Vol. 80, No. 9, September 2007
In Wisconsin, when a new lawyer is admitted to the bar, he or she signs the roll that every Wisconsin lawyer has signed since Wisconsin was a territory. In England, when a barrister is admitted to the bar he or she receives a black robe, a double-tabbed linen band collar with tabs believed to represent the tablets of Moses, and a white wig.
When 2008 rings in, the wigs will come off judges and lawyers, ending a tradition that has lasted since the 17th century. According to the office of Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, "At present high court judges have no less than five different sets of working dress, depending on the jurisdiction in which they are sitting and the season of the year. After widespread consultation it has been decided to simplify this and to cease wearing wigs, wing collars, and bands in the civil and family jurisdictions."
Wigs, which cost from $600 to $3,000 American dollars, are seen by some as a sign of authority and by others as itchy and ancient. Taxpayers buy the judges' wigs; lawyers buy their own.
"While there will never be unanimity of view about court dress, the desirability of these changes has a broad measure of agreement," said Lord Phillips. The wigs won't disappear completely; they will still be worn in criminal cases.