Trainee barristers penalised for wearing 'short skirts and kinky boots'

Trainee barristers have been told they will be penalised in their exams if they wear short skirts, “kinky boots” or colourful socks.

A guidance handbook given to students on the professional training course at BPP University warns that showing too much flesh could amount to an “offence of professional conduct”.

The list, leaked to the blog Legal Cheek, details penalty points that can be applied to students in their advocacy assessment, which is a mock court situation.

Female trainees lose two points for wearing a skirt above the knee, while male students stand to lose a point for wearing colourful socks.

A three-point loss, the most costly infringement, can be awarded to any female whose bra is showing.

Marked down: trainees stand to lose points for showing too much flesh (Shutterstock / Jirapong Manustro)

“Shirts should be predominantly done UP,” says the guidance. “Cleavage should not be on show.”

Combining boots with a short skirt would also amount to a three-point loss, with the outfit described as “an inappropriate combination for court” by the guidance.

Other offences include a mobile phone going off or having hands in pockets while addressing the judge. Both infringements can result in a three-point deduction.

Trainee barristers at the University of the West of England, near Bristol, are also reportedly told they could lose points for “unkempt” hair.

Dana Denis-Smith, the founder of the First 100 Years project, which highlights women’s achievements in law, said the guidance shows how “prescriptive” the legal profession is.

She told the Daily Telegraph: “I still know women barristers who wouldn’t dare to go to court without wearing a skirt, even though we’ve had about 30 years of women being allowed to wear trousers. This whole courtroom environment remains quite old-fashioned.”

BPP University trains solicitors and barristers across the UK, including at a site in central London.

A spokesperson told the Daily Telegraph the list was “indicative guidance only to the sort of dress and behaviour which could adversely affect the advocate in court, and could, therefore, be penalised in a BPP assessment”. 

He said: “Our students dress conservatively and smartly for their advocacy classes and indeed for the assessment, and this is good preparation for practice. 

“It is exceptionally rare that any student is ever penalised in an assessment for any of the infringements listed. 

“The list has not been revised for a long time, and will be reconsidered before the next publication.”

The Standard has contacted BPP for further comment.

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