There has been a lot of debate recently about appropriate dress for court. I am not going to discuss the reports that gave rise to that. However at least that should lead to a consideration of appropriate dress for court. In the U.K. that is relatively easy for lawyers. Here we look at professional guidance; guidance from abroad; some articles and blogs that consider how importance appearance is in court and more general guides for witnesses and litigants. There are interesting observations from the USA.
THE BAR COUNCIL AND THE LAW SOCIETY
The Bar Council guidance on Court dress, stresses that “business suits” should be worn.
The Law Society Guidance recommends, in essence that the Bar Council guidance be followed.
“The chairman of the Bar Council in June 2009 issued guidance on court dress for barristers. When not required to wear court dress, the guidance suggests that barristers wear ‘business suits’. These are described as ‘dark coloured, formal, non-court dress’.”
I do not think I have ever been in court with counsel or solicitors who were “inappropriately” dressed, most of the time this is a non-issue. There was an occasion when a judge demanded a solicitor attend court at a hearing where counsel had been instructed. The firm operated a “casual dress” policy so the solicitor turned up in jeans. The judge, however, was quite understanding – the solicitor had not planned to be in court. This may show the advantage, however, of keeping a suit hanging up behind the door in the office (a policy they had in place in a Law Centre I worked in many years ago).
GUIDANCE FROM THE STATES AND CANADA
In the States “how to dress for court” is an important part of the advocate’s training. A considerable amount of time is spent on this issue, particularly at the post-qualification stage. There are, I am told, full-time professors who specialise in just this one topic.
- Have a look at Bitter Lawyer on Ten Signs you are dressed unprofessionally
- Professor Lisa Mazzie advices on Wearing the Blues
- There is a blog devoted to this topic Look Like a Lawyer
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU GIVE TO CLIENTS ON DRESSING FOR COURT?
Does what a client or witness wear to court matter? It should not, obviously, however the reality is that it can do. There is an interesting discussion of the issue by Christina Binkley in The Wall Street Journal Opening Statements; What to Wear for Court
“One California judge I spoke with says she takes account of both the appearance and the behavior of those who come before her court. Sloppy dress at trial might seem to add to the case against a father accused of neglectful child-rearing, she says. Or a woman who is claiming poverty in a financial hearing might undermine her case if she’s wearing highly expensive clothing”.
Juries may be even more judgmental, especially as they sit for hours with little to look at … but you…”
The article goes on to advise: “When going to court, most of us would be advised to look like the embodiment of the Boy Scout creed—trustworthy, loyal and helpful.”
If you read the article it is clear that some lawyers take advising their clients how to dress very seriously.
USEFUL GUIDANCE FOR LITIGANTS AND WITNESSES
Interestingly there is lots of advice on how clients should dress for court. Much of this travels from “across the pond”, but it travels well.
- Minick Law on How to dress for Court
- RMRS on The importance of proper clothing when meeting a judge or a lawyer.
- The Huffington Post has an useful article on How to dress for Court
- Avvo has an article by lawyer Huma Rashid on How to Dress for your first Court appearance with your Attorney
- Lawer 2B: Life at the Bar, Using your Dress Sense.