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Incredible BPTC handbook advises students to wear ‘double breasted’ jackets in their advocacy exam — and says they’ll be marked down for wearing ‘kinky boots’

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Points also deducted for drinking from water bottles

An incredible list of advocacy assessment dos and don’ts issued to Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) students shows barrister hopefuls can lose points for turning up to exams wearing “colourful socks”, “kinky boots” or having their “jacket undone”.

The guide, for students at BPP Law School, reveals wannabe barristers could be deducted between one and three points for committing “offences of professional conduct” in their advocacy assessment. Students on the vocational course must complete two witness-handling exercises, one in examination-in-chief and the other in cross-examination.

An extract from the advocacy assessment guidance

The penalty system (pictured above and below) explains students face deductions of one mark for turning up to the exam with bright socks on or their jacket undone. “Ideally, men’s jackets should be DOUBLE BREASTED or 3-PIECE,” the handbook says. Students are also told “kinky boots”, “non-black shoes for men” and “open toes” could all result in a two-point deduction.

An extract from the advocacy assessment guidance

The top fashion tips don’t stop there. The guidance, which stresses students can be penalised for more than one offence, warns that three points will be lost if their “bra shows”. It continues: “Shirts should be predominantly done UP. Cleavage should not be on show.”

Less specifically, students can also lose points if their appearance is “generally poor”, for example if their hair is “scruffy” or their clothes “dirty”. And don’t draw attention to yourself, the guidance says, with “inappropriate” jewellery.

The 2018 BPTC Most List

Fashion advice aside, the handbook says water and cups will most likely be available during the assessment. So, if students are caught “swigging from bottles” they could incur a penalty of between two and three points.

An extract from the advocacy assessment guidance

A mobile phone going off during the examination may result in a three-point deduction, as could having your hands in your pockets. On the latter offence, the guidance notes:

“Severity here is determined by how long the hand is in the pocket, and whether it is one or both hands.”

Just one week ago, a BPTC student launched a public campaign calling on the Bar Standards Board (BSB) to re-think its “draconian” assessment process. The unnamed aspiring barrister wants both civil and criminal litigation exams to be sat open-book. BPTC students are, as things stand, not allowed to bring practitioners’ texts (such as the White Book or Blackstone’s Criminal Practice) into these exams.

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97 Comments

Anonymous

Oh god, double-breasted jackets and theee piece suits… why do some barristers think they have to dress and act like it’s 1959 in order to be taken seriously? So tedious. Sounds like they are training exclusively fogeyish chancery types (except they obviously all sport ‘fun’ pink socks).

(54)(17)

An Barrister

This was in our BVC professional conduct manual a decade ago.

Most young counsel tend to go 3 piece nowadays.

(20)(4)

mc123

I don’ t entirely agree. Although Chancery is possibly still the most lucrative section of the Bar, it isn’t particularly fogeyish. For example, I’ve never come across a company/insolvency barrister wearing anything remotely resembling a three-piece suit.

(10)(3)

Rasputin

Doesn’t a two-piece suit remotely resemble a three-piece suit?

(45)(1)

An Barrister

Ah, I’m from the lowly subterranean world of the criminal Bar…

(8)(1)

Scouser of Counsel

Shouldn’t the real debate be about whether we should be having to wear the wig and gown?

I can see the point at the RCJ, Old Bailey etc but in a modern Crown Court building, working from a laptop and presenting exhibits digitally via clickshare we just look out of place with the fancy dress.

A 3-piece, (perhaps with the collar and bands?) should suffice.

(12)(12)

Anonymous

There’s a world of difference (culturally and in terms of work done) between ‘traditional chancery’ and ‘commercial chancery’ practitioners. The former are the fogeys.

(7)(2)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(2)(1)

You know who

As I’m sure he will every Saturday night in soho, once this website malarkey fails to pay the bills

(3)(2)

Mumsy

As do I constantly, working the graveyard shift in a subway, but do I complain? No !! I’m too deranged and senile !!

(2)(1)

JDP

The dress code is somewhat different at our firm.

(30)(1)

Anonymous

that’s why its a firm not chambers

(26)(3)

JDP

Trust me, it is very firm.

(27)(2)

JDP

But we see lots of chambers.

(0)(0)

UCL grad.

So it’s okay if a man wears kinky boots then? o_O (I’m male by the way).

(27)(4)

JDP

You sound perfect for us. Fancy a TC?

(42)(2)

Anonymous

This dress code is nothing new. It’s been around for years. Equally, it reflects the professional standards expected in practice (even if they are not always observed). Barristers should be well presented, like any professional. The BPTC should prepare you for practice and, in this regard at least, it spot on.

(58)(12)

Anonymous

I think you’re missing the point. Nobody is disagreeing about the need to be well-presented and professionally dressed, but the guidance regarding e.g. 3 piece suits is badly out of date and does not reflect contemporary practice or expectations at the Bar

(7)(3)

Anonymous

Amazingly this story has been picked up by the Times…

(0)(0)

Pupillage committee member

It is frankly amazing how poorly dressed some candidates are when they turn up for first round interviews. Skirts too high and ties not done properly are common offences. The guy who turned up with brown shoes may as well stood up half way through the interview and taking out his k**b.

If you haven’t worked out that you are not meant to stand out for your dress at this stage in your professional career as a lawyer, then you are too immature to do the job or simply have poor judgment.

If you want your clothes to reflect your extrovert personality then join the creative sector. That is not to say that you can’t be a sharp dresser later in your career at the Bar.

I also completely disagree that you need to wear a double breasted suit or three piece suit. You will look like a tw** at the interview unless you intend to do traditional chancery work.

(51)(14)

london barrister

Three piece suits are more the feature of the Bar outside London…. read into that what you like….

(16)(10)

Anonymous

Bar jackets when in court then, and single breasted outside? Or single breasted under the gown?

(5)(2)

London barrister

I can’t speak for crime but you are completely fine if you are wearing single breasted suit all the time as a junior barrister.

(23)(0)

Junior criminal barrister

Single breasted in fine under the gown – with/without a waistcoat. You’d look like a fool if you turned up with a bar jacket if you’re any less than about ten years’ call.

(13)(0)

Mr. Charles

“The guy who turned up with brown shoes may as well stood up half way through the interview and taking out his k**b.”

Loved this. It really grinds my gears.

(28)(1)

Rasputin

“The guy who turned up with brown shoes may as well stood up half way through the interview and taking out his k**b.”

How did you end up on a pupillage committee unable to write English properly?

(28)(7)

Pupillage committee member

Wow. Such an original comment on these pages. Sorry, next time i’ll triple check my comment prior to uploading my anonymous post. Take the advice or leave it.

(25)(26)

Troll Hunter

Bullcrap. I wore a blue suit, brown shoes, and skinny tie whilst sporting a top knot and facial hair. Got pupillage at first time pf trying at what Legal Cheek would describe as a ‘top’ London set. It’s all about your personality, the ethos of chambers, and what you bring.

(11)(7)

Anonymous

Yeah mate. I believe you. A fu**ing top knot.

Anonymous

Everyone knows that LC calls every set a “top” set.

Troll Hunter

Believe it. Look out for me in court 🙂

Anonymous

Never seen a top knot barrister in the Rolls Building or the RCJ. Sorry, if I missed you doing a plea in mit @ Slough Mags

Not Amused

I thought we had abolished the 3 piece suit or double breasted rule?

Perhaps someone who knows could enlighten us?

(2)(5)

Not Amused

Right, so the June 2009 Guidance from Des Brown says business suit and:

“”business suit” means dark-coloured, formal non-court dress as appropriate”

And FAOD, court dress means “wigs, gowns, wing collars and bands and collarettes”

So to require 3 piece or double breasted is definitely wrong. The rules state “ideally” so they are woolly and of little real use. I think BPP needs to clarify because if a candidate has lost marks over not wearing a double breasted or 3 piece then that is wrong.

I remain, once again, amazed that on a website for lawyers no one else could be bothered to actually look this up.

(16)(4)

Anonymous

This guidance is just that – guidance. It’s not a practice direction and therefore does not have any bearing on what the courts may or may not ‘require’. This is clear from the fact that what kind of suit is “appropriate” and “formal” in a business context clearly varies over time. The letter of the guidance does not preclude the wearing of a brown, dark green or burgundy suit – but clearly a court would be unimpressed by this, because it does not reflect contemporary norms. So this letter doesn’t prove the policy is wrong: the policy is wrong because contemporary formal business wear does not mandate a three piece suit or double breasted jacket (indeed these are probably LESS correct in a business context) and it’s not the norm in a courtroom setting, not because this letter doesn’t specifically require this.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

When I did the course it was clarified that a two piece suit with the jacket fastened, would sufficie.

(5)(1)

Eittworth

Did you do the course at Northumberland, perchance?

(0)(6)

Anonymous

Why is this dress code so unnecessarily gendered? It’s apparently ok for women to wear coloured socks but not men? Ridiculous.

(14)(4)

Anonymous

But men may wear kinky boots so long as they are black?

(11)(0)

Anonymous

Some of the things seem quite reasonable. Ie not having your phone go off (I’ve seen judges go mad at that.) Incorrectly addressing a judge – at that point in your studies, you shouldn’t really be doing that.

The dress code seems a bit draconian, yet if the guidance was just “inappropriate dress may lead to a deduction in marks”, BPP would probably be asked for more clarity. At least you know with this how to avoid losing easy marks!

(5)(0)

Lord Harley of Counsel

Students should make sure they wear their medals.

(109)(0)

Anonymous

NEWSFLASH – the only men who wear double breasted suits in 2018 are Jacob Rees f*****g Mogg, fat men, and little Lord fauntleroy types who wish it was still 1930, that we were appeasing German re-arming, and that the class system was still fully established.

Likewise in all my time as a barrister I have never seen anyone wear a three piece suit, but then I don’t practise at the criminal bar where I understand these are maybe more common.

It’s a simple fact that you look unusual, as a male barrister, if you are not wearing a simple 2 piece. Heck, I often try to push the boundaries of that by not even wearing a ‘dark’ suit – sometimes a light grey – and I have a colleague who always has a rather dashing patterned or striped suit.

In the same way, a circuit judge who actually makes you robe in a civil case these days looks a bit odd.

Time for the bptc to get with the times. I remember all this crap from when I was doing the bptc and I can only assume the problem is that none of these bptc tutors have stepped in a court for 10 years.

I imagine if they stepped into the even less formal employment tribunal or the like they’d have a nose bleed.

(8)(15)

Anonymous

If jacob Rees-Mogg is a standard then everyone in England should be wearing double-breasted suit jackets.

(3)(2)

An Barrister

Criminal Bar is definitely 3 piece territory.

You occasionally even see morning trousers on the Midlands circuit.

(15)(0)

Junior Criminal Barrister

I’ve seen morning trousers worn at Reading and Harrow.

Not much anywhere else in the South East though…

(5)(0)

Not. Guiltay.

You should get a job in recruitment.

(3)(2)

Mr. Charles

Dress code is all part of the legal education, for some aspring barristers from non-traditional backgrounds they may not know what is and isn’t appropriate court dress. A guide, with penalties marking severity ensures yoi don’t have to be a silver spoon muncher to know what you are doing.

(16)(1)

Anonymous

It doesn’t help someone from a ‘non traditional’ background to tel them they need to wear a 3 piece or double breasted – it just makes them stick out like a sore thumb when all the privately educated, connected kids proceed to wear a 2 piece, 2 button suit regardless.

(13)(5)

An actual barrister

I wear bright socks to court all the time. Judges love it. BPP can go fu*k itself.

(45)(1)

Charlotte Proudperson

I wear a tea caddy on my head. And what.

(16)(1)

Charlotte Proudperson

And a nappy in my bum!

(1)(4)

Anonymous

“in” your bum? That must be uncomfortable.

(6)(0)

Junior criminal barrister

I’m sitting in a Crown Court right now. Skirt a couple of inches above my knee, hair pretty unkempt (surely what the wig is for), stiletto heels. Both male barristers I can see have brightly coloured socks on and one looks as though his gown’s been through a shredder. I have never had a single comment about my court attire. This is bullshit.

Also, men: NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, looks decent in a double breasted jacket. They are HORRIBLE. It’s all about the three piece and red braces.

(31)(1)

Very amused

I started reading this and thought it was going somewhere very interesting indeed!

‘’m sitting in a Crown Court right now. Skirt a couple of inches above my knee, hair pretty unkempt (surely what the wig is for), stiletto heels’ …. ….

(15)(0)

Gus the Snedger

“I’m sitting in a Crown Court right now. Skirt a couple of inches above my knee, hair pretty unkempt (surely what the wig is for), stiletto heels…”

With an intro like that I’d be tempted to ask questions about your undergarments, but shall resist the temptation to do so…

(9)(3)

Junior criminal barrister

Oh yeah. Sorry, I got distracted and missed the end bit. Then, of course, we all went back to the robing room and cast our briefs around on the floor. My hair looked even less kempt by the end of the luncheon adjournment.

(9)(0)

Solicitor on the wrong forum

Hahaha brilliant

(0)(0)

Very amused

Bertie Wooster looked decent in a double breasted jacket.

(8)(1)

Anonymous

This is old hat. I was at BPP ten years ago and lost a mark in my negotiation mock for having a hole in my sock!

(3)(0)

Dr Schwartz

A hole in your sock or your cock?

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Sock. I’m a girl.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

A mole in my sock

(1)(0)

Anonymous

A dole in my mock

Anonymous

Double breasted? Three piece suit? Will you also get deducted points for bringing a penny-farthing?

(20)(1)

Very amused

Triple breasted is better overall.

(15)(0)

Repeat after me: your tie should be darker than your shirt

There is a difference between a sartorial opinion and a sartorial error. I sometimes see people in ties or suit styles that are not to my personal tastes, but their dress still serves to project the professionalism it is supposed to.

This is not the same as wearing a pocket square which matches your tie, wearing a brown belt with black shoes or having your shirt cuffs entirely hidden by your suit sleeves, which are sartorial errors that make you look inept.

(10)(0)

Very amused

What if your shirt if black?

(1)(1)

Corbyn. Sympathiser

Ask Trumpenkreig. He probably has personal experience in wearing black shirts.

(7)(1)

Anonymous

Wow. I appear in the civil courts most weekdays, and it turns out I’m always at least three marks down before I even open my mouth.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

On Wednesdays, we wear pink.

(23)(0)

Comments are closed.

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