Dress Codes Add to Lawyer Responsibilities
by Marshall Snider
The Colorado Supreme Court has issued a dress code governing the appearance of attorneys in all Colorado courts. Amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct will now require lawyers to wear court uniforms.
The court took this action in response to growing criticism of the casual attire in which lawyers now appear in court. According to state court administrator Jerry Marroney, the chief justice directive arose from an alarming decline in decorous dress, brought about by the extension of "casual Fridays" to all aspects and days of the legal profession.
According to Marroney, casual Fridays bled into the acceptance of other than traditional business attire on other days of the week. Confusion grew as each law firm established a different dress code, with names such as "business casual," "corporate casual," "up casual," "dot.com casual" and "downscale but still lawyerly casual."
This lack of clear definition led to such strange sights as lawyers in big firms wearing black jeans and hiking boots, while solo practitioners believed it was acceptable to wear Armani suits around the office. Before long, any type of dress was tolerated in law offices big and small.
Eventually the trend moved into the court system. The idea of abandoning business suits in court seemed harmless at first: sport coats, slacks and culottes replaced pinstripes and pearls. But then khakis and moccasins started appearing in Denver area courts. Things began to deteriorate when lawyers in mountain towns appeared in court wearing jackets with "Gnarly Dude" logos. The last straw for the judicial branch occurred as attorneys in rural areas progressed from jeans and cowboy boots to chaps and spurs.
The emphasis on distinctive dress led to additional problems for the courts. A lawyer in Denver assaulted a colleague in the hallway between cases, because he wanted that attorney’s blazer with the Oakland Raiders’ logo. In addition, lawyers have been spending too much money on clothes and shoes, meaning they have to bill more, which translates into less time to devote to pro bono activities.
Court uniforms are the answer to these problems. The Supreme Court’s requirement will begin next month, giving attorneys time to go shopping. Based on the recommendations of fashion consultants and parochial school principals, the Court will now require all lawyers, female and male, to wear a blue blazer with the Colorado State Seal on the pocket. Only white shirts are allowed, and red and white striped ties are mandated for both genders. Men will wear tan slacks in summer and gray flannel in winter. Women barristers must wear plaid skirts year round. Women are also expected to wear white bobby-sox and men are prohibited from donning any shoes with tassels.
Additional aspects of the dress code are yet to be worked out, but are expected shortly. Restrictions on jewelry are anticipated, and while the advisory committee has not identified specific limitations, anything protruding from the nose is likely to be banned. Tattoo limitations also are expected to be vigorously debated, on first amendment grounds as well as artistic merit.
Official court blazers and other attire will be available at the Colorado Bar Association office, the state court administrator’s office, and at "Court Stores" at the Pepsi Center and malls throughout the state.