Legal Realism and Fashion Consulting: A Misunderstood Relation?
Some years ago a colleague gave me a copy of John Molloy’s 1975 book Dress for Success. Perhaps the fact that he asked me whether I own an iron contains a clue to his message; I’m not sure.
I found it buried in a box of books I unpacked recently and began to read the chapter “For Lawyers: How to Dress Up Your Case and Win Jurors and Judges.” It contains the following sage commentary on the behavior of judges:
Before the urban judge you should avoid the Ivy League tie. You should avoid any sign of ostentation. You should avoid any look that is with-it, chic or “in.” Urban judges tend to be quite ticklish about their newfound socioeconomic positions, even if they’ve held them for some time, and often look upon anyone coming into their courtroom as a threat to them personally. Anybody who doesn’t treat their courtrroms with respect, and that means anyone who dresses in a manner that they find is unbecoming, will be dealt with harshly. Their response may well be subconscious; no judge will ever tell you that he’s ruling against you because of your smartass tie, but believe me, many of them will.
So that set me to wondering whether Judge William Hutcheson’s “The Judicial Hunch,” a foundational article in legal realism, might have had some influence on the modern fashion consulting industry. Compare, for example, the passage above with Hutcheson’s statement that a judge:
brooding over the cause, waits for the feeling, the hunch–that intuitive flash of understanding that makes the jump-spark connection between question and decision and at the point where the path is darkest for the judicial feet, sets its light along the way.
Or, to make the case a little less abstract, take the example of a study of the disposition of criminal cases in the New York City Municipal Court reported by Jerome Frank in Law and the Modern Mind.
Of 546 persons charged with intoxication brought before one judge, he discharged only one and found the others (about 97%) guilty, whereas of the 673 arraigned before another judge, he found 531 (or 79%) not guilty. . . . Everson [the author of the study] concludes that these figures show to what a remarkable degree the individuality of the magistrates is mirrored in their disposition of cases. “Justice,” he says, “is a very personal thing, reflecting the temperament, the personality, the education, environment, and personal traits of the magistrate.”
Were the lawyers were wearing smartass ties? Of course, mere order of publication is not always an indication of influence of the former upon the later. For, perhaps, Hutcheson learned his legal realism from the same source as Molloy: observation of the behavior of judges. Then again, they may all be wrong. For perhaps their observations are yet further examples of the ways that biography (of judges’ behavior) is autobiographical.
Of course, as Dave Hoffman’s recent discussion of dress codes at the AALS hiring conference illustrates, fashion consulting for lawyers continues to be an important topic.