Daniel R. White

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This article is about the lawyer-writer-humorist. For other people with the same name, see Daniel White (disambiguation).
Daniel R. White
Personal details
Born (1953-08-02) August 2, 1953 (age 61)
Nationality American

Daniel R. White (born 1953, Atlanta, Georgia) is an American attorney and author. His first book, The Official Lawyer’s Handbook,[1] is a satire of the legal profession was a bestseller in the early 1980s.[2] The success of the Handbook, which ranked #1 on The Washington Post best seller list and presumably drew on White's personal experience practicing law with the Washington, D.C., law firm of Hogan & Hartson,[3] led to television appearances, speaking engagements, and other books, as a result of which The American Lawyer magazine declared White “The Official Lawyer’s Comedian.”[4]

Calling the Handbook his "vehicle of liberation from the practice of law," White left the private practice of law in 1983. He now makes his living in various word-related ways, including as a writer, editor, corporate entertainer, legal comedian, legal writing instructor, and college essay consultant.


White graduated from The Westminster Schools,[5] a co-educational college preparatory school in Atlanta, Georgia. He obtained a B.A. in Government from Harvard College, graduating magna cum laude in 1975.[citation needed]

After college, he traveled to Seoul, Korea, where he wrote and edited travel articles for the Korea National Tourism Corporation (later renamed the Korea Tourism Organization), an agency of the Republic of Korea.[6]

The following year he attended Columbia Law School, where he obtained a J.D. in 1979. He served as Articles Editor of the Columbia Law Review,[7] which published his first legal writing, "Pacifica Foundation v. FCC: ‘Filthy Words,’ the First Amendment, and the Broadcast Media,"[8] during White’s second year. That article, which discussed a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on comedian George Carlin’s famous "Seven Dirty Words" monologue,[9] was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in a related ruling.[10]

At Columbia, White was a Harlan Fiske Stone scholar and the recipient of the Archie O. Dawson Advocacy Award, which provided clerkships for the study of advocacy at the three levels of the federal judiciary, including a period in the chambers of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

White served as law clerk to U.S. District Court judge Thomas A. Flannery,[11] and then joined Hogan & Hartson, where he spent roughly 3 years. Upon leaving Hogan & Hartson, he spent 4 years to promoting his first book, commencing his career as a public speaker and corporate entertainer, and attempting without success to become a screenwriter. For several years White practiced law sporadically with the firm of Ross, Dixon & Masback.[12] Thereafter, for just over a year, White worked as a legal business consultant for the accounting and consulting firm Arthur Andersen. There he consulted primarily for corporate law departments, where he performed such tasks as a substantive and stylistic overhaul of Exxon's "Guidelines for Use of Outside Counsel."



Daniel White's first book, The Official Lawyer’s Handbook, ranked #1 on The Washington Post best seller list and #5 on the Publishers Weekly national list. On the basis of this book The Washington Post declared White “the legal profession’s court jester”[13] and credited him with having “helped launch the current wave of legal humor.”[14]

This book was re-released in updated form as Still the Official Lawyer’s Handbook,[15] and then released in revised form in Britain, with Philip R. Jenks as co-author.[16]

White’s reputation as a legal humorist was fostered by his other books, especially White’s Law Dictionary,[17] a parody of the classic legal lexicon, Black's Law Dictionary; Trials and Tribulations – An Anthology of Appealing Legal Humor;[18] and What Lawyers Do – And How To Make Them Work for You,[19] a light-in-tone but essentially substantive book that enjoyed the distinction of becoming a Book-of-the-Month Club selection.

White has also written a number of relatively minor volumes,[20] a nonexhaustive list of which includes The Classic Cocktails Book, The Martini, Really Redneck, The Birthday Book, and Horrorscopes.[21]

Less known as a journalist, White has published articles for publications ranging from the American Bar Association Journal[22] to Cosmopolitan.[23] A number of other publications have carried articles by Daniel R. White, including Of Counsel, Barrister, Medical Meetings,[24] the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta, The Washington Weekly, Minnesota Law & Politics, Docket (ACCA), Employment Law Strategist, Marketing for Lawyers, and Law Firm Partnership & Benefits Report.

Although even less known as a poet, White's tribute to legal warriors, "An Ode to Litigation,"[25] met with general acclaim when it appeared in the National Law Journal, and one of its 32 stanzas is quoted in Jennifer L. Pierce's treatise, Gender Bender Trials: Emotional Lives in Contemporary Law Firms:[26]

My basic goal would be of course, my client's exculpation,
But also, for myself, the other lawyer's subjugation.
So word would spread that nothing but complete humiliation
Awaits the fool who dares to take me on in litigation.[27]


At the New York Law Publishing Company, where he worked from 1994 to 1996, White served as editor-in-chief and primary writer for Law Firm Partnership & Benefits Report, a national newsletter for law firm partners and managers.[28] He served as managing editor of two other national newsletters for lawyers, Employment Law Strategist[29] and Marketing for Lawyers,[30] and edited articles for the National Law Journal.[31]

White has also established himself as a freelance editor of non-fiction monographs.[32]


Although his roots lie in legal comedy, White has demonstrated a broader range, beginning in 1992-1993, when he served as editor-in-chief of, and primary writer for, Current Comedy, a twice-monthly "Humor Service for Public Speakers & Business Executives"[33] founded by former television gag writer and presidential speechwriter Robert Orben.

White has written jokes for corporate executives and Jay Leno. His parody of Ernest Hemingway's writing style appeared in The Best of Bad Hemingway, an anthology.[34]


White has appeared as a legal humorist on CNN, CBS, NPR, and numerous other television and radio shows across the country. He has been profiled in publications such as The New York Times,[35] The Washington Post,[36] Time magazine,[37] and the International Herald Tribune.[38]

He has addressed bar associations, medical conventions, law firms, and other gatherings across the United States and abroad.[39][40]

Contrasting himself with lawyers who ridicule the legal profession with "lawyer jokes"[41] and engage in "lawyer bashing,"[42] White has said his jabs are soft-gloved and affectionate, because he is "a member of that union,"[41] being a lawyer himself and coming from a family of lawyers.


  1. ^ D. Robert White, The Official Lawyer’s Handbook (1983). New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-53137-9. White wrote this book under the pen name D. Robert White. He has joked that he did this to maintain "plausible deniability."
  2. ^ Ken Ringle, "Wit of Habeas Corpus," Style p.2, The Washington Post, (Aug. 30, 1989).
  3. ^ Hogan & Hartson was an international law firm and, for a while, the home of John Roberts, who later became Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court Hogan & Hartson subsequently merged with the firm of Lovells to produce Hogan Lovells, a merger that became effective as of May 1, 2010.
  4. ^ Diane Goldner, "The Official Lawyer’s Comedian," The American Lawyer, p. 106 (April 1984).
  5. ^ The Westminster Schools
  6. ^ See, e.g., Daniel White, "A Young American Visits Pan Mun Jom," Korea Calling, Vol. XV, No. 5 (May 1976); Daniel White, "Korea Not America," The Korea Herald (February 8, 1976). Diane Goldner, "The Official Lawyer’s Comedian," The American Lawyer, p. 107 (April 1984).
  7. ^ See masthead, Columbia Law Review (1978-79 academic year).
  8. ^ White, D., 78 Columbia Law Review, No. 1 (Jan. 1978), p. 164.
  9. ^ See Pacifica Foundation v. FCC, 556 F.2d 9 (D.C. Cir. 1977).
  10. ^ Consolidated Edison Co. v. Public Serv. Comm’n., 447 U.S. 530, fn. 2 (Mr. Justice Stevens, concurring) (1980).
  11. ^ Judge Flannery died in 2007. See Patricia Sullivan, "Obituaries," Washington Post (Sept. 27, 2007).
  12. ^ Originally a spinoff of Hogan & Hartson, Ross, Dixon & Masback passed through multiple incarnations before eventually merging with the Atlanta-based firm of Troutman Sanders.
  13. ^ Saundra Torry, "Legal Profession’s Court Jester Sees No Bar to Humor," The Washington Post (Dec. 9,1991).
  14. ^ Ken Ringle, "Wit of Habeas Corpus," Style, p. 1,The Washington Post, (Aug. 30, 1989).
  15. ^ Still the Official Lawyer’s Handbook was released in 1991 under the Plume imprint of the New American Library, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc. ISBN 0-452-26694-7.
  16. ^ Daniel R. White & Philip R. Jenks, ‘’The Official Lawyer’s Handbook’’ (Harriman House 1992). ISBN 1-897597-00-2. This edition was revised for a British audience, substituting local geographic, political and professional references where appropriate.
  17. ^ D. Robert White, White’s Law Dictionary (1985). New York: Warner Books. ISBN 0-446-38259-0. As with The Official Lawyer’s Handbook, White wrote this book under the pen name D. Robert White.
  18. ^ Daniel R. White, Trials and Tribulations – An Anthology of Appealing Legal Humor (1989). New York: Plume, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc. ISBN 0-452-26558-4.
  19. ^ Daniel R. White, What Lawyers Do - And How To Make Them Work For You (1987). New York: E.P. Dutton. ISBN 0-525-24478-6.
  20. ^ White has said of these books, “They aren’t exactly things I go out of my way to publicize. They barely qualify as ‘books.’”
  21. ^ See e.g., http://www.librarything.com/author/whitedanielr (Jan. 5, 2010). These books were all published by Andrews McMeel.
  22. ^ Daniel White, America’s Most Wanted, American Bar Association Journal, p. 92 (October 1989), now called The ABA Journal
  23. ^ Daniel White, "How To Find a Good Divorce Lawyer," p._, Cosmopolitan (199_)
  24. ^ See, e.g., Daniel White, "Management Forum: Common Mistakes in Associate Training," Of Counsel – The Legal Practice Report, Vol. 7, No. 20 (Oct. 17, 1988), p. 4; http://www.aspenpublishers.com/product.asp?catalog_name=Aspen&product_id=SS07303815&cookie%5Ftest=1
  25. ^ National Law Journal(Feb. 13, 1989)
  26. ^ (1995) Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-20108-8.
  27. ^ Research has turned up no other published monograph in which White's poem and the philosopher Hegel are mentioned on the same page.
  28. ^ See, e.g., Law Firm Partnership & Benefits Report, Vol. 1, No. 12 (January 1996) (published by Leader Publications, A Division of the New York Law Publishing Co.). http://www.lawjournalnewsletters.com/newsletters/home/ljn_partnership.html. The New York Law Publishing Co. is now owned by ALM, formerly the American Lawyer Media.
  29. ^ http://www.lawjournalnewsletters.com/newsletters/home/ljn_emplaw.html
  30. ^ http://www.lawjournalnewsletters.com/newsletters/home/ljn_marketing.html
  31. ^ See, e.g., Daniel White, "An Ode to Litigation," The National Law Journal (Feb. 13, 1989).
  32. ^ See, e.g.,Law Department Benchmarks – Myths, Metrics and Management, by Morrison, R. (Glasser LegalWorks).
  33. ^ See, e.g., Current Comedy, Vol. 36, No. 19 (Wilmington, DE: Oct. 4, 1993).
  34. ^ Daniel White, "Across the Mall and Into the White House," The Best of Bad Hemingway, with an Introduction by George Plimpton, p. 115, New York: Harvest/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1989). ISBN 0-15-611861-0.
  35. ^ Laura Mansnerus, "Lawyers Aren’t So Bad, Really, Says a Humorist, With a Laugh," in "Conversations/Dan White," The New York Times, August 8, 1993. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE2DF1E3DF93BA3575BC0A965958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1
  36. ^ Carol Krucoff, "Objection Sustained!" The Washington Post, November 9, 1983.
  37. ^ "Lawyer Mocking," Time, Vol. 122, No. 22, November 21, 1983.
  38. ^ "American Topics – Lawyer’s Handbook," International Herald Tribune, Nov. 12-13, 1983.
  39. ^ Laura Mansnerus, "Lawyers Aren’t So Bad, Really, Says a Humorist, With a Laugh," in "Conversations/Dan White," The New York Times, August 8, 1993; Diane Goldner, "The Official Lawyer’s Comedian," The American Lawyer, p. 106 (April 1984).
  40. ^ Daniel R. White, Esq. - Professional Education Group, Inc
  41. ^ a b Laura Mansnerus, "Lawyers Aren’t So Bad, Really, Says a Humorist, With a Laugh," in "Conversations/Dan White," The New York Times, August 8, 1993.
  42. ^ Ken Ringle, "Wit of Habeas Corpus – Throwing the Books at the Barrister," The Washington Post (August 30, 1989), p. B1.