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With all due respect: A case for uniform law

With all due respect: A case for uniform law

By Law Institute Journal



What happens when dress code no longer applies?

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When we think of jobs that require the wearing of a uniform our minds naturally turn to police officers, members of the military, pilots, security guards and the veteran members of the Corps of Commissionaires.

We can add doctors and nurses to the list, school students, sports people and there are the less formal uniforms of tradies and the like. A uniform defines the job and if you are a tradie it also allows you to drive an over-sized vehicle more suited to crossing the Sahara around suburban streets.

Growing up many of us started the day by putting on a uniform to go to school and in that setting the mandated dress code promoted a sense of equality and togetherness. It also discouraged teenagers from spending even more time in the bathroom each morning.

Professional people such as solicitors don’t tend to think of themselves as uniform wearers but during the COVID-19 crisis your correspondent’s mind turned to how the way we dress affects the way we work and interact with people.

One of the interesting aspects of the lockdown was how people reacted to working from home. Speaking to colleagues it is clear that for some it has been difficult without the formality of putting on a “uniform” each morning.

It has led to the realisation that our smart business attire is just as much a uniform as a police tunic or military fatigues. Sitting all day at a computer screen in your PJs just doesn’t cut it and more so for your colleagues if you are taking part in a Zoom meeting. You can hear them whispering under their breath: “are they elephants on those pyjamas?”

Of course we may not like the thought of wearing a uniform, believing ourselves to be free spirits, living on the edge like gunslingers, briefcase in one hand a writ of habeas corpus in the other.

However, some have come to realise that the daily ritual of getting ready for work is exactly that; getting ready for work. Without that ritual of putting on professional attire and leaving the house, the temptation to have an extra cup of coffee or scan our Facebook news feed again can become irresistible. And as for Netflix, be gone devil!

And it’s not just the uniform question that has complicated the working from home routine. Much of the work may have been more or less the same, if often complicated by the vagaries of technology, but it hasn’t felt right without the camaraderie and bustle of the office.

Also missed are the “you wouldn’t believe what happened to me on the weekend” conversations at the tea station that give colour and movement to office life.

There is the argument that working from home hasn’t been such a shock to the system for lawyers as for some others. Technological advances and an “always on call” culture ended the days of walking out of the office and forgetting about work.

This might sometimes lead to dreams of taking up another career. Imagine the fun of driving around in a Toyota HiLux. ■

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