#WednesdayWisdom: Why Do Barristers Use Pink Ribbon to Tie Up Their Work?

Bringing Lawyer Monthly its monthly #WednesdayWisdom, Family Practice Manager at One Pump Court Scott Haley explains why barristers use pink ribbons to tie up their work.

Historically, instructions presented to a barrister from a solicitor, known as a brief, are folded in a particular way, and secured with a delicate pink ribbon or tape. This pink tape – not to be confused with sellotape or masking tape – is still used today, but why?

As is the way with anything fun or unusual in the legal world, the answer is, simply, tradition. Nobody knows exactly where and why the custom started, but pink ribbon has been holding legal documents together since as early as 1787.

Back in the 16th century, it is understood that documents at the Vatican were also kept in pink ribbon. The pink however was most likely a faded red, hence the term “red tape”, an idiom used to refer to an excessive amount of rules and processes that need to be considered, before an official action can be taken. The English icon, Charles Dickens, is believed to be the first person to use this phrase.

Pink ribbon may be the most recognisable, but other colours are often used in legal proceedings: white tape is regularly used for briefs from the crown, green ribbon has been used to sew up court documents in the past, and black ribbon is still sometimes used for probate papers.

It may look like nothing to an outsider, but barristers can often be found roaming around Chambers in search for a bit of this beloved pink ribbon. It’s tough as old boots and can be used for other uses such as to hang pictures, or to pin wing mirrors and rose bushes back.

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