Should U.S. Law Schools Teach Legal Fashion Too?

By George Khoury, Esq. on April 19, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Law schools often come under fire for doing an awful job of preparing law students to pass the bar, and/or become actual practicing lawyers able to pay off their massive student loans.

Not failing to stand out from the pack, one UK law school is catching grief over the dress code rubric used to score the professional appearance of students in a "vocational" course teaching students how to handle witness examinations. And while there is some curious verbiage, commentators all seem to have latched onto a stunning revelation about legal fashion for men: Not wearing a double-breasted suit coat can result in a point deduction. Furthermore, since leopard print is now acceptable ( ... wait what?), as you might expect, the rubric contains some completely unnecessary and outdated "professional" fashion standards.

Keeping Abreast

In addition to the out of touch claim that male attorneys shouldn't wear single breasted suit coats to court, the rubric actually spells out that women should not have any exposed cleavage, and that bras should not be seen. Additionally, some other rules for women's legal fashion also seem a bit overly specific, especially when it comes to women's footwear.

For example, women are advised not to wear shoes that are not black or navy, and are specifically told to avoid open toe shoes, "boots with short skirts," and "kinky" boots, which are described as "stiletto heels, buckles, and straps."

For men, the rubric requires a point deduction for non-black shoes, and perhaps the point deduction that will strike most male attorneys with any sense of style: colorful dress socks require a point deduction (#SockGame is not strong among UK lawyers apparently).

Idle Hands? Point Deduction!

While most of the rubric focuses on attire, there is a little section on conduct. After all, an attorney's conduct reflects on their appearance. Some notable point deductions include "swigging from bottles" (presumably water bottles and not the kind that pop-off, though given the vagary that would probably be included too), "mobile phone goes off," and, perhaps one of the quickest ways to a judge's bad side, "calling the judge the wrong name."

And taking the cake with the worst conduct criterion that is actually on the rubric, students can lose between 1 to 3 points if they put their hands in their pockets while addressing the judge. The severity is "determined by how long the hand is in the pocket, and whether it is one or both hands."

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