Laywer Tattoo

Can Lawyers Have Tattoos?

According to a poll conducted by Statista Research Department in 2019, more than 40% of Americans polled had at least one tattoo. Approximately 19% of Americans reported having two or three tattoos. Less than 40% of Americans would rule out getting a tattoo. As a result, many wonder whether having a tattoo is appropriate in the legal industry. 

So you can you be a lawyer if you have tattoos? Yes, lawyers can have tattoos. There is absolutely no prohibition against lawyers having tattoos. However, as service professionals, lawyers should generally keep tattoos hidden during work. 

Professional Persona

The general rule of thumb is that if the tattoo can’t be covered by a long-sleeve shirt, pants, or hair, then avoid getting it. This means no face tattoos, no neck tattoos, and no tattoo sleeves that extend past your wrist. However, if you have tattoos that give a permanent look to your eyebrows, this won’t be an issue.

Many lawyers currently have tattoos that they cover up during the work day, and they are doing just fine. For instance, I’ve seen a partner at large private firms with a half-sleeve tattoo. They usually just cover it up during work with a long-sleeve dress shirt or a suit jacket. 

Visible Tattoos

Some litigators have reported that some more conservative judges may have an issue with tattoos if they can see it. As a result, any crazy tattoos that cannot be hidden may act as an obstacle.

For transactional lawyers who don’t usually argue a case in court such as corporate/M&A lawyers, the appropriateness of unhidden tattoos tend to depend on who the clients are. 

If the firm’s clients don’t really care about seeing a visible tattoo on their lawyer, then what matters more is how you professionally carry yourself and your ability to communicate effectively. 

In large private firms (Big Law), getting an return offer for post-graduate employment after serving as a summer associate isn’t really contingent on whether you have a visible tattoo. Getting a return offer is a relatively low bar (more than 90% of summer associates usually get return offers), so those who are no-offered generally had issues with personality fit and character. 

Some discussions on forums focus on this topic:

“It is pretty market based. The small firm I worked at loved tats. It was an IP firm and the boss lady came from CA.

I’ve also worked in a mid-size firm where tattoos would not be ok to show. But that was because we all dealt with professionals and everyone wore suits.

It depends I guess, but both of those firms were in the south.”

Wherever you’re working, play it safe initially until you figure out what the culture in the workplace is around tattoos. That means especially careful during casual Fridays (if this exists at your workplace). 

Casual Settings

Oftentimes, lawyers will get together for happy hours and other social events where they may have the option of dressing more casually. There’s no blanket rule as to whether showing your tattoos as these events is okay or not. As with everything regarding the law: it depends. 

For instance, if you’re just at a happy hour with your colleagues, rolling up your sleeves and having your tattoos visible probably isn’t a big deal. At the end of the day, what matters most is your work product and being easy to work with. 

However if you happen to be at a judge’s dinner party or a networking event, then maybe you should stay on the safe side and keep them covered up. 

In the end, if you get passed over for a job offer or a promotion for having an acceptable tattoo, that place probably isn’t a good cultural fit for you. 

Conclusion

In sum, it is perfectly fine to have tattoos that you can cover during the work day. To stay on the safe side, aspiring lawyers should generally avoid having any tattoos that they cannot cover up. Some employers are completely fine with tattoos, and others may not be. 

As the legal profession evolves, I suspect that the already minimal stigma around tattoos will disappear completely down the road. However, until that happens, just be smart about where you get your tattoos.