Why Do Australian Lawyers Wear Wigs

Why Do Australian Lawyers Wear Wigs?

In many countries around the world, lawyers are often seen wearing traditional black robes and wigs in courtrooms. This practice has deep historical roots and is a symbol of tradition and formality within the legal profession. Australia is one such country where lawyers continue to wear wigs during court proceedings. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind this peculiar tradition and shed light on some frequently asked questions regarding this practice.

Historical Origins:

The tradition of wearing wigs in the legal profession can be traced back to England in the 17th century. During this time, wigs were a common fashion accessory among the upper classes. Members of the legal profession, including judges and lawyers, began wearing wigs as a symbol of their profession and to distinguish themselves in courtrooms. This practice was later adopted by many of the British colonies, including Australia, as they inherited the British legal system.

Preserving Tradition:

One of the main reasons Australian lawyers continue to wear wigs is to preserve the tradition and formality associated with the legal profession. The legal system places great importance on maintaining a sense of decorum and respect in the courtroom. Wearing wigs is seen as a way to uphold these values and to show reverence for the history and traditions of the legal profession.

Symbol of Authority:

The wig is also seen as a symbol of authority and professionalism. It signifies the lawyer’s role as an officer of the court and represents their legal knowledge and expertise. By wearing wigs, lawyers aim to convey a sense of gravitas and seriousness in carrying out their duties. It is believed that the presence of wigs adds a sense of dignity and impartiality to the courtroom, contributing to the overall fairness and integrity of the legal proceedings.

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Equality and Impartiality:

Another reason for wearing wigs is to promote equality and impartiality. The traditional wigs, known as “full-bottomed wigs,” are made from horsehair and are designed to cover the entire head. This uniformity in appearance aims to eliminate any personal biases or distractions that may arise from the lawyer’s individual appearance. By wearing identical wigs, lawyers are seen as equal before the law, regardless of their personal background or physical attributes.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Are all Australian lawyers required to wear wigs?
A: No, not all Australian lawyers are required to wear wigs. The wearing of wigs is more common in higher courts, such as the Supreme Court and Federal Court. In lower courts, such as the Magistrates’ Court, the practice is less prevalent.

Q: Do female lawyers wear wigs too?
A: Yes, female lawyers are also expected to wear wigs, although they have the option of wearing a smaller, more discreet version known as the “bob wig.” This wig covers only part of the head and is considered more practical for female lawyers.

Q: Are there any exceptions to wearing wigs?
A: Yes, there are some exceptions to wearing wigs. For example, in certain circumstances where cultural or religious beliefs clash with the wearing of wigs, judges may grant exemptions. Additionally, in some hot and humid climates, judges may choose to waive the requirement due to practical considerations.

Q: Are wigs still relevant in modern times?
A: The relevance of wigs in modern times is a subject of debate. Some argue that the tradition is outdated and unnecessary, while others view it as an integral part of the legal profession’s history and identity. Efforts have been made in recent years to modernize courtroom attire, but the use of wigs continues to be a matter of tradition and personal preference.

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In conclusion, the tradition of Australian lawyers wearing wigs has its roots in history, tradition, and the desire to uphold formality, authority, equality, and impartiality within the legal profession. While the practice may seem unusual to outsiders, it remains an important symbol in Australian courtrooms, representing the values and traditions of the legal system.