Once more into the fray, but gently

I wrote a post about young female lawyers and how some of them dress in court. That generated a firestorm because the post was far too provocative. Timidly, I return to that topic, but gently and briefly.

I receive a fair number of e-mails about this blog. Some of the best are from federal law clerks. One of them sent me a tip over the weekend about the New York Times  magazine column written by Chuck Klosterman, THE ETHICIST.

The full article is here (scroll down to “IF IT PLEASES THE COURT . . .”)  It is nicely summarized here by the Wisconsin State Public Defender. I was particularly taken by ethicist’s use of the words”mild subjugation” to give context to the question of dress. In the manner he uses them, do those words strike you as misogynist? Not me.

RGK

PS Thanks David!

On being a dirty old man and how young women lawyers dress

More than a decade ago, I freaked out when tall, statuesque, and beautiful daughter Lisa showed up at her older sister’s (Marne’s) wedding in a Catholic church (that we “borrowed” out of respect for the groom’s religious preference) in a low-cut dress. Poor Joan, at my insistence, and at the last moment, rummaged around in the church’s “lost and found” to locate a demure white sweater for Lisa to wear over her very revealing frock. I was spitting nails. Marne was in tears. The groom had no idea what the fuck had just happened. Lisa shot me daggers throughout the ceremony. Once again, Joan labored under the “evil stepmother” moniker. In short, the last time the Kopf clan entered a church together as a family was one of those memories better left forgotten. And the silly thing about this kerfuffle was that it was all about an old guy’s sense of decorum.

In candor, I have been a dirty old man ever since I was a very young man.  Except, that is, when it comes to my daughters (and other young women that I care deeply about). And that brings me to the amusing debate about how (mostly) young female lawyers dress these days. See e.g, Amanda Hess, Female Lawyers Who Dress Too “Sexy” Are Apparently a “Huge Problem” in the Courtroom, Slate (March 21, 2014).

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 Curtin, an ignorant slut behind your back, tone it down.

RGK

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