Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Wig and Gown

Son Thomas received official notification last night that he had passed his Bar exams.  Needless to say he is happy, as are we all.

His uncle Peter sent a message asking whether this meant that he could now make a martini unsupervised but the bar we are talking about is not the one in front of a bartender.

(Btw, a termite walked into a bar and said “Where’s the bar tender?” See, termites eat soft timber . . . never mind).

So Thomas is now on his way to practising as a barrister. 

Well done, Thomas, we’re all proud of you.

Photo taken at Thomas’s admission as a solicitor. Bart, a barrister moving someone else’s admission encouraged Thomas to try on his wig and gown, saying that someone had encouraged him to do the same 15 years earlier and it had acted as an inspiration.

By the way, Thomas, could I have a daiquiri?

Some other Thomas pics . . . 

Showing an early attraction to law


Some stuff about barristers . . . 

The Bar:

In New South Wales a lawyer is either a solicitor or barrister, in some ways akin to the distinction between GP’s and specialists in the medical profession.

When one becomes a barrister he or she is “called to the bar”. The expression “the bar” also refers to barristers as a group, their professional body being called the Bar Association.

Court rooms originally had a bar between the judge’s bench and the area for lawyers, and a further separation from the public areas. Barristers appearing before the court were “called to the bar” before the judge to plead their clients’ cases.

The Robe:

The wearing of robes by barristers predates the wig by hundreds of years

Robes had been worn from the 1300’s as fashion items. These varied, according to the period, in length and colours. From the Tudor period robes were sombre in colour, open at the front and worn over clothing. The robe worn by barristers worn today dates from the mourning gown adopted by the Bar on the death of Charles 11 in 1685, with its pleated shoulder and bell-shaped sleeves.

The barrister’s gown has an odd piece of cloth, cut into two pieces, behind the left shoulder. There was originally a belief that this was a pocket into which satisfied clients placed money, the advocate having appeared because of belief in the client’s case, not something as crass as money. The more popular theory is that the triangular piece of cloth us derived from the mourning hood which was introduced after the death of Charles 11. The hood was cast over the left shoulder and held in place by a long tassle known as a liripipe. The liripipe remains on the modern robe as a strip of cloth at the front.

Barrister's gown, rear

Barrister's gown, front.

(After winning a case, noted American lawyer Clarence Darrow was asked by his client "How can I ever show my appreciation, Mr. Darrow?" Darrow replied, "Ever since the Phoenicians invented money, there has been only one answer to that question.")

Barristers' gowns are made of cotton. Senior barristers, originally called Queen’s Counsel/King’s Counsel (QC/KC) and in Australia today called Senior Counsel (SC), have gowns made of slik, hence the colloquial description of such barristers as “silks”.

Btw, Charles 11 had the barrister who prosecuted his father, Charles 1, executed.

The Wig:

Barristers have worn wigs since about 1660 after the restoration of the monarchy under Charles 11. A fashion item, there were a number of styles of wigs but gradually the styles became standardised for the judges and barristers.

From about 1740, barristers wore tie-wigs, similar to those worn today.

Judges continued to wear full bottomed wigs, although today they can also wear the bob-wig or ‘bench’ wig.

Even after the wearing of wigs by the general population declined after the Napoleonic wars and the French Revolution, the wearing of wigs within the legal system continued.

One final barrister anecdote:

From the book Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture by Marc Galanter:

A story is told of the late Lord Birkenhead in his early days at the Bar. He was acting for a tramway company, one of whose vehicles had run down a boy. According to the statement of counsel the boy’s arm was hurt, and when he entered the witness box his counsel made him show that it was so much injured that he could no longer lift it above his head. In due course “F.E.” rose to cross-examine, which he did very quietly. 

“Now, my boy,” he said, “your arm was hurt in the accident?” 

“Yes, sir” said the boy.

“And you cannot lift your arm high now?”

“No, sir.”

"Would you mind,” said FE very gently, “just showing the jury how high you can raise your arm since the accident?”

The boy lifted it with apparent effort just to the shoulder level.

“And how high could you lift it before the accident?” asked FE in the most innocent manner, and up went the arm straight over the boy’s head.

Sir F.E. Smith, newly created Lord Birkenhead, on his appointment as Lord Chancellor

1 comment:

  1. congrats - and you must be very proud <3 :)


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