Sitting (Senior) Federal District Judge on the Dress of Women Attorneys

On his blog, Hercules and the Umpire, United States District Judge Richard George Kopf, writes:

True story. Around these parts there is a wonderfully talented and very pretty female lawyer who is in her late twenties. She is brilliant, she writes well, she speaks eloquently, she is zealous but not overly so, she is always prepared, she treats others, including her opponents, with civility and respect, she wears very short skirts and shows lots of her ample chest. I especially appreciate the last two attributes.

In a recent case involving this fine young lawyer every female law clerk in the building slipped in and out of the courtroom to observe her. I am not exaggerating. I later learned that word had gotten around about this lawyer’s dress. Acknowledging that the lawyer was really good, the consensus of the sisterhood was uniformly critical. “Unprofessional” was the word used most often. To a woman, the law clerks seethed and sneered. They were truly upset.

From the foregoing, and in my continuing effort to educate the bar, I have three rules that young women lawyers should follow when considering how to dress for court:

1. You can’t win. Men are both pigs and prudes. Get over it.

2. It is not about you. That goes double when you are appearing in front of a jury.

3. Think about the female law clerks. If they are likely to label you, like Jane Curtain, an ignorant slut behind your back, tone it down.

Robert_Collier_Vanity_Fair_19_February_1870The blog post is entitled “On being a dirty old man and how young women lawyers dress.” 

Judge Kopf is responding – at least in part –  to a recent post on, Amanda Hess, Female Lawyers Who Dress Too “Sexy” Are Apparently a “Huge Problem” in the Courtroom, Slate (March 21, 2014).  

But it would seem that it’s Judge Kopf who is part of the “huge problem,” although note that he does try to shift some of the responsibility to women and the ways they police professional attire among themselves.