Judge’s blog telling young women lawyers how to dress sparks global media storm

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By Alex Aldridge on

WordPress post by US Federal Judge Richard Kopf entitled ‘On being a dirty old man and how young women lawyers dress’ shocks the world.


A top US judge who admits to being “a dirty old man ever since I was a very young man” has issued three rules for young women lawyers to follow when dressing for court.

Writing on his blog, ‘Hercules and the umpire’, Nebraska-based federal trial judge Richard Kopf advises junior female members of the legal profession accordingly:

1. You can’t win. Men are both pigs and prudes. Get over it.

2. It is not about you. That goes double when you are appearing in front of a jury.

3. Think about the female law clerks. If they are likely to label you, like Jane Curtin, an ignorant slut behind your back, tone it down.

Kopf’s incredible musings make a recent Clifford Chance female presentation tips email that appeared last autumn look rather tame. The leading judge — who benefits from the security of a lifetime appointment to the bench granted by George W Bush — also includes this anecdote in his blog post:

“True story. Around these parts there is a wonderfully talented and very pretty female lawyer who is in her late twenties. She is brilliant, she writes well, she speaks eloquently, she is zealous but not overly so, she is always prepared, she treats others, including her opponents, with civility and respect, she wears very short skirts and shows lots of her ample chest. I especially appreciate the last two attributes.

“In a recent case involving this fine young lawyer every female law clerk in the building slipped in and out of the courtroom to observe her. I am not exaggerating. I later learned that word had gotten around about this lawyer’s dress. Acknowledging that the lawyer was really good, the consensus of the sisterhood was uniformly critical. ‘Unprofessional’ was the word used most often. To a woman, the law clerks seethed and sneered. They were truly upset.”

Since being published on Tuesday, Kopf’s blog post has been described variously in the world’s media as “creepy” and “strange and bawdy”. It can be read in full here, with Kopf’s follow-up response to some of the criticism he has received — in which he claims the blog should be understood as self-deprecatory and deliberately hyperbolic — here.