Women in the Law

Male Judges Advise Women Lawyers to Lose the Distracting 'Ally McBeal' Look

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Women lawyers tempted to go to court looking like Ally McBeal should take note: Male judges find the look distracting.

At a panel session during the Seventh Circuit Bar Association, two male judges confessed that they can’t help but look. A National Law Journal reporter attended the session and reported on the remarks.

The discussion got started with a comment by U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow of Chicago, who complained that one lawyer came to a court hearing looking as if she was “on her way home from the gym,” the story says.

That prompted Judge Michael McCuskey, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, to raise another concern. Some women come to court wearing “skirts so short that there’s no way they can sit down and blouses so short there’s no way the judges wouldn’t look,” he said.

After laughter erupted, Bankruptcy Judge Benjamin Goldgar of Chicago offered that the matter needs to be addressed because it is “a huge problem.” He said sometimes he wishes he could tell the female lawyer before him, “I’d really like to pay attention to your argument.”

Asked how to solve the problem, some called for law firms to raise the issue and others said law schools need to educate students on appropriate attire.

Lefkow, described in the article as “a smart dresser à la Brooks Brothers,” had a different bit of advice. She said women lawyers should take a look at the fashion blog Corporette. Recent blog posts highlighted “a lovely Albert Nipon pique dress and jacket, currently on sale at Neiman Marcus” and the great debate over ponytails at the office.

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