About 40% of Americans have at least one tattoo. Approximately one out of every five people have two or three tattoos, and most individuals wouldn’t rule out getting one if the opportunity presented itself.
One of the issues that people deal with when getting a tattoo is the perspective of others. Although times are changing, a significant element in society sees ink as an unprofessional addition to the body.
For those who work as a lawyer, it can pose an interesting question. Is it appropriate to have a tattoo when you work in a courtroom?
Can Lawyers Have Tattoos?
There are no rules that prohibit lawyers from having tattoos. Any prohibitions that exist are based on service industry or courtroom variable standards and individual perspectives. Most attorneys are advised to cover their ink in professional settings to avoid making the wrong first impression on someone.
The issue with a tattoo is that other people might make assumptions about who you are as an attorney. According to a recent poll from Legal Cheek, up to 60% of current attorneys say that a lawyer with visible ink is unprofessional.
Several lawyers have reported that arguing cases in front of conservative judges with a visible tattoo has led to negative impacts. That means it may be necessary to cover the ink to prevent it from showing in those circumstances.
The same issue could occur when arguing a case before a conservative jury.
Even though there are no rules in place that say you can’t have a visible tattoo as a lawyer, the perspective of others can impact the results that you can achieve for your clients.
Even if you are morally correct in your attitude, someone who disagrees could render a verdict that isn’t in your favor.
That’s why the general advice to attorneys is to cover any tattoos that they have.
For those who work in transactional fields, the appropriateness of a visible tattoo depends on the client.
If that person or corporation doesn’t care about the ink, how you carry yourself professionally matters more than how you express yourself personally. It is better to focus on effective communication in this area, but there can be exceptions.
Wherever you decide to work as a lawyer, it is better to play it safe until you’ve determined the culture in the workplace.
If you have a casual Friday, you’d want to think about what clothing to wear to ensure that your tattoo doesn’t create an unwanted disturbance.
If you work as an independent attorney, it is your choice to display a tattoo or keep it hidden under your clothing.
What About Showing a Tattoo in a Casual Setting?
Many lawyers get together for social events after a case is argued or at the end of the week. These meetings often have the option of dressing casually.
There is no blanket rule or societal standard to follow when displaying a tattoo in those circumstances. It is generally considered OK to do because you’re outside of a professional setting, but as with everything else in the law, there can be issues to manage.
Rolling up your sleeves while having a drink with your colleagues is probably not a big deal. What matters more is your ability to work consistently and productively.
When you attend a dinner party hosted by a conservative judge or politician, it might be better to play it safe and keep the tattoos covered to the greatest extent possible.
If you have a tattoo and that causes the firm to pass over you for a job or promotion, that place probably isn’t the right cultural fit for your career.
Why Do Some People Hate Tattoos?
Tattooing is an ancient practice that we can trace as far back as recorded history. The oldest discovery of a tattooed human is more than 5,000 years old.
Archaeologists have discovered evidence of tattooing in multiple societies that date back over 4,000 years.
If we have always looked at our skin as a canvas, why does a segment of society make assumptions about the people who choose to get ink?
The psychology of those who hate tattoos is quite interesting. Most individuals tend to judge others because it helps them to feel better about themselves and their circumstances. By criticizing someone who is different, it gives that person the appearance of having self-esteem, self-love, and acceptance from others.
Of course, an attorney with a tattoo can also be judgmental against someone who doesn’t have any ink. Everyone has certain biases, conscious and subconscious, that influence the decision-making process.
When people who don’t like tattoos get asked about the reasons why they avoid individuals with them, the answers fall into eight general categories.
|Tattoos are painful||Some people don’t manage pain or blood very well. When they see someone else who can handle those circumstances better, it causes a negative reaction that comes from a defensive perspective. |
The individual cannot wrap their minds around the decision about getting some ink done because they would never do it.
|Tattoos cause jealousy||When someone visits a scratcher to save some money on a new tattoo, the risk of getting some terrible ink increases exponentially. If another person gets the same tattoo from a better artist, the hatred that comes from that result has its roots in envy.|
|Job restriction problems||As some attorneys will attest, workplaces still restrict visible ink for reasons that don’t always make sense. It becomes a conversation about power and control instead of the productivity and talent that an employee brings to the office.|
|Evidence of irresponsibility||In the past, tattoos were seen as visible evidence of personal irresponsibility. If you work at a firm where the leadership could have grandchildren or great-grandchildren, you’re more likely to encounter this issue. It’s programming that gets sent to each new generation.|
|Tattoos can be scary||If you have tattoos that look fierce or aggressive, some people might hate the ink because they are fearful of what you might do to them. You get judged based on your self-expression instead of your talent as an attorney in these circumstances.|
|Religious restrictions might exist||The Bible talks about it being against the law to cut into the skin or put marks on the body that honor the dead. Many scholars see the decision to get a tattoo with that emphasis as a possible “sin” because of the health risks associated with this practice, such as disease transfer.|
|Misconceptions about people with tattoos||We are all products of our family environment. Each of us chooses to accept what we were taught with parental programming or reject it. Some people believe that getting ink makes a person more promiscuous or rebellious, and that assumption bridges the gap between one’s personal and professional lives.|
|Tattoos can be taboo||Some cultures see the idea of a tattoo as a forbidden choice. If you work as a lawyer in Denmark, Japan, Sir Lanka, Korea, United Arab Emirates, and other countries, visible ink could put you outside of what most people in those societies consider positive behavior.|
There are reasonable explanations as to why some people hate the idea of tattoos. Someone might be allergic to the ink, have bleeding problems, or have religious issues that have important personal meanings.
Even in those circumstances, individual concerns should not translate to outward judgments of others.
That’s why you’ll find some attorneys who cast caution into the wind and display their ink everywhere, and you’ll find others who prefer to keep them covered because they don’t want the artwork to become the foundation of a conversation instead of their case.
Does Having a Tattoo Limit a Lawyer’s Hiring Potential?
Most law firms are indifferent to the idea of having employees with tattoos. If you keep the artwork covered during an interview and while you’re at the office, no one even needs to know that you have one.
Although some traditionalists have problems with people who display tattoos, society is coming to a place where people are far more accepting of individual choices and preferences.
If you’ve been thinking about getting a tattoo and wonder if you’ll get hired, the safest decision is to get ink in a place where it can be covered.
A more significant concern is to ensure that you can perform your job duties while maintaining a professional appearance.
If a dress code says you need to be in a suit and tie or an equivalent option, showing up in jeans and a t-shirt creates a bigger problem than having a visible tattoo.
How Many Lawyers Have Tattoos Today?
The University of Minnesota conducted a study of students enrolled in legal coursework at the institution. They discovered that 45% of people had at least one tattoo before earning their degrees.
That figure is significantly higher than students who work in more conservative fields of study. Almost no one at the university enrolled in the business program had a tattoo.
About 20% of male students and 9% of women reported having at least one tattoo in the medical program.
That means when you meet an attorney, they are more likely to have a tattoo somewhere on their body than almost any other profession today.
Most lawyers get tattoos in places that are easily covered to avoid unwanted confrontations. That means the neck, face, and hands are typically off-limits.
It would be considered appropriate to avoid anything that could be seen as offensive art, even if it could be covered by clothing.
As a lawyer, your goal is to provide effective representation without triggering the biases of others. Some images have universal condemnation, making them inappropriate in any circumstance.
Is It Possible for Lawyers to Have Tattoos?
Tattoos are more common across all legal fields today than at any other time in the past. With more law students having ink done before graduation than what occurs in the general population for the same age group, it is clear to see that this form of expression is considered acceptable in the legal profession.
I believe that law firms are keeping up with the times. They realized that the generation entering the workforce today is not as conservative as previous ones. Most millennials do not see a tattoo as an obstruction to personal professionalism.
A tattoo is merely a form of self-expression.
As the next generation following Millennials comes into the legal profession, an even more liberal approach to having visible tattoos is expected to infiltrate global workplaces.
That means that you’ve always wanted to get a tattoo, now is a great time to schedule an appointment.