In the Media

Court dress parity

PUBLISHED July 21, 2007

Solicitor-advocates should finally be able to wear the same attire as barristers in court, under proposals issued last week by the Lord Chief Justice.

Lord Phillips said reforms to court dress will be finalised in a practice directive effective from 1 January 2008. Solicitor-advocates in criminal cases will be ?permitted? to wear wigs, wing collars and bands, but in civil and family courts the wigs and accoutrements will no longer be worn by anyone.

Avtar Bhatoa, chairman of the Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates, said that though he would wait to see the final shape of the reforms, his members will welcome the ability to have parity of appearance.

?The administration of justice will be all the better for it,? he said. ?All advocates should be equal before the court. What Lord Phillips is doing is long overdue and correct, and we applaud [him] for taking a grip.?

Jason Hadden, solicitor-advocate at BPP law school, added: ?It is not who you know or what you wear on your head but the quality of your advocacy that counts.?

Barbara Dohmann QC of Blackstone Chambers, former chairwoman of the Commercial Bar Association, told the Gazette it was ?high time this should happen?. She said: ?The law is not a theatre. It?s a serious job, not for public entertainment. This is the endpoint of a very long argument. We are quite rightly now a very modern profession and work in a very modern environment, and produce international services that have nothing to do with wearing a wig.?

The Bar Council said it would consult its members on the proposals.

Rupert White