alligator bag. Bit of a rip-off.

  • Leila
  • Joann Halpern

    insofar as that $1,050.00 bag, you’d think it would be a lot snazzier for that amount of money!

  • Luis

    Wow! Indeed very fashionable bags for ladies.

  • Amanda

    I found a functional, stylish, and professional bag at TJMaxx. It is a beige Emma Fox bag. :)

  • Lauren Bond

    I love these Handbags.