Your briefcase is as important as your traditional suit and tie and using big latin words to express simple concepts.

From the first day you step into the law office, to your last day appearing in court, you will have to schlep files, yellow pads, pens, laptops, and legal tomes around with you to court and client meetings.

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.

Backpack

Backpacks are for children. You’re an adult. You’ve worked hard to get through law school and pass the bar to have some fancy letters after your name. People come to you for legal advice, and it is your duty to represent your clients zealously. Do you think that you, a lawyer, carrying your important client files around in a backpack like a fifth grader will inspire confidence that you are a competent, confident professional?

Burn the backpack.

Messenger Bag

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. That’s fine, but save it for carrying your things when you are not lawyering.

Black Ballistic Nylon Laptop Bag

These are 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 buys these — they just kind of show up in peoples’ houses. I like to imagine that people carry these only because they don’t have to think — they simply 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.

These bags are ugly, boring, and generic. The ballistic nylon will not age well, and the zippers will probably break.

Leather Bag from “Brand Name Designer Men’s Store”

There iss a distinct 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 of the time these goods are made of inferior materials with inferior construction and aren’t worth the price tag.

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

I’ve provided three different options for a briefcase that will last you your entire career or longer. These are so well-built you will probably be able to give them to your kids.

For the More Rugged, Laid-Back Lawyer: The Filson Original Briefcase

The Filson Original in Tan. Made in the USA.

The Filson Original in Tan. Made in the USA.

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. The  big brass zippers are not going to jam and break. It also comes with a bridle-leather shoulder strap.

It’s affordably priced at $225 and is available in tan, otter green, or brown.

If this style is too rugged for you, take a look at Filson’s Leather Field Satchel instead.

For the No-Nonsense Utilitarian: Saddleback Leather Large Classic Briefcase

Saddleback Classic Briefcase — 100 year Warranty.

Saddleback Classic Briefcase — 100 year Warranty.

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, and 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 arsenal.

The arsenal.

For the Lawyer with a Large Budget: Swaine Adeney Brigg Westminster 3 Legal Case (American Format)

250 years of British Craftsmanship. One amazing case.

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 are 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.

Updates

  • 2013-02-08. Originally published.
  • 2015-04-24. Style edits made, links fixed, and featured image updated.