Part III: How to Dress a Lawyer
There is a primary rule to keep in mind about dressing lawyers. With very few exceptions, lawyers should be dressed. This is not meant to be a criticism of lawyers that aren't dressed, but merely a realistic assessment of what it is that gives lawyers their firepower. It's their brains, not their sex appeal.
The rule about keeping lawyers dressed applies not only to lawyers per se, but also to judges. That judges should be dressed is best illustrated by the custom of clothing judges in floor-length robes. This custom would be meaningless if there weren't some danger in coming face to face with an unrobed judge.
There's a story that further illustrates my point. I'm thinking of a jurist I'll call Judge Miller. Judge Miller wasn't just any judge; he was a federal judge. As such, Judge Miller had acquired many of those unusual tics and quirks that give federal judges such an air of rarified extraordinariness. Judge Miller never talked about his status as a widower, for example, wouldn't reveal his first name, and made sure never to be seen at a grocery store shopping for anything but red wine or coffee filters.
Of most importance to this essay, Judge Miller never allowed himself to be seen at the courthouse unless he was completely covered in his judicial robe. Judge Miller considered his judicial robe so critical to his character as a federal judge that he even wore it in his chambers. Even Judge Miller's secretary, a widow of fifty-five I'll call Esmerelda, never saw Judge Miller in his ordinary street clothes. Until, that is, one day--the paramount day, as it were--when Judge Miller got so caught up in a knotty question of pendent jurisdiction that he forgot about his robe entirely and allowed the morning to start without putting it on.
You can guess what happened next. But if you can't, I'll get right to the point. When Esmerelda brought Judge Miller his morning coffee and saw him sitting there in a blue shirt (short-sleeved) and a plaid tie (clip-on), she all but dropped his coffee on the floor. In fact, she certainly would have dropped it, except that she'd heard so much from Judge Miller about the "ridiculous nature" of the spilled-coffee lawsuit against McDonald's that she always made sure to grip mugs of coffee very tightly, lest she too suffer grievous burns for which she'd be mocked if she ever had to undergo burn therapy or multiple skin grafts or other expensive life-saving treatments.
Esmerelda, however, was not one to hold Judge Miller's conservative views about the law of products liability against him. In fact, Esmerelda viewed Judge Miller as a truly great jurist, even if she'd had a hard time getting to know him as a man. All that changed, however, on that wonderful morning when Judge Miller forgot to wear his robe. That's the morning when Esmerelda gazed upon Judge Miller in his short-sleeved blue shirt and his clip-on plaid tie and made a realization very few of us ever make in our lifetimes: that Judge Miller, although without question a federal judge, was also just a man. And not just any man, either, but a healthy and good-looking (even if sartorially-challenged) man of sixty-two who, like Esmerelda, was also chronically lonely and in need of some sweaty carnal affection.
Yes, folks, it was a love connection. It was a love connection that began when Esmerelda stumbled upon Judge Miller without his robe and ended when she placed a timid hand on his shoulder and called him by his first name. ("John," she said. "Paul," he corrected.) And though Judge Miller continued after that day to be caught up every now and then in knotty questions of pendent jurisdiction, with Esmerelda's help, he also discovered a few ways to tie himself into knots. Things got so heated in Judge Miller's chambers, in fact, that they came to be known, at least to the courthouse staff that arrived very early in the morning, as "Judge Miller's rumpus room."
Do you know how my story ends? To tell you the truth, that's a little hard even for me to say, since a great deal of my story had its genesis in my imagination, that great wellspring of joie de vivre that's usually overflowing its banks but which seems to have suddenly run dry just when I used the words "rumpus room" in connection with a federal judge. I apologize for that. Not only was it in very poor taste, but it raises the question of whether I'm fit to call myself a writer at all. And that's really too bad. After all, I've made no secret of the fact that I hope to escape the legal profession by selling the rights to this four-part introductory series of essays about lawyers to a Hollywood movie studio for at least nine million dollars. And though it hasn't happened yet, I was pretty sure it was about to happen, given that the series has plenty of blood and gore (Part I), a wickedly exciting car chase (Part II), and now, thanks to Judge Miller and Esmerelda, a heated subplot about sex that practically jumps off the page and socks you in the face.
At least, that's what I thought about that subplot at first. But now I realize there's something about my invented couple that has an incredibly false ring. Do federal judges even have sex? Since I'm not really sure, I admit I would have been better off leaving federal judges and their secretaries out of this essay entirely.
On the other hand, the rumpus room wasn't a bad idea. In order to salvage this essay, let's return there for just a moment. What we'll do is fast forward about a year to a time when Judge Miller was nowhere to be found, not because he'd died or anything, but because it happened to be one of the three summer months when he liked to vacation in Europe. Judge Miller, however, didn't leave his chambers empty: not only had he left behind a giant stack of remand motions that had yet to be ruled on, he'd also left behind his two incredibly good-looking law clerks, Jordan and Bethany, both prodigies of about twenty-two who found themselves tangled up one steamy night after the rest of the courthouse staff had left for the day. It all began when Bethany, fingering her blouse, looked up at Jordan and. . .
Oh, hell, I just can't do it. Who do you think I am, Anne Rice? Not hardly. In fact, I'm a writer who has standards. If this introductory series of essays about lawyers is going to be sold to Hollywood, it's going to have to be sold on its own merits, with or without the sex. Didn't you come here to find out something about dressing lawyers? You probably don't care about the sex at all. Let me tell you about dressing lawyers. Here's my answer. If you're having to dress one yourself, chances are he's so old that you've got much bigger problems than whether his shirt should be tucked or untucked or whether he should wear brown shoes or black. Why don't you just put him in a tee shirt and tennis shoes and be done with it? As long as you keep him fully covered up, no one is going to give him a second thought. Just be sure to wipe the spittle from his face, lest he be asked to speak at a bar convention or chair a committee on legal ethics.
Next up: Part IV: Living with a Lawyer[Like this post? It's one of many included in my book How to Feed a Lawyer (And Other Irreverent Oberservations from the Legal Underground). Details here.]