Let’s leave the preamble to the constitution, shall we? Do not wear shorts. Doesn’t matter if it is August, doesn’t matter that Washington, D.C. is rather swamp-like, shorts are a big no-no in the Georgetown University Law Center (GULC) cafeteria. Not only will wearing shorts mark you as someone “not with the program,” but you will immediately feel underdressed as dress pants are the status quo in the cafeteria. Even at the very beginning of the school year when the residual humidity of summer remains, shorts show that you are not well-versed in common law. The law center cafeteria is a sea of khakis and suits, and one’s fashion choices there say more than personal expression: it conveys what business you have of being there. Once, on an ill-fated early September day, I wore denim shorts and a graphic tee to the cafeteria. As I passed the table for the Barrister’s Council society, I could feel confusion radiating toward me in waves. I continued on to the grill line and realized my wardrobe choices announced I was not clerking for a Supreme Court Justice but was just a lowly undergraduate student doing a semester at the Capitol Applied Learning Labs.
If you want to fit in with the typical law center attire, the disappointing truth is that you must err on the side of professionalism. They do not take kindly to shorts or denim there. The second best way to fit in at the law center is to not eat foods that are too decadent. The law cafeteria is not the time for frozen yogurt or frappes! It is the time for grilled cheese sandwiches and, if we are feeling particularly crazy, flatbread pizzas (but never with sausage and pepperoni— just choose one)! The consumption of lawyer-esque foods does not have to be a bad thing. I really only have good things to say about their flatbread pizza, which is reserved for Mondays. Dare I say, flatbread on Monday gets me out of bed in the morning. Anyways. I digress. The point is that your food should be as serious as your clothing. Naturally, you should consume it in a professional and composed manner. No exclamations of delight or deliciousness necessary.
This brings us to our last point: demeanor. Lawyers are a famously serious and reserved group of people. If you want to make it at the law cafeteria, you must heed these words wisely: do not ask anyone what a TORT is. They will also not take to this kindly. Loud expressions of joy, such as laughter or excitable screeches, simply will not work. They will distract people working on briefings at lunch. While it is best to not ask questions, it is also wise to engage in conversational fodder that makes you seem well-acquainted with the law. You can discuss Supreme Court Justices, use buzzwords like “malpractice” and “did you pass the bar”, say blah v blah, etc. If you are taking, or have taken, a government class, exploit this experience. Discuss content from your classes and perhaps even bring in relevant textbooks to peruse. This will signal that you are with “the program.” The law cafeteria is a wonderful place. I mean, they literally have customizable flatbreads on Monday. Just dress like a lawyer, act like a lawyer and think like a lawyer to make it through your meal.