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Florida judge tells attorneys to get out of bed, put on a shirt for Zoom hearings


Miami — Sweatpants and T-shirts may be the uniform for the new work-at-home workforce.

But if you’re a lawyer in Broward County, a judge wants you to avoid dressing down for telecourt appearances.

With some courts opting for online hearings, Broward Circuit Judge Dennis Bailey issued a warning to those thinking they can wear just anything.

“It is remarkable how many ATTORNEYS appear inappropriately on camera,” the judge wrote in the letter posted on the Weston Bar Association website. “We’ve seen many lawyers in casual shirts and blouses, with no concern for ill-grooming, in bedrooms with the master bed in the background, etc. One male lawyer appeared shirtless and one female attorney appeared still in bed, still under the covers.

“And putting on a beach cover-up won’t cover up you’re poolside in a bathing suit. So, please, if you don’t mind, let’s treat court hearings as court hearings, whether Zooming or not.”

Bailey, who sits on the board of the Weston Bar Association, says he crafted the letter to give attorneys an update on the court’s doings. While Broward family court has already made the seamless switch to digital hearings, some aspects of criminal and civil proceedings have yet to do the same.

The piece about dress code, however, was just an observation.

“I would want (attorneys) dressed showing some respect for their recognition that this is a court hearing,” Bailey, who has to wear his robes during hearings, said Monday in a phone interview.

Bailey’s advice comes as the country adjusts to Zoom meeting etiquette (yes, there is such a thing) amid the global coronavirus pandemic. While some may doubt the link between work fashion and productivity, environmental psychology expert Francis T. McAndrew explained the connection simply.

“If you look at how you are dressed, that signals something about what you are prepared to do,” the Knox College professor told told Vogue Magazine. “So, if you’re dressed like a slob and you are in your sweat clothes, you’re either prepared to work out at the gym or clean out the basement, but you’re not doing anything professional or mentally challenging, and that spills over into your motivation and confidence.”

Bailey’s directive might have sounded a bit harsh, but it was rooted in the right place. To paraphrase a popular sports adage, you look good, you work good.

“You’re going to earn the same amount of respect that you’re shown,” Bailey said. “If you show up in jeans and T-shirt, it’s counterproductive.”

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