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Ask Belle: Work Bags for Attorneys

Hi Belle,

I am a rising 3L in law school. I’m looking for a nice bag to carry to court to hold my planner, iPad, wallet, and case file. All the bags I’ve looked at look too masculine and/or are crazy expensive (love Furla but I can’t afford a $500 bag right now). I’d like to spend no more than $300 if possible. Please help! Love your blog, I’ve shared it with so many females in the legal world.

Cheers, Jackie

This has to be one of the toughest questions to answer.  Especially since it’s one that I get a lot.  The reason is that most designers and retailers aren’t making clothes, shoes and bags for working women.  They think they are, but they’re designers so they’re not familiar with what purposeful, type-A chicks with serious jobs need.

My top choice is the Lodis Audrey Brera laptop bag.  It’s just over $300.  Other readers have said good things about the Michael Kors JetSet Travel Tote.  I also found this Knomo Wingback tote in navy that I like the look of.

In the under-$300 category, the choices are even more limited.  This Cole Haan Village Tech Tote is $223.  In the under-$200 price point, you’re better off with nylon instead of leather.  This Kate Spade bag is $168.

If you have suggestions for a laptop/work bag that’s stood the test of time, leave it in the comments.  I’m good with my Lo & Sons tote, but I know the price is a bit prohibitive for ladies just starting out.

Leave a Reply to Mish · cancel comment

    43 comments

  1. k says:

    I have had good luck with Coach bags for work. They have good quality leather and stitching in the seams. They also have a variety of styles and sizes. You can find great deals on sale or at the factory store (also available online). Many styles are discounted to under $300 or even under $200.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
    • Liz says:

      Coach is great and so are the handbags designed by Christi Lang. They are specifically designed for lawyers, doctors, and nurses. The purses are imported from Italy and have pockets specifically designed for an ipad or tablet, a phone, kleenex, sunglasses, lipstick, pens, medicine, feminine items, etc. The best part is the magnet that stores your keys to the side of the bag so you can always find them Really, her purses have changed my life. The bag is so well designed that I often carry my laptop and a law book in it.

      October 7, 2015/Reply
  2. Sara says:

    I travel for work a lot and need a bag that can hold my client file, laptop, wallet, and Kindle but that is also sturdy enough to handle the rigors of being carried, shoved under airplane seats, and tossed into TSA bins and still look chic when I am in client meetings. And all for a decent price, of course! So far, I have had luck with the Cole Haan Gladstone EW shoulder bag ($223 at Amazon.com). It has a variety of colors to choose from, including black, olive, blush, and purple. I don’t know how large or heavy your laptop is, so make sure to check its dimensions and compare them to the bag’s dimensions before you buy it. Good luck!

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  3. gigglinggourmand says:

    This post reminds me of a time that I bought a YSL bag that I shouldn’t have been spending on just because the sales lady pointed out that it was big enough to hold A4.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  4. Colleen McCullough says:

    I swear by my Lo & Sons OG bag. It’s been on at least 75 flights with me over the past 18 months and has held up really well. The straps are starting to show some wear & tear now but that’s to be expected at this point. I will say, however, that a younger male colleague asked me why I had a diaper bag at the airport. (I don’t have kids.)

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  5. Danielle says:

    I think you have to see how much you are going to be carrying around with you at your firm. My law firm is paperless and when I travel to visit a client I bring my iPad and a slim file folder with original documents if those are needed at all. If I am bring my laptop, I have a Tumi Voyageur Macon Laptop Carrier that will hold my Mac book and file folder. I like to carry as little as possible because it makes me look both organized and not weighed down by a bunch of stuff. I will also carry my purse and my Levenger Ambi Folio which zips and I can fit any documents I need, my iPad, pad of paper and a pen. Having a portfolio that zips is wonderful, because if a client gives you important documents they are a lot less likely to fall out in transit.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  6. Nicole says:

    I also have a Tumi and love it. To me it is worth the extra money (you can also find them on eBay, etc). I actually purchased the Michael Kors JetSet Travel Tote and sent it back because I was disappointed with the quality and the straps were super thin, which made it uncomfortable. I would not suggest that bag for carrying any work materials.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  7. Saramel says:

    Happy to see Levenger mentioned in the comments. They have some nice bag options to consider. And like the person above, I carried my folio to every meeting. More than once someone commented how organized and professional those items made me appear. Very good quality and fair prices, highly recommend!

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  8. LS says:

    I love my Knomo laptop bag. They have a good number of styles and colors in leather for around $300.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  9. A says:

    As a former law clerk I can tell you that after a year of observing female attorneys come to federal court almost none of them were carrying cute bags. Its understood you have a lot to carry. Honestly most of them have rolling bags or just carry a huge stack of papers/files in addition to a purse. To client meetings etc it may be different but I wouldn’t worry too much about court. The blog corporette has covered this question extensively so I’d recommend checking over there too.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  10. Willfully Elegant says:

    My Cole Haan from Nordstorm, from 3 years ago is still up and running!! Love the bag, the fact that it holds everything when I am mobile and is gorgeous in pale pink. My work env, doesnt need me to carry a giant bag, but when I travel, for pleasure, my CH is the one I go to..

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  11. Mish says:

    My Michael kors jet set tote has really not held up well. I used it for about a year and the straps started peeling and cracking…a lot. My longchamp has held up a lot better. If you don’t want the nylon one that everyone has, I’ve seen the tote in leather at Nordstrom. I also highly recommend ebay if you have some time to search. I’ve had good luck with Louis Vuitton on there (probably too flashy for court, but just an example) and other higher end brands. Just make sure you get anything you buy authenticated first. Kate spade has some beautiful totes on sale right now.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
    • Anna says:

      Is there any way to fix the cracking on the straps? It’s happened to both my Marc by Marc Jacobs and Cole Haan work bags. It looks so icky, but it’s like a rubber binding or something, not just leather that can be cleaned.

      May 29, 2014/Reply
  12. Erica says:

    Like Jackie, I love Furla. But of course didn’t want to pay the price. Solution: Nordstrom rack. They have a large selection of designer bags at much better prices. Sorry if this sounds obvious to most, but just had to through it out there.

    I love my (less than half the original price) Furla, and have had many compliments from female partners I work with.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  13. Amy says:

    Get thee to a Coach outlet and buy a leather briefcase! It’s an investment piece that you will carry for 40 years and it will only look better with time (you can’t say that with a nylon tote!)

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  14. Amanda S. says:

    I’m an attorney and recently made the switch from my favorite Longchamp bag that I used for most of law school to a more structured tote that I received as a Christmas gift. It is the Ralph Lauren Newbury Double Zip Shopper, which retails for $268. It is so much bigger and holds so much more than it appears online, so I suggest looking at it in person. It’s roomy enough to hold your normal purse necessities, as well as a planner, some client files, and even a laptop and/or ipad, if necessary. It also has plenty of pockets to keep it organized. I have the black and I love it. So far, the quality appears to be great, and I use it every single day. It’s actually almost an exact replica of the Prada Saffiano Lux Executive Tote Bag, which retails for $2,330! You can see the RL bag here online: https://www1.macys.com/shop/product/lauren-ralph-lauren-newbury-double-zip-shopper?ID=1196733&CategoryID=52273&LinkType=&swatchColor=Black%20with%20Gold%20Hardware#fn=HANDBAG_STYLE%3DTote%26sp%3D1%26spc%3D25%26ruleId%3D52%26slotId%3D8

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  15. C says:

    I’m a current law clerk and I second A’s comment about the lack of stylish bags in court. Most women carry a purse and either a lit bag or a stack of folders. This also may be particular to state court, but most people don’t bring laptops to court unless they are in trial, so I probably wouldn’t invest in a laptop bag.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  16. Addie says:

    The Lo & Sons bags are expensive but they hold so much. I got mine when Belle was doing a giveaway and offered a discount for everyone else. I don’t remember exactly what I paid (for the OMG bag) but it was under $300. Maybe they’ll have another promo soon.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
    • Anna says:

      I just got a purple OMG for $192 during their Mother’s Day sale. Their facebook page posts sales pretty often, or you can google for 20% off discount codes from different blogs. There’s always someone doing a giveaway with a code.

      May 29, 2014/Reply
    • Carrie says:

      I’d also suggest a Lo & Sons OMG. Carries a computer, a textbook, and a bit more (text supplements, snacks, water bottle, coffee, etc.). It’s been perfect through my 2L and 3L years, and I plan to carry it into work (at a firm), as well (but I also expect on having to carry home more than just my laptop on a regular basis). I even managed to get 3-4 other gals at school hooked on the same bag.

      May 29, 2014/Reply
    • Mo says:

      Lo & Sons also gets major props for their customer service. My zipper on my OMG bag broke after one year of very heavy use and they sent me a new one–no questions asked. No waiting for a replacement, no need to send the broken one back, a brand new OMG delivered for free. Solid bags, solid company.

      May 29, 2014/Reply
    • BN says:

      I also want to put in a plug for the Lo&Sons Brookline (https://www.loandsons.com/the-brookline-tote). It’s cheaper and smaller, than the OMG, but it always held everything I needed at my BigLaw firm job (laptop, legal sized yellow pads, client files, and of course all of my personal items, makeup, keys, etc.). A really solid choice.

      May 29, 2014/Reply
      • AMBluth says:

        I bought a Lo & Sons OMG about a year ago based on the glowing reviews of everyone on this blog. I’m a lawyer and I schlep a lot into the office, including gym clothes and my lunch on most days. The bag holds a lot and has been durable but I have to say that although I thought I could get away with a non-leather bag, I honestly feel that it doesn’t look very nice or dressy and on days when I need to be really polished, I use a large leather Coach tote instead. No matter how good the design is, if a bag is made of a material like nylon, it can only look so nice (i.e., not nice enough). I highly recommend the OMG for travel as I love how it slips over your suitcase handle but for work, I’m not as in love with it.

        May 30, 2014/Reply
  17. Lady Macbeth says:

    I’m a mid-level law firm associate and I look for: (a) lots of small pockets to fit pens, phones, chargers, stationary, business cards, makeup, and large segmented sections for paper/files, shoes, etc; (b) thick straps; and (c) good quality leather. My B. Makowsky bag, bought at TJ Maxx (or similar) for about $200, has held up well through 4 years of heavy use.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  18. CSJ says:

    Jackie – Keep an eye on the Kate Spade sales and act quickly when you see something great because the good stuff seems to go pretty quickly. I just picked up a beautiful bag that holds my small-ish laptop, note pads, and files with extra pockets for personal items. It was originally 400 and I got it for less than 150.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  19. Anna says:

    “The reason is that most designers and retailers aren’t making clothes, shoes and bags for working women.”

    Preach it! I hate that work dresses and skirts rarely have pockets. Nothing even big enough for a business card. And they’re soooo restrictive. They’re designed to look good if you’re standing all day like a mannequin, but after 10 hours at a desk or running in heels, I can’t wait to rip off my work clothes. Dudes just have to loosen a neck tie.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  20. Wanda says:

    I have always loved the Levenger tote bags for women. http://www.levenger.com The Majorca brief bag holds legal-size files and your iPad or Nook with room to spare. The leather is good quality and is a bargain at $219. I have this bag in red and tan. If you need a larger bag, the St. Tropez leather bag is a nice alternative at $199.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  21. v says:

    I like the Rebecca Minkoff M.A.B. Tote (the full size one, not the medium or small one) as an everyday work bag. At my firm we use rolling litagtion bags for court/depositions/client meetings that require a significant amount of paper, but I use the MAB Tote for the few files that I want to bring with me to a typical client meeting and/or home at night, a laptop (when I need it), a lunch sack, and a makeup bag. It doesn’t have interior dividers, but I actually prefer that. The three keys for me (other than being so large) are that it has feet (which helps keep it clean and protects the leather given that it lives on the floor whether it is at home or at the office), the straps are long enough for me to carry it on my shoulder, and the straps are thick enough that it isn’t uncomfortable when the bag is packed with stuff. I can’t stand the skinny straps on the MK Jet Set Tote because they they dig into my shoulder and I’m afraid they are going to snap when the bag is stuffed.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  22. Kat says:

    Kate Spade’s sister brand, Saturday has some really lovely large totes. The large A Satchel is huge without looking overly bulky. It’s a little over your price range ($350) but some friends of mine have it and it holds up really well. I also have the Michael Kors Large Hamilton North/South Tote and find it holds almost everything I need to get around Grad school (laptop, files, even a water bottle) while still looking professional for interviews and the office.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
    • Leigh says:

      I have a Kate Spade Saturday tote that I use for work and really like.

      May 29, 2014/Reply
  23. J says:

    One thing to really consider when buying a bag is the WEIGHT. As ladies, an extra pound of bag to carry can get annoying very fast. I bought a really nice Coach tote before my first year at a big NYC law firm and with all the walking/commuting, I ended up using a cheap nylon tote more because it weighed so much less. I have a TUMI laptop bag, but I don’t use it often because it weighs a lot vs. how much it actually carries. The Lo & Sons bag looks lighter, but I too am worried about the “diaper bag look”….my quest for the perfect work bag continues.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  24. Kim says:

    I hate to say this, but as a 3L you may be better off getting something cheap and presentable for a little bit while you work out exactly what you need. Often, lawyers who work on many files outside their office find that a rolling catalogue case is a better fit. That will change what you need this bag to do. Also, do you have preferences for strap width and pocket?

    Take your time and figure out your needs a little better before jumping in to the investment bag. There is nothing worse than dropping over $300 on a new bag only to find out that it absolutely kills your shoulder with your laptop in it, or that it won’t hold enough files.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  25. Gabby says:

    Dooney and Bourke sells a large laptop bag online that fits a laptop (padded zippered sleeve) and all the work stuff I needed in a year and a half as a lawyer and a year and a half as a lobbyist. It’s basic black and has held up well to a LOT of abuse. I love it and I’ll be buying another when this one craps out.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  26. chi-town attorney says:

    As a practicing attorney who has to carry around case files, my laptop, etc. to court and depositions, the only purse I have found that fits my files, doesn’t lose its shape due to the weight of my bag, has an over the shoulder strap for those times my hands are full at court, and still has compartments for my wallet and other things is the Tori Burch Robinson Double Zip Tote. I have had other bags that technically held my files but they lost their shape or couldn’t stand up to the weight or the abuse of getting shoved underneath the benches in court, etc. It’s a little pricier than you were looking for, but mine has lasted for years. I think it is much more polished than carrying a laptop bag.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  27. Jessica says:

    I was in the market for a black, professional carry-all that was sturdy enough to stand alone (if sitting on a table or such). I took a chance and bought one from H&M for $25 + shipping and it has been one of the best purchases I’ve made. I’ve had it almost a year now and use it quite a bit. I also take it when me when flying so it has stood up to general use plus a little extra. I know it’s a little different than a $300 leather one but it really is a great bag.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  28. Michele says:

    I am a paralegal who walks from the office to court several times a week. As J mentioned above, weight is a factor. I have been using a Longchamp Les Planetes bag for several years. The only organizational element inside is a small pocket for keys. For some, that would be a drawback, but it allows me to carry paper files. I keep my pens and supplies in a grid-it, and more personal items in a makeup bag. On the subject of bags and court, keep the contents organized and streamlined in case you have to open it for a security inspection.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  29. Christine says:

    I have a couple bags from M.Z. Wallace and can’t say enough about their quality, durability, and excellent customer service. I have the Bianca and the original Jane. I have been carrying the Jane on an almost daily basis for a couple years. It fits my laptop, ipad, files, plus all of my purse contents, a pair of shoes and whatever else I feel compelled to haul around. It’s a great work bag. It has held up well despite being abused by me. I was resistant at first because it wasn’t leather; however, given how much I shove in it, I’m glad it’s nylon and I don’t have to carry around extra weight. I bought the Bianca a few months ago and use it as my weekend purse. I just ordered the new Jane tote which will become my everyday work bag. While I know others love them, I ordered and returned a couple different Lo & Sons bags. I found them all to be too large for my frame and frankly, ugly and unstylish; functional, but just ugly in my opinion.

    May 29, 2014/Reply
  30. Cat says:

    I like Coach totes. The Madison East/West Tote in Saffiano leather is just $ 300, and cute enough to use when you aren’t in court. I also have a Levenger leather red well that is great.

    May 30, 2014/Reply
  31. Jenna says:

    Kate Spade Cobble Hill Andee!!!

    I just graduated for law school last year and am now a practicing attorney. This has been the best purchase of the entire year! The bag looks much batter in person. Nice enough to carry into court, not too girly, but not too business-like either because I’m perfectly comfortable carrying it outside of work. It’s large enough to hold case files AND my 13 mac book pro inside a slim case.

    https://www.amazon.com/Kate-Spade-Cobble-Andee-Satchel/dp/B006JUWZZI

    May 30, 2014/Reply
    • Meg says:

      Going to second the Andee by Kate Spade, I’ve been wearing it for about a year working in politics and it looks nice and polished (agreed that it works for both business and pleasure). Potential down side is travel, there’s no top zip and I would be a little worried about the potential heavy wear & tear. I got it at during one of the surprise sales for just a hair under $150 (orig. about $400). Just browsed their site and didn’t see it but the Sedgewick Lane Phoebe looks like a great (even better) alternative if you can snag it on sale – getting on their e-mail list is prob the best way to keep abreast of the big sales.

      July 19, 2014/Reply
  32. Para says:

    I second Amanda S on the Lauren. Newbury double zip. Light, roomy, professional

    June 3, 2014/Reply
  33. Linda says:

    I’ve go to the end of the trial life, lawyer period (25 years)and still haven’t found a serious but stylish bag for a lawyer. I want one that first, is 31-32 inches in width and 11 in length (top to bottom( with a width for a laptop and 2 soft bound files-5 inches. I want it to be black or burgundy. I want it to have a leather and chain shoulder strap like the Lanvin that is so positioned that the bag sits 6 inches under my arm pit and the weight and design of the shoulder strap does not fall off my shoulder as I get to a car or, fiddle with my mobile in the other hand. I should be clinchable by my arm to my elbow, comfortably. I want it to have 4 metal studs on the bottom so it is not damaged whilst having coffee. I want it to have leather lining. With an Apple ‘6 plus’ size pocket that is easily reached and the phone heard. It should not have a leather flap over the full top as I need to exceed its measurements on occasion and have to be able to whip it out without fiddling. It could have a single claspe for privacy if achievable. No exterior pouches. Lipstick holder on the interior ready for reach. Plus breath mints holder and business card holder easily within quick top reach. Wallet access pouch-open that slots the zip wallet in, also near the top. The main depth of the bag, would be divided into two, possibly three compartments-one for laptop, other for 5 cm each files. Constutition, smooth black leather no handbag handles at all. Shoulder straps very discreet and in the correc place in the middle, not the ends and not gold unless the bag is severe enough to handle it. Lanvin do good strap.

    September 18, 2016/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Have you thought about finding a company that could make you what you want? Because something this specific, you’re never going to find.

      September 18, 2016/Reply