The next time your client accompanies you in court, be sure to discuss their dresscode in advance.
“Wear your Sunday church outfit”
If you tell your client to wear their Sunday church outfit, there is almost no room for misinterpretation. This does not mean your client needs to go out and buy a nice suit, it just means they should plan on wearing their nice clothes.
If your client does not have a Sunday church outfit or does not get the reference, be more specific—tell them to wear khakis and a nice button-down shirt (and the equivalent for female clients).
The disaster scenario is when your client accused of drug possession wears a t-shirt with a marijuana leaf on it. Even more drastic, the individual accused of arson who had a matchbook clipped to his belt.
Of course, every case is different, and your dress code advice to your client may vary depending on the situation. When in doubt, however, telling your clients to dress like they are going to church is a good thing.
Why it matters
In many cases, your client’s appearance is their only opportunity to make an impression on the judge and jury. During most civil hearings, a client is unlikely to say anything. In criminal cases, many defendants rarely make any statements other than those required as part of an appearance or plea. What they are wearing might be the only “statement” they make to the court.
Telling them what to wear also avoids potential friction between you and your client. If you assume they will wear a suit, but they show up in jeans, that attorney-client conversation right before court will result stress for both you and your client. Avoid that uncomfortable talk by tackling the issue before it becomes an issue.