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Monday, December 08, 2014

Tattoo . . . You?

Tattoo YouI was reading an interesting article about lawyers and tattoos, which led me to question the practice among law faculty.  Although dress codes have certainly become more relaxed since the days of wingtips and shoulder pads, some of the old taboos remain.  Are tattoos one of them?  After all, I cannot recall ever seeing a lawyer or a professor with a tattoo.  Have you? Perhaps more importantly, should it matter?

Posted by Kelly Anders on December 8, 2014 at 09:51 AM in Culture, Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, Life of Law Schools | Permalink


I have a tattoo of the Statue of Liberty and Lady Justice kissing. It is covered during work hours. :)

Posted by: MsAnon | Dec 16, 2014 1:08:04 PM

Anon 3 wrote: "I knew an attorney, at a top-50 law firm, with visible tattoos. Above the wrist, at least. He was ex-military though, so no one said anything to him."

As a retired naval officer, I am curious about your prejudice. Are you afraid to talk to this guy because you think he's dangerous? Are you perpetuating the myth that military people are more likely to get body art than civilians? For what other behaviors or conditions is his military experience an excuse?

Posted by: Phil | Dec 12, 2014 2:09:10 PM

What is it about a tattoo specifically that bothers a person here? How it so "completely" unprofessional?

A woman professor wears a simple, generally conservative outfit -- dress that falls under the knees and the like. But, darn, look! She has a small visible tattoo on her ankle, a bit of rebellion during her teen years.

I figure professors have various looks these days, be it hairstyle, clothing, religious materials or the like. Maybe, certain tattoos will upset certain sensibilities. Not that it should. The facial tattoo in the photo might cause you a few problems.

Posted by: Joe | Dec 9, 2014 5:20:45 PM

There are a lot of great points here. I think that, although times are changing, some thoughts about tattoos may still remain -- and those thoughts may (unfortunately) sometimes impact hiring decisions. That being said, were a student or young lawyer to ask me if a tattoo was a good idea, I would discuss the pros and cons, and, ultimately, recommend that any choice be made very carefully -- and, if the tattoo was a go, to place it in a discreet location that could easily be covered by professional attire.

Posted by: Kelly Anders | Dec 9, 2014 2:57:14 PM

People will judge you if your tattoos are ugly, beyond that I find it hard to believe that anyone cares.
I have a tattoo and I think the only interesting question is who owns the copyright therein.

Posted by: Matthew Sag | Dec 9, 2014 12:00:04 PM

Anon, sure it happens. But perhaps not as often as your comments would suggest. In my own experience, my tattoos have had no measurable negative impact on my career. That's because the people I've worked with, as a student, as a lawyer, and as a professor, have evaluated me on the quality of my work, not the way I look. I try to give my students the same courtesy.

Posted by: Aaron Perzanowski | Dec 9, 2014 9:04:03 AM

Mr. Perzanowski, thou doest protest too much. We make judgments about each other based on aesthetic choices concerning one's own body all the time. You may think it is uninteresting, but it happens. If a judge thinks you are unprofessional because of your tattoos, your client sure cares, even if you do not. And for those who are professors who don't have to worry about clients, some of your students are judging you. Too bad you think their views are uninteresting.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 9, 2014 7:11:04 AM

Extra points if it's a law-related tattoo.

Posted by: Orin Kerr' | Dec 9, 2014 12:10:52 AM

Since I have written about the IP issues surrounding tattoos and have never made much of an effort to hide my own, lots of lawyers, students, and law professors have quietly told me about their own tattoos over the years.

And Anon, I have found that anyone who judges me, silently or not, about a personal aesthetic choice concerning my own body is someone whose opinion of me is exceedingly uninteresting.

Posted by: Aaron Perzanowski | Dec 8, 2014 11:38:59 PM

I find tattoos and lawyers and law professors completely unprofessional. I guess when other commenters say that "it is not an issue" when Professor X or Attorney Y has a tattoo, I would simply say WE ARE JUDGING YOU SILENTLY.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 8, 2014 6:27:31 PM

I find it interesting that they are becoming less of an issue, especially since the legal field has always been somewhat conservative and certainly mired in tradition. Although the ex-military lawyer referenced by anon3 has visible tattoos, I still question whether they could be an impediment to getting hired by certain firms. Howard mentioned a few law faculty with tattoos, but I am less surprised by the openmindedness at various schools because professors don't have to answer to clients.

Posted by: Kelly Anders | Dec 8, 2014 3:24:24 PM

I knew an attorney, at a top-50 law firm, with visible tattoos. Above the wrist, at least. He was ex-military though, so no one said anything to him.

Posted by: anon3 | Dec 8, 2014 12:44:42 PM

I know several professors at schools at all levels with tattoos, visible and otherwise.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Dec 8, 2014 11:36:58 AM

I have tattoos, am on the market, and cover them up in all professional settings. But a friend who teaches at a tier 1 law school says they recently hired someone with visible tattoos, and it was not an issue at all.

Posted by: anon | Dec 8, 2014 10:22:43 AM

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