Monthly instalment of Scott’s #WednesdayWisdom

31 May 2017

Barristers’ Bags

Traditionally, Barristers carry around their wig and gown in a blue damask bag known as a brief bag. If they have been led by a QC, the Silk can show their appreciation by presenting them a red bag. This is given to show their recognition of the contribution that the barrister has given to the case.

The front of the bag bears the owners initials monogrammed onto them, a bit like when you were at school and your mum sowed your name into your blazer so you didn’t lose it.

There are various theories as to why brief bags exist. One of the theories is that the bag is the remnant of a now disused feature on the Barristers’ gowns. The black gown was adopted in 1685 when the whole Bar went into mourning after the death of King Charles II. The Barristers’ gowns originally had a long thin piece of black cloth hanging down the front of the gown and had hoods attached to them, known as mourning hoods, that were worn in the late 1600s. The use of hoods on Barristers’ gowns has ceased over a period of many centuries.

The colour of the brief bags for Junior Counsel, i.e. not Queen’s Counsel (QC) in England is dark blue. For QC’s red/burgundy coloured bags are used. Black bags are used for Irish Barristers and dark green bags for members of the Judiciary.

Traditionally, the QC’s junior clerk delivers the bag to the Junior Barrister and is paid a fee in return, normally around £25.

In recently years many red bags have been replaced by the wheelie suitcase. However, they have now recently come back into fashion since the introduction of the 5p charge for plastic bags.

Back to News