By Kate Conway
Judge Celia Gamrath was kind enough to sit down with us and answer our questions about career, the WBAI, and fashion dos and don’ts. Read on for some great insights and tips for professional dressing.
Judge Celia Gamrath is a fashion enthusiast and currently serves in the General Chancery Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County.
Q: Please tell us a little about your legal career.
A: I began my legal career as an appellate law clerk in 1994, which laid a strong foundation. After my clerkship, I joined the matrimonial law firm of Schiller, DuCanto and Fleck, where I focused on complex motion practice, research, writing and appeals. In 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed me to a vacancy in the Circuit Court of Cook County. I was elected to this position in 2012. My first judicial assignment was in traffic court, which is a typical starting place for new judges. I was assigned to the Domestic Relations Division for more than five years, and I now serve in the General Chancery Division.
Q: Why are you a member of the WBAI?
A: I am a member of WBAI because I believe in its core mission: To promote the interests of women lawyers and advance the administration of justice. WBAI is a great place to network with lawyers and judges, broaden your social circle, expand your mind, develop business, provide service opportunities, and introduce you to new ideas and ways you can help advance important causes legally, politically and legislatively. Whenever I go to a WBAI event, I am struck by the energy, influence and openness in the room, and I usually walk away inspired to do more.
Q: How would you describe your personal and professional styles?
A: Black is my staple color, but when “dressing to impress” I like to add some femininity with a soft blouse, treasured Hermès scarf, chain belt, classic pearls or vintage earnings. Pointed-toe pumps or sophisticated boots and an elegant handbag finish the look.
Q: Why is fashion an important consideration for a legal professional?
A: Fashion is important in making a good first impression. If you look sharp, you are likely to feel confident and command attention. Fashion in the legal profession should be stylish, smart and functional, not flashy.
Q: Do you have any tips for our readers regarding professional attire- how and what to wear to court?
A: Made-to-measure suits and quality fabrics are worth it. Find a good tailor. Tailoring enhances the value of an inexpensive suit exponentially. Poor tailing, or no tailoring, diminishes the look of an expensive suit tragically.
Q: What sorts of fashion faux pas do you see most often in the courtroom and/or the legal profession?
A: There is a difference between feminine and sexy. Keep sexy away from the courtroom. It is distracting and gives the wrong impression.
Q: What are your favorite looks/trends for office/courtroom attire?
A: A dark, well-fitted suit with a crisp white shirt and silk tie for men, and feminine blouse for women are safe, smart courtroom looks. Polished shoes, matching belt and cufflinks for men, and closed-toe high heels and timeless jewelry for women complete the chic style.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: Avoid caricature ties, wrinkled ties and flip flops.
As always, we welcome your thoughts, comments, and suggestions for future Fashion Esq. columns. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to make topic suggestions or to submit an article you have written on a professional fashion topic.
This article first appeared in the WBAI Winter 2017 Newsletter.
Kathryn “Kate” Conway is an attorney at the trial law firm of Power Rogers & Smith, where she represents injured people and their families in cases involving wrongful death, medical malpractice, premises liability, product liability, automobile and trucking collisions. She is also a fashion enthusiast and member of the WBAI Board of Directors.