Today is the day! You’re finally going to court for your first time alone. You are so excited, and a little nervous. You get to the courthouse early and while you’re going over what you’re going to say, you think to yourself: “Wait, was I supposed to gown today?” Not to worry; this is a question that faces all new lawyers entering the world of litigation.
When do you gown? A practical question not taught in law school, the following will provide a how to guide on the do’s and don’ts of dressing for court.
There are a few general rules all lawyers need to know before going to court. Counsel is required to gown for all trials, motions and appeals before Judges in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Counsel is not required to gown before a Superior Court Judge if they are appearing in Assignment Court, case conferences, settlement conferences, trial management conferences, trial scheduling court, or pre-trials.
The general rule is that if you are appearing before a Master you are not required to gown, whereas if you are appearing before a judge you are required to gown, with exceptions. So the first question to ask yourself is who is presiding over my matter? The next is whether any exceptions apply.
Exceptions can always be found to these rules, such as when counsel is pregnant and needs to modify their gown in order to accommodate their pregnancy by removing the waist coat. Another exception is that counsel is not required to gown when making appearances in Small Claims court before Masters, Judges or Deputy Judges. Further, if a Judge presides over an express motion instead of a Master, it is normal that you are not gowned as it is an understood that the intention was that a Master preside over the motion.
If you brought your robe to court and you do not need it that day, do not worry. Below the Barristers Lounge at the Ottawa Courthouse there are lockers you can use to store your robes in. There is also an option for you to rent these lockers on a permanent basis. If you brought your robe to court and you do intend to use it, the Barristers Lounge is also a great place to change before court.
Finally, an important question to ask yourself is whether there are any region-specific practice directions you should be following? Be sure to check your local courthouse website and directives to make sure you are following the correct procedure.
The OBA's Guide to Gowning
A comperehensive guide to not embarrassing yourself in Court Regalia
About the author
Meagan Jennings is a Summer Student from Soloway Wright LLP