The briefcase is as important a part of the lawyer’s image as the traditional suit and tie, using big latin words to express simple concepts, and yelling “OBJECTION!” Think about the name for a moment — “briefcase” — it’s because we lawyers needed something to carry our reams of important lawyerly documents around.
And the need to carry things around is never ending. From the first day you first step into the law office, to your last day appearing in court before your peaceful, non-lawyerly retirement, you will have to schlep files, yellow pads, pens, laptops, and legal tomes around with you to Court, to client meetings, and to take work home with you. I can’t see this requirement of our job going away soon, no matter how much technology invades the courtroom.
With that in mind, it’s worth it to invest in a high-quality briefcase early in your career, because that one briefcase can last your entire legal career (or longer). Remember durables? Here’s a succinct way to put it: Buy the best, cry once.
So let’s talk about how terrible your briefcase probably is, and give you three potential options to replace your sad sack.
Signs you’re doing it wrong
If you are using any of the following things to carry your lawyerly stuff, you should stop, now.
Backpacks are for children. You’re an adult. You’ve worked hard now through law school, and passed the bar, and now have some fancy letters after your name. People come to you for legal advice, and it’s your duty to zealously represent them. Do you think that you, a lawyer, carrying your important client files around in a backpack like a 5th grader will inspire confidence that you’re a competent, confident professional? Burn the backpack.
Messenger bags are for bike messengers, mailmen, and people who are too cool for backpacks. Yes, I understand that you may have a super-cool limited edition color-way bag featuring a screen print by your favorite street artist, which you really love. That’s fine, but save it for carrying your things when you’re not lawyering.
Black Ballistic Nylon Laptop Bag
The Wonder Bread of briefcases, nothing says “I don’t care” like a generic black ballistic nylon laptop bag used as a briefcase. I don’t think that anyone actually buys these — they just kind of show up in peoples’s houses, like they’re brought in the night by the Black Ballistic Nylon Laptop Bag Fairy. I like to imagine that people carry these only because they don’t have to think — they find this bag in their house, shrug, and start using it as a briefcase. They are ugly, boring, and generic. The ballistic nylon will not age well, and the zippers will likely break.
Leather Bag from “Brand Name Designer Men’s Store”
There’s a distinct important difference between a branding and quality. Too many “designer” men’s stores these days produce garbage, stick their label on it, and charge a premium for the brand. Don’t fall prey to the siren’s song — most times these goods are made of inferior materials with inferior construction and aren’t worth the price tag. Jordan used to have one of these, and even he admits it was garbage. Save your money.
Now that we’ve figured out what you shouldn’t be carrying your important lawyerly stuff in, we should discuss some better options.
Three Examples at Three Price points For Your Lawyer-Document-Schlepping Needs
Here, I’ve provided three different options for a briefcase that will last you your entire career, and probably even longer. These are built so well that you’ll probably be able to give them to your kids, and them to their kids too. Note: I am not getting paid to endorse any of these, but I gladly accept bribes.
For the More Rugged, Laid-Back Lawyer — The Filson Original Briefcase
The Filson Original Briefcase is a classic no-nonsense design. It’s made of water resistant cotton twill and should be large enough to handle your legal-sized files. Big, brass zippers aren’t going to jam and break. It also comes with a bridle-leather shoulder strap, in case you dont feel like schlepping it around in your hand all day.
It’s affordably priced at $225, and available in Tan, Otter Green, or Brown.
This maybe a bit too rugged for you? Take a look at Filson‘s Leather Field Satchel instead.
For the No-Nonsense Utilitarian — Saddleback Leather Large Classic Briefcase
The Saddleback Classic Large Briefcase is a beast. It’s made of thick full-grain boot leather and weighs in at a substantial 7 1/2 pounds. The large size is 16″ wide, a 12″ tall, and 9″ deep — big enough to hold a redwell or two, plus your laptop, plus a few books. The pockets on the outside are great to hold extra pens, your business cards, your keys, or a bottle of hand sanitizer. Because it’s full-grain leather, it develops a wonderful patina as it ages. It will get scratched from time to time, but those scratches buff out with a quick brush and add to the character of the bag.
Finally, because it fastens with buckles, there’s nothing to break or fall apart — you won’t have to worry about dainty locks or forgetting a tumble lock combination. The large bag with a pigskin lining is available in four different colors, and will cost you about $610.00. The large bag too big for you? Consider a medium bag or the Round Sachel. Jordan and I each use these in our practice. To the left is Jordan’s Coffee Brown Large Briefcase, to the right, my Chestnut Brown Satchel.
For the Lawyer with a Large Budget — Swaine Adeney Brigg Westminster 3 Legal Case (American Format)
So you’ve recently come into a bit of money and have a $2,200.00 budget for a briefcase? This Swaine Adeney Brigg Westminster case is for you. SAB is an English luggage and umbrella manufacturer that has been around since 1750. They have held Royal Warrants since 1893 for their goods — if they’re good enough for English Royalty, they should be good enough for you.
Available in four colours (Black, Chestnut, Havana, and London Tan), this bag is made of leather tanned with natural plant extracts, rather than harsh synthetics, so it will only look better with age. It’s not as large as the Saddleback, and it costs 10x as much as the Filson, but if durability and timeless style are your things, and you have some excess cash to spend, you can’t get much better than this.
Reports from the Field
I want to hear from you attorneys out in the field. What’s your go-to bag? How has it served you? Is it something you’d be proud to pass onto your kids as an heirloom, or do you see it just as a sack to move your documents around?
If you have other recommendations at other price points, let us know. But if you want to brag about how great your nylon backpack from 7th grade still is, go start your own blog.
Until next time.