Should Women Attorneys Wear Suits to Court?

by Fred Abramson on September 24, 2009 · 5 comments

It was a sultry Monday afternoon in New York City.  The scene: Honorable Jane S. Solomon New York Supreme courtroom in the “Law and Order Building” 60 Centre Street.   An attractive female attorney in her early 30’s, dressed in white pants, a black top and a carrying a large, expensive looking beach bag approached the bench for a conference.

60 Centre StI was dressed rather uncomfortably in a dark blue pinstriped Ralph Lauren wool suit, with a white DKNY shirt and light blue tie. And yes, my back was wet with perspiration from the 15 minute walk from my office to the courthouse. I was seated on a bench in the large mahogany courtroom waiting for my case to be called.

As the female approached the bench, the judge’s eyes opened wide, her face turned bright red and she  hollered something like:

Are you an attorney or are you appearing pro-se? How dare you disrespect my courtroom with what you are wearing. Obviously, you came from a day at the beach (probably the Hamptons). Where is your suit? Don’t ever come in my courtroom like this again.

My case was up next and the judge had an interesting conversation with us about her reaction to this female attorney. The judge was wondering why she was so angry.  Clearly, this attorney was dressed well.  Her clothes looked expensive. But in her opinion, they were not proper for the courtroom. Perhaps if she wanted to dine at Bouley her attire would be acceptable.  She then noted that the other women who were on my case were also not wearing suit jackets. She also wondered why she didn’t yell at them.

It is simple to discern whether a male attorney is dressed correctly for court, but what clothing is proper for women? Do you think the judge overreacted?

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