I always try my best to closely supervise what clients wear to court. Most of the time I’ve had months of meetings with my clients before we get close to the court date. I document in the file all the times I spend a few minutes reminding them to find something appropriate to wear. Then about two weeks out from the big day I set a special appointment in my office. I tell them to come prepared to practice their testimony “just as if you are going to court.” I tell them I want them to wear exactly what they are going to wear to court in a few days so they are comfortable on the witness stand. Wear “your best going to church clothes” I say every time.
It’s amazing how differently people interpret that one. I’ve headed off so many disasters that it’s not even funny. Well I get some laughs out of it when I tell my family what they were wearing but you know what I mean.
This is one of the biggest days of their life. A lot of money is on the line. They may even be looking at jail or prison time. You would think they would pick something decent to wear. I do the best I can but I can only work with the materials I am given. I try to tell them what the Judges think about appropriate clothing is all that matters but it rarely sinks in. I’ve even taken them to the mall to go shopping with some of the money their grandparents gave me for my legal fees.
Now obviously I do this because I want to make sure they don’t show up in some stripper’s outfit or wear white socks with a black suit. I also want to spot the people who fidget in ties or fancy blouses. If they do that on the stand the Judge will think they’re nervous and that’s usually a sign of a liar. Sometimes it’s true, of course, but not always.
Occasionally I get a client showing up in clothes their family picked out for them that was cutting edge fashion back in the 80’s. Baggy MC Hammer pants are fun to look at but I send them home to change. Still other times I get people trying to wear lime green cowboy boots or Carrie Bradshaw fashion reject stuff from Sex and the City. I head off some real train wrecks, my friends.
Too often, though, they just don’t listen. Or get drunk and forget. Maybe they woke up the morning of trial and were too nervous to remember what I told them. Maybe they had some kind of stress-out moment and their epiphany about what was coming led them to the pink fluffy skirt in the attic. Who really knows why it happens. All I can say is that I have chart notes in their files about how I clearly told them to wear a decent suit or dress. I’m covered when their family who paid my legal fees calls to complain.
Still other times clients flat out refuse my advice. I’ve had dummies look me right in the eye and tell me to shut up. They know street thug fashion and I’m just a boring lawyer who doesn’t understand. It depends on your perspective, I suppose. Am I hip and ‘way cool’? I would like to think so but don’t ask my kids. I am, however, up-to-date on current court fashion trends for which I am getting paid a lot of money to waste my time telling these idiots about.
Then of course there is that large percentage of times that I first meet the client in person on the morning of their hearing. Usually it’s one of the state appointed cases where they just don’t care enough to take the bus or hitchhike in for an office meeting before court. Sometimes, though, they are busy business owners or professionals who paid me a huge amount of money so that I would worry about everything for them. They desperately want to ignore their case and they show up for the hearing as an afterthought. Lastly, and these are the ones I really dread, are the ones who are completely out of control and don’t care what I say. They decide to have some fun and wear something crazy to make an ‘anti-corporatist’ statement or to complain about how the judicial system is corrupt. Their families paid me a lot of money to put up with the nonsense but I swear some day one of them is going to completely disappear forever after their court hearing.
Court clothing problems happen so often that I’ve come up with a list of pointers to the alcohol addled and fashion blind screw-ups who can’t figure out how life really works. This is my personal all time best list of don’ts for courtroom style. These are not your minor faux pas situations. Those are bad enough but I can usually explain them away as nervousness. These clothing blunders are three alarm fires that get you sent to jail.