The Legacy of a Robe

Dirk’s story; Valerie’s first steps


The Legacy of a Robe

In the early summer of 1973, a young Dirk James Sigalet was approaching the end of his articles. Soon to be hired by his uncle, principal and mentor Bruce Fraser, KC, Dirk was instilled with the traditions of the law profession from a very young age.

Just one week before his call ceremony, Dirk was given a big break: an opportunity to junior another lawyer named Jack Cram. For his first trial, this was a unique one. The pair were assigned to defend a woman who had been accused of murdering her fisherman husband with a fillet knife.

When Dirk arrived at the courthouse, the presiding judge graciously invited him to pass through the gate at the Bar and sit at the defence counsel’s table with Jack. He was wearing the usual articling student garb, a dark, inconspicuous well-worn suit and tie.

Deciding enough was enough, and that his nephew should look the part in the courtroom, Bruce stepped in and generously gifted Dirk some newly tailored barrister robes.

First thing on Monday, Dirk proudly donned his new robes and posed for photos at his call ceremony. Then he rushed straight to the courthouse where the murder trial was already underway. On arrival, the presiding judge couldn’t help but notice Dirk’s hesitant approach to the Bar’s gate. He glanced at Dirk’s new robes and announced, “Mr. Sigalet, you no longer need the Court’s permission to pass through this Bar and sit at a Counsel table, this is now your privilege. Welcome. Now, let’s proceed.”

Many years later, when Dirk was recognized for his contributions to the profession and appointed Queen’s Counsel (now King’s Counsel), he hung up his robe and joined Uncle Bruce for a toast with a glass of single malt. It was a toast to Bruce’s generous gift all those years ago, and his patient and wise mentorship.

A barrister’s robes can hold many stories. From how they were obtained, their first call ceremony, to the trials they oversaw and everything in between until they are hung up for the final time.

But the story doesn’t need to end there. Exactly fifty years after Dirk was gifted his robe, new lawyer Valérie Lebrun contacted the CBABC Robe Bank hoping to borrow a robe for her call ceremony. She continued the legacy of that very same robe by wearing it with pride and joy for the most special moment in her career.

Dirk’s robe is now pressed and dry cleaned, hanging in the CBABC office waiting for the next lawyer to add to its story.

Follow Dirk’s robe and all the other generously donated robes in the CBABC Robe Bank.