As part of a week-long visit to City University London, Ruthann Robson, Professor of Law at City University of New York will deliver a lecture based on her new book ‘Dressing Constitutionally: Hierarchy, Sexuality and Democracy…From Our Hairstyles to Our Shoes’(Cambridge University Press, 2013). Lawbore spoke to her on the eve of the event to find out more.
Thanks for speaking to us Ruthann. Tell us a little bit about your most recent publication ‘Dressing Constitutionally…’
The book looks at all different aspects of dressing and attire, including non-attire and things like grooming and hairstyles. It looks at it from the perspective of rights and specifically people’s rights to dress or not dress in a certain way. It also looks at how different kinds of structures of government and constitutionalism have been influenced by how people dress.
You are well known for your work in the area of Sexuality and the Law but this topic is an expansion on that. What was the most interesting or surprising thing you discovered as you embarked on the research for this book?
The book actually has a lot of sexuality in it and I had already written about constitutional structures and the power of the judiciary to review different aspects of law. However, the historical research turned out to be really fascinating and it led me to discover things I really didn’t know too much about. For example, when we think of sumptuary laws during the reign of Henry VIII - like which classes of people can wear which clothes - we think of them as aiming to maintain hierarchy and keep the classes separate. While there’s a lot of truth to that, the enforcement of laws relating to dress were actually also about maintaining the economics of England and ensuring that the wool trade was profitable.
At that time, there was also a lot of patrolling around sexuality, which was surprising for me. When I think of the control on sexuality during those times, it would usually be related to women but I found that there were proclamations about how long men’s tunics could be and what they could show and not show – that was very interesting.
Is the law still having a real impact of how people dress today?
I think there are fewer and fewer direct laws, although they do tend to come back, so in the States recently, we’ve had issues around saggy pants and trying to prohibit those for men. However, we see the impact in work dress codes, in terms of both positive laws and also people being terminated or not promoted for the way they do or don’t dress. In certain spaces, like the military or in prison, there are still lots of rules.
In some ways, dress becomes kind of a code for race and class and gender but then other times it is really interesting to look at people’s style and think that a certain style would be encoded with criminality. This is something which I think has not changed at all because in the 60s and 70s, if you wore blue jeans, then that must mean that you were smoking marijuana or doing some other type of drug.
For women and to some extent men too, there is another indirect way in which the law gets involved. That is the failure of the requirement to protect women from sexual assault - there’s a lot of women blaming that goes on if someone is dressed a certain way.
What do you hope the audience at your lecture and readers of the book take-away with them?
We think that we have a lot of freedom in terms of how we dress, so one point would be that we actually have a lot less freedom than we think we do. The second is that we really need to carefully consider how we use the law. When I was reading people’s interviews about either dress codes in schools or even dress codes on the streets, they may be a quote included from the Mayor saying ‘I don’t like this or ‘I don’t think I have to look at that’. That may be true or not, but then there’s this question about whether the law should be the way that we control it, especially when we are talking about criminalising people. That is probably at the extreme end but then there are different kinds of judgements which become encoded in law, even for dress codes.
The lecture takes place on Tuesday 26th November at 6.30pm at City University London, EC1V 0HB, followed by a drinks reception. To attend, please register via the City Events website.
Ruthann Robson is a Professor of Law and University Distinguished Professor at City University of New York and the author of ‘Dressing Constitutionally: Hierarchy, Sexuality, and Democracy from Our Hairstyles to Our Shoes’ (Cambridge University Press, 2013).
Ben Woolgar will be running a session on 26th November for City Law School students - he will cover all the steps involved in obtaining pupillage at a commercial set, including choosing where to apply, the Gateway form, interviews, mini-pupillages and pre-application activities.
Clearly everyone's path to pupillage is an individual one but Ben will share his experiences and take questions from the floor. Ben completed his GDL 2012-13 and started the BPTC in September.
Ben will be starting pupillage at Brick Court Chambers in September 2014. Last year he obtained 8 pupillage offers, including 6 of the 8 top commercial sets.
Sign up for a ticket now!
The Pupillage Advice Service puts on yet another must-see event, featuring Silvia Van den Bruel, Marketing & BD Manager at 11 Stone Buildings.
How to develop Commercial Awareness and market yourself in practice
When? Tuesday 5th November, 6.15pm
Where? Princeton Street, Room 13
“Being in the business of becoming a successful barrister"
Surely all it takes to become a successful barrister is to have an excellent law degree tucked under your arm and to possess the ability to dazzle the judge with your compelling advocacy? Our speaker would argue that in this day’s competitive environment, you probably need to arm yourself with a few extra tools. During this talk she will share a few practical tips and there will be time to ask any questions you may have.
Our speaker, Silvia Van den Bruel is Marketing & BD Manager at 11 Stone Buildings a leading Commercial/Chancery set. Between 2002 and 2007 she was Marketing Manager at Monckton Chambers which was nominated for ‘Best Marketed Chambers’ at the Legal Marketing Awards 2007.”
Read Ins and Outs of a Pupillage at 11 Stone Buildings. More Good than Bad on Legal Half Hour.
Open to current and prospective City Students
REGISTRATION REQUIRED - email the School Office.
To moot or not to moot? Apparently this is not a question we on the GDL should even be pausing to think twice about, according to Ben Wood, barrister at 4 New Square and organiser of tonight’s mooting workshop. He grabbed our attention last week with the frankly thinly-veiled threat that he personally wouldn't consider a pupillage application if a CV made no mention of mooting. Gulp. You’ve got our attention, Ben. A mooting workshop in a week’s time? Where do we sign?!
But I shouldn’t paint the mooting introductory talk in a negative light. Clearly Ben’s impassioned speech about all the benefits mooting will bring to your lawyer-brain as well as your career prospects did not fall on deaf ears – at least not judging by the amount of us GDL-folk who were spotted dutifully wearing our suits throughout the day’s lectures, in keen preparedness for the evening’s mooting fun-tivities.
I don’t think the phrase “baptism of fire” would be too dramatic here. With an array of problems to contend with before we even said a word to the judges, including emailed instructions vanishing in the ether, skeleton arguments that refused to print, and crossed wires as to which side people were on – not to mention zero mooting experience - it’s fair to say that as a group, we were boldly going where none of us had gone before.
The problem was described as an “elementary” issue in the law of contract; it centred on whether Best Store’s advertisement for a sale constituted an offer or merely an invitation to treat. Elementary perhaps, but still sufficient to bring out a few pangs of anxiety from those of us yet to have the pleasure of our first contract law tutorial. I wonder if we could try to implement a revolutionary bonus point system in mooting for “subject knowledge gleaned against the odds”?
Are you speaking in conferences and the courtroom?
How does your voice work and how does it affect your listeners?
The best advocate needs to understand and use the voice effectively to engage and persuade their audience.
Exploring tone, pitch, resonance and clarity, this is an introduction to how to look after and optimise your most important communicating device - your voice.
Our speaker Debbie Chatting, (MA Voice Studies) trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and specialises in Voice for the Lawyer. Debbie works on her clients’ vocal clarity, tone and confidence to build foundations for excellent public speaking.
Currently writing a dedicated chapter on Voice for the City Law School’s publication, ‘Advocacy’, Debbie coaches for film and theatre as well as at prestigious universities in the UK and abroad.
Open to LLB3, GELLB, GDL, LPC, BPTC and LLM students - register for this event by email
Where and when: Wed 23rd October 2013 6.30-8pm in the Lecture Theatre, Atkin Building.
Are you looking to refine your CV - check it ticks all the boxes?
As a BPTC, LLM or LPC student, there is a great opportunity coming up to have your CV looked over by the Careers team at City.
It's first-come, first served so make sure you get to the Student Common Room in Atkin Building, Grays Inn Place on 22nd October between 1.30 and 4pm.
Find out more via the event flyer.
The annual Chancery Bar Careers Fair will give you some insight into what a career at the Chancery Bar entails, shedding light on the different areas of work (Charities, Commercial Litigation, Intellectual Property and many more) and let you have the opportunity to meet those already working at the Chancery Bar.
The day will include talks on pupillage in chancery chambers, traditional chancery practice and company and insolvency practice. The day will kick off with a Q & A on on the pathways to qualification.
The CBA have produced a booklet 'Careers at the Chancery Bar' which is available online.
Those of you on the Pupillage hunt will have plenty to fill your diary in the coming months but here are a few events being held at The City Law School shortly.
Introduction to the Pupillage Advice Service - Wed 18th and Thursday 19th @ 11am (LT/AB)
Read more about the work of the Pupillage Advisory Service.
Thinking of Pupillage at the Chancery or Commercial Bar?
Where: Great Hall, College Building, Northampton Square
When: 3rd October @ 6.30pm
City Law School and the Chancery Bar Association have organised this event where three barristers will from the CBA will discuss their careers and experiences. They will also discuss applications for Pupillage at Chancery sets. All three graduated from the City Law School and include:
Leon Pickering - Ten Old Square (traditional Chancery)
David Welford - Selbourne (Commercial Chancery)
Jamie Sutherland - Falcon (Property)
Time for questions at the end!
Researching Chambers for Gateway and Interview
Speaker: Rachel Scott-Halls, Law Librarian
Where: Lecture Theatre
When 7th October @ 6.15
Being in the Business of being a successful Barrister
Speaker: Silvia Van Den Breul, 11 Stone Buildings
Where: Princeton Street
When: 5th November @6.15
Read Ins and Outs of a Pupillage at 11 Stone Buildings. More Good than Bad on Legal Half Hour.
A talk with Q & A from Georgina Wolfe, 5 Essex Court and Alexander Robson, Littleton Chambers - authors of The Path to Pupillage.
Where: The Student Common Room, Grays Inn Place
When: 2nd December @ 6.15
Want to keep up to date with Pupillage Events?
Keep informed of pupillage happenings via Twitter @CLSPupillageAdv - Keith and Ffyon will be flagging up lectures to help get you ahead on pupillage interview via #hottopics
On the evening of Wednesday 19 June, Professor David Collins spoke at the Institution for Mechanical Engineers, along with 2 other speakers.
David's speech covered the application of a the J-Value formula developed by Professor Philip Thomas of City’s School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences to the law of the World Trade Organization. The formula assesses how much money should be spent on health and safety precautions based on the cost of lost lives and injury.
David published an article in the Journal of World Trade on how that formula could be used as a tool for judicial decision making in assessing the legitimacy of health and safety regulations by the dispute settlement panels of the World Trade Organization. You can see David's publications via his SSRN page.
I recently had the free time and a corresponding strong interest in attending a seminar at the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies on freedom of expression and how it is playing out with relation to the Internet. Attending seminars was something not even on my radar in the first days of the LLB program at City, but as I begin to settle into a cycle and what was once almost overwhelming becomes a known factor, something that can be managed, I am glad to find myself able to explore my interests in these outlets. I cannot say I am certain of how my interests will guide my legal career, but human rights will always be a foundation for my legal career, and the experience of this seminar was fantastic in the way it provided a broader context to our academic studies at City.
The seminar was led by one of City's own, Professor Lorna Woods. She is a director at City's Centre for Law, Justice & Journalism, and has practical experience as a solicitor in the field, as well as authoring leading textbooks on EU law and the subject in question. In short, Professor Woods is the quintessential definition of an expert in the field. She guided the lecture along several main points, the exploration of the Internet as a right, the exploration of how far the laws on expression and the Internet can be pushed, and an analysis of the Internet itself. Is it something new, or just a new forum for the common interpretation of the law on speech? All aspects of this lecture were interesting, but I found myself compelled strongly by the first and last pillars of the lecture.
In search of the right
What really compelled me about this first point was that I was forced to think outside of my own bias on this subject. I always love it when that happens, because that's when I feel you can really learn things. I'll admit that I walked into this seminar with a clear notion that if the Internet was, if not already a statutorily defined right, then at least something confirmed by common law. The lecture demonstrated that I was not alone in my thinking, with the data supporting that nearly 80% of people at least somewhat agree.