#WednesdayWisdom: Why Don’t Barristers Ever Shake Hands? – Lawyer Monthly | Legal News Magazine

#WednesdayWisdom: Why Don’t Barristers Ever Shake Hands?

Once a month, Scott Haley, Family Practice Manager at One Pump Court brings Lawyer Monthly Wednesday Wisdom, and this week tells readers why barristers don’t shake hands.

The custom dates back to sword-bearing times, when a handshake was considered a way to demonstrate to a person that you were not armed. By gripping each other by the right hand you were showing them that your hand wasn’t on the hilt of your sword. Since barristers were gentleman, they trusted each other implicitly, and therefore there was no need to shake hands. There is also an argument that you don’t shake hands to show that the prosecution and defence are not in collusion with one another.

Bear hugs, high fives and fist bumps are also unacceptable forms of greeting. However, this has its benefits as it means that you don’t find yourself in awkward situations such as Jeremy Corbyn did recently (below), where he was left hanging and ended up hitting Emily Thornberry in the chest.

The tradition of no handshaking has kept going, although depending on which part of London you may be from, swords have been replaced by frothy cappuccinos or fidget spinners.

1 Comment
  1. Dena Walemy says

    They might not want to shake hands with each other, but a barrister who refuses to shake hands with a non-barrister is simply being very rude. As for the idea that they don’t shake hands because they are gentlemen – are we to understand that men who do shake hands are not gentlemen? That would include members of the royal family, peers, bishops, army officers, and many others who are usually socially superior to lawyers. The explanation makes no sense. If barristers want to behave oddly, let them do so within the confines of their profession. I’m sure firefighters, cardinals, and even prostitutes have their own little professional courtesies in their own groups but they don’t seem to want the rest of the world to fall in with them.

Leave A Reply