Aiman R. Khan
THERE’S A BENGALI SAYING THAT GOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS: “আগে দর্শনধারী পরে গুণবিচারী”
The law profession, like every other service, has a dress code that provides identity to its holders. Advocates of the sub continent wear black coats over white shirts as a part of a custom that goes back to 17th century England. Decolonization left traces of that British influence in the outfits of modern day lawyers of Bangladesh.
There’s a Bengali saying that goes something like this “আগে দর্শনধারী পরে গুণবিচারী” which if directly translated would mean “First judge by the appearance, then capability”. So it’s clear that most Bangladeshis give way more importance on how they dress up. Advocates are no exception. Dress code plays a huge role in making a statement. And on top of that, if it’s a fit black suit and a white shirt, nothing can be more gentlemanly, without a doubt.
The black coat provides a visual character to an Advocate’s professional image. Not only it’s a fashion statement, it acts as an ID Card too! Wearing black displays his wisdom while the white shows the elegance of an Advocate.
A Bangladeshi law ‘The Civil Rules and Order 1935’ even prescribes the same for Advocates practicing here. Such a uniform not only boosts self confidence but instills a sense of unity among them. The result is efficiency in work. However this dress in turn can become a challenge especially when the legal practice is in countries with a hot climate.
Wearing a coat on a hot summer noon is difficult, if not impossible. Moreover, it’s black, which tends to absorb more heat than lighter colors. And as a Bangladeshi Advocate, one must be habituated with no air conditioners in the courtroom of subordinate courts. To make things worse, the frequent power failures which means no fan for an hour.
The courtrooms tend to get unbearably hot. Hence many Advocates take off their jackets the moment they step out. The rest of the day they are seen without their coats and shirts are not tucked while still inside the court premises. One can’t tell the difference between them and ordinary visitors. But they are no one to blame, since there are few or almost no outlet for comfort in the age old court area.
But still, I don’t find these good enough reasons to not be passionate about the dress. If you are an Advocate, then might as well look like one. Dressing up like what a profession requires shows one’s level of dedication towards it. Imagine a police officer in duty wearing a t-shirt with jeans or a doctor wearing shorts!
Dedication is what every Advocate needs, to survive in this profession. Besides, looking like an Advocate results in far more opportunities, e.g, getting more clients, acknowledged by the judge etc.
I have heard my father saying, while in the court he would never let his coat get away from his body, not even in the lunch breaks. I saw him coming home from work looking as sharp as he did when he left in the morning. After changing, he used to quickly hang the coat and the shirt and carefully prepare it for the next day. I always asked him ‘Don’t you feel suffocated wearing this the whole day!?” upon which he used to reply “This dress gives me the chance to make a living, so why not give it the respect it deserves?”
Writer is an apprentice advocate of Dhaka Judge Court