Sumptuary laws in 14th century Florence and their echoes in outside counsel guidelines on disbursements

“In 1330, the Florence Commune introduced the first sumptuary laws: limits on what kind of fabrics could be worn, when, in what styles, by whom, only so many buttons, no fancy patterns, only so much jewelry, not more than so many dishes at dinner parties, restrictions on spending for weddings and funerals.”

This effort to control ostentation and spending reminded me of guidelines for outside counsel: limits on limo service, weekend meals, first class flights, hotel courtesy bars, lawyers at a deposition, and photocopying on colored paper, and wasted paperclips.

As explained in the London Rev. of Books, Sept. 22, 2011 at 22, theological beliefs about sobriety, waste and conspicuous consumption drove the sumptuary restrictions on the populace of the Italian city-state. Likewise, secular theologies animate restrictions on the profligate ways of prodigal law firms.

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