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:
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.