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Should the robes go?

1 minute read

As the current trend to self-representation increases, regardless the reason, one must ask if the tradition of lawyers appearing before Courts, above the Ontario Court of Justice, ought to continue the traditional legal wearing of robes. In the past, the wearing of a robe was intended to create a level playing field so the best and snappiest dressed lawyer (regardless of sex) had no apparent advantage over opposing counsel who might appear to have spent the night (or several nights) sleeping in the same clothes in which he was now wearing before the Courts. One can hardly argue with the premise for doing so. Similarly, and less recently, counsel before the Courts wore wigs. That tradition was abandoned a long time ago. Now, many counsel appear to the Court obviously disadvantaged by the loss of hair when up against counsel with long, flowing manes. Maybe the answer is to bring back the wigs and get rid of the robes.

On a more serious note, I wonder how self-represented parties feel when they enter a courtroom and find that they are opposed by counsel in the traditional legal robes? The robes themselves speak of a degree of superiority. A self-represented litigant, already intimidated by a system that is foreign to most, is now confronted with a lawyer who has been admitted to the secret society of the legal profession distinguished by the clothes that are worn.

For those involved at every level of the legal system determined to increase access to justice, I wonder if there is not good reason to attempt to level the playing field by abandoning the tradition of counsel wearing robes?

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Michael M. Lerner

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