The Best Briefcases for Lawyers

Finding the best lawyer briefcase for your practice is an important part of finding your particular style, and staying organized while you work.

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).

While everyone has different style tastes and different practices areas and settings may have their own unique needs, most people will find the best lawyer briefcase for them from the following options.

Non-traditional Briefcase Alternatives

Most lawyers should probably stick to classic, more traditional, briefcase options, but some want to break the mold and go the non-traditional route.


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? But if you insist, at least get one that’s interesting, like something from Booq:

Booq backpack

Booq Daypack – $80

Messenger Bags

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. If you do want one of those hipster bags, we prefer Timbuk2:

Timbuk2 Classic Messenger bag

Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag – $54

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. Seriously, Amazon sells these in a “10-pack.”

AmazonBasics Laptop Bag – $15 (or $125 for a 10-pack)

Bag from a “Brand Name Designer”

There is a distinct difference between branding and quality. Too many fashion “designers” 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.

Tommy Hilfiger bag

Tommy Hilfiger “Designer” Bag – $132

Now that we’ve figured out what you shouldn’t be carrying your important lawyerly stuff in, we should discuss some better options.

Best Lawyer Briefcase for a Variety of Budgets

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.

Best Lawyer Briefcase Under $250: The Filson Original

The Filson Original Briefcase is a classic no-nonsense design. It’s made in the USA 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.

Filson Original briefcase

Filson Original Briefcase – $243

It’s affordably priced at under $250 and is available in tan, otter green, or brown.

Best Lawyer Briefcase for $250-$750:

Allen Edmonds has been making classic handmade shoes in Wisconsin for almost 100 years. In fact, in addition to some nice briefcases and accessories, they also make the best shoes for lawyers.

The Allen Edmonds Double Flap Briefcase is a great medium size and weight, constructed of beautiful leather that will age well over time.

Allen Edmonds Briefcase

Allen Edmonds Double Flap Briefcase – $695

Best Lawyer Briefcase for $750-$1,000: Saddleback Leather Classic

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.

Saddleback Leather Classic briefcase

Saddleback Classic Briefcase – $750

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 $750.00.

Best Lawyer Briefcase Over $1,000: Swaine Adeney Brigg Westminster Legal Case

So you’ve recently come into a bit of money and have a $2,500.00 budget for a briefcase? Then 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.

Swaine Adeney Brigg Westminster briefcase

Swaine Adeney Brigg Westminster bag – $2,500

Available in four colors (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.

The Overall Best Lawyer Briefcase: The Filson Original

The best briefcase for lawyers is the Filson Original, a classic canvas bag that will last forever and look great, at a great price.

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

Best Lawyer Briefcase: Filson Original Briefcase, reviewed by Leo Mulvihill, Jr. on based on an earlier version from February 8, 2013.

Featured image:


  1. Avatar Tori White says:

    Love the points–image is everything until it isn’t. I’m interested in options for women. Also, I’m limited somewhat in mobility. Any options for those of us who’d like to pass the image test but can’t shoulder (forgive the pun) the shoulder straps? I’ve invested in a rolling computer bag but it’s too much for quick court appearances or schlepping to client meetings.

  2. Sam Glover Sam G. says:

    What does it say about my style that I hate all the bags you posted? Then again, I usually don’t carry a bag at all. I rarely need more than my iPad and a pad of paper.

  3. Avatar john_d says:

    It’s telling that the best attorneys I know pay no attention to their bag choice. Nothing is more embarrassingly funny than an attorney who steps up wearing a French cuff shirt, designer suit, and caring a $1,000 briefcase and turns out to be an empty suit. Make sure you have the substance down before you work on the style.

  4. Avatar Laura Toledo says:

    You can’t hate a guy who brings this to the table:
    (couldn’t help myself – apparently, there is a bacon festival in Iowa?)

  5. Avatar Daniel Glad says:

    The Saddleback in person is way too rustic, and it looks like something deep in the throes of mid-life crisis carries around to prove he still has adventure in his bones. (Because he can’t afford the sportscar or arm candy.) My money is on something more like this for the mid-range price point:

  6. Avatar Matthew S. says:


    Thanks for this information and the entertaining prose. What are your thoughts on buying vintage briefcases on eBay et al and then bringing them back to life by restoring the leather over time?

    There are some beautiful full-grain briefcases from the ’60s that you can pick up awfully cheap. And I like them because they already have some miles on them.

  7. Avatar Grant says:

    I like to carry the Hartmann briefcase I picked up for $6.00 at a thrift store a few years ago. Bags like it but in better shape — no scratches, a working clasp mechanism — sell for $400.00 and higher on eBay. Sadly, it dates from the days before reasonable-sized cellphones (the phone pocket inside is for a phone that’s post-brick, but pre-Razr) and doesn’t really serve for a laptop.

    But still. Hartmann. And yes, I know you only ever see me using my backpack.

  8. Avatar Kristi says:

    Can’t help it, I’m a sucker for free schwag. My lugger of choice changes by the week depending on what latest conference I’ve attended (proof that I keep up on my CLE; same way I get most of my pens), what client has recently dubbed me worthy of their logowear (depending on where I take it; ditto the pens), and what non-profit campaign I may be supporting (though those never go to court; thank goodness I never have to buy pens!). And while the trendy borderline disposable grocery getters are not cool, I’m all about using them to take files home with me.

    PS ~ Can somebody email my mom these links so she knows what I REALLY want for Christmas next year? Oh, and don’t worry, I wear FABULOUS shoes to make up for the free book bags ;-)

  9. Avatar Fred A. Cohen says:

    I have to differ about black ballistic nylon bags. Tumi makes a great one, priced at $395, which I use, and which clients have complimented . It is several years old and literally looks new.

  10. Avatar Paul says:

    I got a nice briefcase that thankfully doesn’t look like any of the three pictured ones. That style of bag did not excite me at all. Mine is a Jack Georges bag although sadly it doesn’t fit my massive laptop.

  11. Avatar Jon says:

    None of those choices are particularly attractive. I know the saddleback brand has gotten trendy recently, but I would have to agree that they look too rustic for lawyerly endeavors… like you grabbed the saddle bag off the horse you rode to the court house. Perhaps they are better suited for architects or engineers. Also, with the shoulder strap on the bag it looks less like a briefcase and more like a glorified messenger bag/man purse.

  12. Avatar Louie says:

    Thoughts on the Billykirk Schoolboy Satchel?

  13. Avatar Scott says:

    I have a “Black Ballistic Nylon Bag” by Briggs and Riley (Executive Rolling Catalog). It is more useful, better looking and more expensive than the sacks you suggest above. It rolls too. I have been rolling it around for about 7 years now.

    I have had more traditional lawyer bags in the past like a Hartman. Expensive, looked great on the shelf but a ridiculous mess after only a few years of service.

    I think it’s comical that you suggest bags that I routinely mock when I see lawyers carrying them.

    • Avatar Leo M. says:

      A high quality leather bag, made of top grain leather, develops a gorgeous patina as it ages. It ends up with a character that makes it uniquely yours.

      Even the canvas that Filson uses ages well.

      But a black ballistic nylon bag is ugly on day one and will be ugly when you stop using it. It has no character.

      If you think that black ballistic nylon bag looks better than a well worn and cared-for leather piece, then I can’t help you.

  14. Avatar Robert says:

    If you’re in the market for a new briefcase, try Etsy. I bought a handmade leather briefcase there that is one of a kind and will last almost forever. And at $250 it cost considerably less than the briefcases suggested here or found in stores.

  15. Avatar Jeremy Parsley says:

    Am I the only one who doesn’t like the bags and prefers the hard-shell type?

  16. Avatar Mark says:

    Spade. Jack Spade.

  17. Avatar David K. Hiscock says:

    Fail, fail and fail.
    Sorry; I like most of your material, but you’ve missed an important point about the bags you’re recommending.
    All have the “must be buckled up to work” strap on them.

    Please consider a very small design difference that makes a WORLD of difference – TWO handles that match up, clasping in your hand, the bag works great whether you buckle it or not.
    I almost never do.

    Next suggestion – the bright-shiny new bag just screams “graduation present”.
    Pick up your bag at an estate sale/garage sale/tag sale/pick your regional term and insert it here…

    Back when I had hair and was sorta cute, it was hard to be taken seriously until the judgment was presented (then I had to do it all over again, because insurance companies don’t learn very well)
    Since I got gray, lost most of my hair and nobody in their right mind would call me cute, when I show up with a bag that has some scuffs on it, there’s a better chance a person will consider what I say to be “voice of experience”.

    Not offered as a trolling volley, a sincere opinion.
    Not my bag, but an example of what I’m talking about:
    I certainly didn’t get my bag at Barneys or pay $1,800, but yeah, the nylon backpack or the messenger bag is a) not gonna last and b) not saying good things about you.

  18. Avatar Jack says:

    All of the above look pretty frumpy to me. I have two bags. One, for every day, is a black leather briefcase in classic Italian style, sort of similar to the arsenal, but it’s not so thick — probably maxes out at about 2 reams of paper, and has a button latch instead of a buckle, and no additional side straps. Pretty similar to this: I bought it in Italy the year I graduated from law school — 10 years ago, with the idea that I’d keep it for my career. So far so good.

    My second go-to bag is the most boring and utilitarian bag there is: A classic litigation bag — basically a box with handles. No ouside pocket, no wheels, no strap. The design is exactly like this one: . It is high quality and was handed down to me. No idea whether it originally cost the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $2,100.

    • Avatar black_metal_lawyer says:

      My Filson leather field satchel is a classic american style, made of bridle leather, and looks great beat to shit. I hate litigation bags, and by the grace of god, will never have to use one. I’d rather put a dammed banker’s box on a handtruck.

  19. Avatar Scott says:

    This beast of a bag will last longer than I will. It’s in the No-Nonsense Utilitarian category.

  20. Avatar m.l. says:

    Call me old fashioned but I would not trust an attorney’s billables if (s)he had a 2k briefcase/messenger bag. That said, I would not be able to tell the difference between a $100 bag and a $1,000 bag. I leave that to fashionistas. All it takes to earn my respect is to be smart, dedicated, and honest. If you have enough time to think about what other people might think of your bag…you’re doing it wrong

  21. Avatar fer says:

    Leather briefcases always look better than non-leather, but they are heavier and the compartments are not always as practical or protect electronics as good as nylon bags/backpacks, plus backpacks help when carrying a lot of things. That being said my dream leather bag is this:

    I think hard cases look cool, but when you want to take out something quickly, zippers are better.

  22. Avatar Phil Lowry says:

    I use the assault pack I was issued in Afghanistan as an Army JAG. Holds lots of paper, my machine and my iPad. Huge zippers for carrying heavy loads of ammo and gear. For court I usually just take my iPad in any event. No need for physical paper if you’re prepared.

    Think I look like a kid with an assault pack? I authorized air strikes on the Taliban. I don’t need a swanky leather thing (which is a pain to open) to validate me.

  23. Avatar Joelyn Toby says:

    I purchased a great briefcase from Leather Tree 10 years ago and it is still perfect. I chose one on wheels that had a lot of room for all of my files. They have a separate section just for lawyers briefcases.

  24. Avatar justobservant says:

    OK, call me crazy, but … those bags are lame. I have used a hard-side, Coach leather briefcase since graduating from law school, and it’s heavy, but it looks a whole lot better than those ones that you have listed. I also have a Coach leather briefcase with shoulder strap that is similar to what you’ve shown above – it is a little lighter than the hard-side, but it’s still a pain in the neck (literally) to carry around.

    Third option (and my preference) is an old Eddie Bauer briefcase I’ve had since law school that is made of the ubiquitous black nylon. I genuinely prefer it to the other two for hauling things back and forth. It has a zipper around the bottom so that it will expand to handle a really big file without tearing my shoulder off, and it zips under the flap – which is important when you have sensitive information. Also, there are pockets everywhere (some with and some without zippers) to handle the pens, clips, etc. Plus, because it is made of rip-stop nylon, it is loads lighter than either of the other 2.

    [***I have since gone to a regular “purse” that allows me to carry everything in one bag (wallet, keys, bar card, etc., along with the chosen file), and I only use an actual briefcase for files that are too big for the purse, but I’m guessing that the guys in the crowd are not going to go for that look! ;)]

  25. Avatar LeonKnife says:

    I love the bags made form leather however most of have too many stitching lines. I prefer when the bag get more beautiful over the ages and when you can smell real leather. :)

  26. Avatar Paul McFarlane says:

    Filson canvas briefcase. I’m on my second one. They have a lifetime guarantee. After 16 years the first one was beat to crap and the corners were wearing. I sent it back to Filson to repair, they called and said they’d replace it. Beautiful. If I was at a big New York or DC Firm I don’t know if I could get away with it, but in Seattle (and now Boise) it is just fine. I get the olive green one because it wears better than tan. Filson. Might as well have the best.

  27. Avatar Terry Lin says:

    Hey Leo,

    Curious if lawyers are moving to more lean solutions like a laptop sleeve with more modern tech in today’s world? Sometimes a briefcase might be too clunky to lug around for a quick lunch meeting or coffee with a client. It was an issue I found back when I still worked at an i-bank.

    I found your page as I’m working on an executive laptop sleeve made from Italian leather, with a battery pack that can recharge the phone along with pockets for documents, an iPad, business cards, pens, and cord organizers to keep everything from being tangled up.

    Most of the sleeves I’ve found on the market are either really tacky, dull, or boring which obviously is a bad reflection on your character when meeting clients.

    Just curious if I am going in the right direction here, cheers!

  28. Avatar Carlos says:

    Glaser Designs. Hands down best price/quality ratio

  29. Avatar Brooke says:

    Although I certainly don’t expect Leo to be an expert on women’s fashion, this article would be more well rounded if it acknowledged women are lawyers now too. For me, Hermes, Gucci, Goyard, Louis Vuitton and Fendi are some great options. Sturdy leather and long lasting. I second the advice to pick up your briefcase at an estate auction.

  30. Avatar Anthony Colton says:

    I have a leather messenger style bag that I love. Keeps my files in order and I can keep it on my shoulder for hands free lawyering.

  31. Avatar joe bahgat says:

    Leo, while I agree with your intent, purpose, and theory wholeheartedly, I respectfully disagree with your conclusion (i.e. recommended products). It’s absolutely true that many lawyers don’t pay enough attention to things like their briefcases, suits, and don’t get me started on shoes. But not every lawyer’s style would be complemented by the briefcases you’ve selected.

    I can’t see myself carrying any of the bags you recommended. I carry a medium brown top grain leather briefcase that carries the Jack Spade brand name. I have no idea if it’s really made by Spade or not, but I know the leather is very good quality; I’ve had it for three years, and it keeps looking better and better the longer I use it. For what it’s worth, my practice is paperless, and I don’t carry client files or books in my briefcase. I usually have my iPad, some writing instruments & styluses, business cards, spare battery pack, and data/charging cables, and some personal items (hand cream, lip balm, Advil, Tums, Altoids, sanitizing wipes/gel, and a comb). For trials, or travel, this briefcase doesn’t quite cut it, but it’s slim, and lightweight, and perfect for day-to-day use, to and from court, the office, and home. It has a detachable shoulder strap, which I almost never use (because I don’t want someone to mistake it for a messenger bag).

    It’s ironic that while you eschew the messenger bag, all the briefcases you recommended have shoulder straps—the hallmark of a messenger bag. And why the wholesale shunning of ballistic nylon? There are many reputable bag manufacturers that use ballistic nylon, most of which are far more utilitarian than the traditional leather briefcase. Ballistic nylon might not go well with your 1960s tweed suit, but a good quality briefcase by Tom Bihn looks fine alongside a Burberry raincoat. Besides, what makes waxed cotton any better than ballistic nylon?

  32. Avatar Keith says:

    I am a little disappointing with your comment “Backpacks are for children”. I should have mentioned that to the two VP’s and CEO of the fortune 500 company meeting I was in last week. All of them carried a backpack.

    If you are going to give advice you should probably leave the arrogance in your messenger bag. There are very professional people that rock the backpack, messenger bag or even the old time briefcase.

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      I think the general rule is that once you have made it to the top (i.e., you are a VP or CEO of a Fortune 500 company) you can dress however you want to. Until you get there, dress like you deserve the job.

    • Avatar jonstrong says:

      Thx Keith – I was shaking my head reading the article, and you captured my own thoughts pretty well. In my experience, it’s the folks early in their career, less confident about their skills, knowledge and value, who are most concerned with “looking the part” – or those later in their career still worried about form over substance. Choosing for quality, durability, functionality and fitness for purpose speaks to self-confidence and good judgment far more effectively than choosing a bag that primarily says, “I spent $2,500 on this”. Similar to Keith’s experience, when I’m in meetings with CEO’s and board members from private equity firms investing billions of dollars, backpacks dominate. Maybe they have it all wrong, and I should see if Leo is available to be of counsel to them regarding their mistaken choices.

    • Avatar Tripp Watson says:

      I agree here. Admittedly, I’m not going to walk into federal court with my Swissgear backpack, but there are few things more useful than a good backpack. If you’re carrying a load of things, especially on an airplane or on a car trip, the backpack dominates. I also bring a “fancy” briefcase for the actual meeting/hearing that pares down a lot of the “fluff.”

  33. Avatar Ava says:

    So are these strappy bags that you’re suggesting not considered messenger bags?

  34. Avatar RBO says:

    I very much wish I had some good briefcase advice when I started my career as a lawyer, but the advice given here is lacking, as others have noted. First, you need to determine your specific needs. If you need to have files with you that are over 8 inches thick together with pads and various supplies, you need a full-sized litigation bag, and not the bags discussed here. Consider one with wheels. If you never need to carry files at all, and your laptop is as thin and light as most are these days, then you really don’t need a substantial briefcase, and there are dozens of thin portfolios with shoulder straps that should do fine.
    But if you are carrying files about 6-8 inches thick, you need a large, sturdy briefcase that closes securely but opens quickly and easily. As David Hiscock says, no buckles. And if you want true durability, no zippers, either. I agree with David that the two-handle design is the way to go, and the best case I found is the Schlesinger belting leather lawyers briefcase. Don’t be confused, Schlesinger closed in the 90s and its name and designs were taken over by another leather goods maker named Korchmar. Sometimes you see it under that name, but it’s still the same case. A number of other makers offer similar cases that are probably also good, but some of them are wildly overpriced.
    Finally, especially if you are doing a lot of travelling with your files, the lightness of nylon is too important to dismiss. I’ve used a Tumi expandable nylon case for 15 years, and just replaced it with another Tumi since one of the main zippers expired. But for the zippers, these would be the most durable cases around. If you think nylon is too low class, look around an airport and see how many leather briefcases you can find. Practical trumps fashionable.

  35. Avatar Albert Varkki says:

    I agree 100% with Daniel. Von Baer leather bags kick ass:

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