An essay written by Maureen A. Howard, entitled “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: One Size Does Not Fit All When it Comes to courtroom Attire for Women” examines appropriate courtroom attire for female lawyers and the potential impact on the legal profession. Howard argues “Physical appearance is a serious concern for trial lawyers trying to maximize juror receptivity to their advocacy” and for women, appearance is very complicated thanks to unjustified expectations, stereotyping, etc. Discusses the unfair behavior of Judge Jeanette Burrage (demanding female lawyers wear skirt suits). Which, by the way, reminds me of an episode of The Good Wife in which Alicia Florick is asked by a male judge, “What is that you are wearing?” (referring to Alicia’s pantsuit).
This article also provides interesting insights on jury behavior. “More cases are lost through the attorney’s inability to project sincerity rather than the failure to present the facts and the law . . . the physical appearance of an advocate does have a significant impact on the jurors’ perception of her credibility” (Howard 209). A federal trial judge (name not given) described appropriate female lawyer trial attire as a “Sober suit with a below-the-knee skirt and an appropriately coordinating blouse” (Howard 213). Howard advises there is an important balance between dressing professionally and dressing sincerely. The example given on page 215 of the journal was a trial lawyer who spoke of his children in order to gain the sympathy of the jury but when the author later congratulated the lawyer on his compelling closing argument, the lawyer admitted he didn’t have children and wasn’t even married. The trial lawyer even considered wearing a wedding ring to court that day but ran out of time and couldn’t make a stop to purchase one. Howard later learned that one jury didn’t buy the story and felt the lawyer was “either a liar or a cheat” (noting absence of a wedding ring) (Howard 215).
According to Howard “Clothing – hair, jewelry, shoes, perfume – doesn’t have to be bland or manly. It does, however, have to be consistent with the essence of a trial lawyer’s persona, or it will ring false and be off-putting to the jury” (Howard 217).
Source Citation: Howard, Maureen A. “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: One Size Does Not Fit All When it Comes to Courtroom Attire for Women.” Gonzaga Law Review 45 (2010): 209-224.