White shoe firm

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White shoe firm is a phrase used to describe leading professional services firms in the United States, particularly firms that have been in existence for more than a century and represent Fortune 500 companies. It typically—but not always—refers to banking, accounting, law, and management consulting firms, especially those based in New York and Boston.

The term originated in the Ivy League colleges and originally reflected a stereotype of old-line firms populated by WASPs. The term historically had anti-Semitic connotations, as many of the New York firms known as "white shoe" were considered off-limits to Jewish lawyers until the 1960s.[1][2] The phrase has since lost some of this connotation, but is still defined by Princeton University's WordNet as "denoting a company or law firm owned and run by members of the WASP elite who are generally conservative," which shows that the original connotation has not changed entirely.[3] A 2010 column in The Economist described the term as synonymous with "big, old, east-coast and fairly traditional."[4] Today, the term is sometimes used in a general sense to refer to firms that are perceived as prestigious or high-quality; it is also sometimes used in a derogatory manner to denote stodginess, elitism, or a lack of diversity.[1]


The phrase derives from "white bucks," laced suede or buckskin shoes with a red sole, long popular in the Ivy League colleges.[5] A 1953 Esquire article, describing social strata at Yale University, explained that "White Shoe applies primarily to the socially ambitious and the socially smug types who affect a good deal of worldly sophistication, run, ride and drink in rather small cliques, and look in on the second halves of football games when the weather is good."[6] The Oxford English Dictionary cites the phrase "white-shoe college boys" in the J. D. Salinger novel Franny and Zooey (1957) as the first use of the term.[1]

Examples of white-shoe firms[edit]

The following firms are often referred to as being white-shoe firms:

Banks, investment banks, and merchant banks[edit]

Accounting / Management Consulting firms[edit]

Law firms[edit]

The "new" white-shoe banks[edit]

While the term "white-shoe" historically applied only to those law firms populated by WASPs, usage of the term has since been expanded to other top-rated prestigious firms. Many of these firms were founded as a direct result of the exclusionary tendencies of the original white-shoe firms, which provided limited opportunities for Jewish and Catholic lawyers, as well as other non-WASPs.

The "new" white-shoe law firms[edit]

Other uses of the term[edit]

A similar term in Australia, "white shoe brigade", has been used in the past to describe a group of Queensland property developers who backed, and benefitted from, former Queensland State Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.[62] The term is a contemptuous allusion to the lower social class antecedents of such men, revealed by their gaudy and tasteless choice of clothing, which included brightly coloured or patterned shirts, slacks with white stripes or in pastel shades, and shoes and belts of white leather, these often having gold or gilt buckles. They became known for shady deals with the government concerning property development, often with dire consequences for heritage buildings.[63]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Chambliss, Elizabeth (2005). "THE SHOE STILL FITS". Legal Affairs. Retrieved June 16, 2016. 
  2. ^ Seltzer, Irwin M. (February 8, 2016). "Remembering the 'White-Shoe Firm'". The Weekly Standard. Retrieved June 16, 2016. 
  3. ^ "white-shoe". WordNet. Princeton University. 
  4. ^ "Frozen-term watch: "white-shoe"". The Economist. September 3, 2010. Retrieved June 16, 2016. 
  5. ^ Safire, William (November 9, 1997). "On Language; Gimme the Ol' White Shoe". New York Times. 
  6. ^ Chensvold, Christian. "Russell Lynes On The Shoe Hierarchy, Esquire 1953". Ivy Style. Retrieved 16 June 2016. 
  7. ^ Surowiecki, James (1998-06-15). "White-Shoe Shuffle". New York. New York Media LLC. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  8. ^ Timmons, Heather; Christopher Palmieri (2002-01-21). "The Perils of J.P. Morgan". BusinessWeek. McGraw-Hill. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  9. ^ "Morgan Stanley's 'white-shoe' dissidents continue war of attrition". Finfacts Ireland. April 17, 2005. 
  10. ^ Stracher, Cameron (March 24, 2000). "The Law Firm's New Clothes". New York Times. 
  11. ^ Lin, Anthony (February 6, 2007). "Does the Future Belong to Cadwalader?". New York Law Journal. 
  12. ^ Rost, Peter (September 12, 2007). "Covington & Burling, a Pfizer law firm, caught cleaning up its reputation on Wikipedia". BrandweekNRX. 
  13. ^ Martinez, Jose (March 3, 2006). "Shoes are whiter than most in city". NY Daily News. New York. 
  14. ^ Moyer, Elizabeth (October 26, 2005). "Dimon Woos Mergers Lawyer Hersch To JPMorgan". Forbes.com. 
  15. ^ Labaton, Stephen (September 24, 1989). "Rainmaker: Mario Baeza of Debevoise". The New York Times. 
  16. ^ van der Pool, Lisa (July 18, 2008). "Dewey & LeBoeuf's local head count drops post-merger". Boston Business Journal. 
  17. ^ Bekiempis, Victoria (January 31, 2014). "How much is Chris Christie paying Randy Mastro?". Newsweek. 
  18. ^ https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/03/02/white-shoe-law-firms-scuffed-lower-cost-competition-and-growing-clout-corporate-clients/R7E5m4U4njUjRzBtVFJGKL/story.html
  19. ^ Dougherty, Carter. "The Israeli Connection". VirtualCXO. 
  20. ^ http://www.cnbc.com/2015/04/27/legal-industrys-wealth-gap-rich-lawyers-get-richer.html
  21. ^ https://newrepublic.com/article/113941/big-law-firms-trouble-when-money-dries
  22. ^ https://psmag.com/are-you-getting-paid-what-you-re-worth-fa0a12ea720f#.an6hetxcm
  23. ^ http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB114462578745821336
  24. ^ Weiss, Gary (March 4, 2002). "Commentary: Et Tu, Enron Lawyers?". Businessweek. 
  25. ^ http://adamsmithesq.com/2014/08/the-elite-face-off-ny-vs-london/
  26. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/22/business/dealbook/cuomo-picks-maria-vullo-as-states-top-financial-watchdog.html?_r=0
  27. ^ CBS News (PDF) http://www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/pdf/062807_off_the_record.pdf.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  28. ^ Qualters, Sheri (August 29, 2007). "Humor Helps the Firm Go Video". The National Law Journal. 
  29. ^ Nelson, Katie (November 2, 2009). "NY Daily News". New York. 
  30. ^ "Chicago Tribune". November 11, 2009. 
  31. ^ Schneider-Mayerson, Anna (February 18, 2007). "Associate Gets Crushed Beneath White Shoe". New York Observer. 
  32. ^ White & Case LLP
  33. ^ Morgan, Spencer (April 7, 2009). "Andy Spade Is a Giant in New York". New York Observer. 
  34. ^ van der Pool, Lisa (July 1, 2011). "Bill Lee: Still making his case". Boston Business Journal. 
  35. ^ Hawkins, Asher (June 28, 2010). "SEC's Revolving Door Often Spins More Than Once". Forbes. 
  36. ^ Sorkin, Andrew Ross (December 11, 2005). "They're All Paying Customers to Wall Street". The New York Times. 
  37. ^ Gomez, Edward M. (September 16, 2008). "With Wall Street crisis, now it's official: The sky is falling in". SFGate World Views. 
  38. ^ Gendar, Alison (September 14, 2009). "Straight-shooter judge could break up Junior Gotti's perfect game". NY Daily News. New York. 
  39. ^ Rubinstein, Dana (July 24, 2008). "It's Complicated: Insurance Firm Spills Space Gobbled by Former UBS President, Cleary Gottlieb". New York Observer. 
  40. ^ Gray, Geoffrey (December 15, 2003). "Charity Busters". City Limits. 
  41. ^ . Commercial Observer http://commercialobserver.com/2014/12/silverstein-recaps-1177-avenue-of-the-americas/.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  42. ^ Selvin, Molly (May 19, 2006). "Who Wins This Case? Lawyers". LA Times. 
  43. ^ Gertner, Jon (January 15, 2006). "What Is a Living Wage?". New York Times. 
  44. ^ Stull, Elizabeth (May 23, 2007). "Gay Couple Sues Landlord for Discrimination". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 
  45. ^ Buford, Talia (May 7, 2006). "Patton Boggs to pay Chevron $15M". Politico. 
  46. ^ Leiby, Richard (December 2005). "The Liberal on Karl Rove's Case". Banderas News. 
  47. ^ Zaitchik, Alexander (August 28, 2014). "Sludge Match: Inside Chevron's $9 Billion Legal Battle With Ecuadorean Villagers". Rolling Stone. 
  48. ^ "Business - Minding your MANNERS". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. June 9, 2002. 
  49. ^ Lin, Anthony (May 16, 2006). "Can the 'Jewish Law Firm' Success Story Be Duplicated?". New York Law Journal. 
  50. ^ Donohue, Pete (December 11, 2005). "MTA Pays Big Shots To Fight A Strike". NY Daily News. New York. 
  51. ^ ANN W., ANN W. (September 24, 2000). "He May Have Played a Lawyer on TV, but Nanny Produced the Brief". LA Times. 
  52. ^ Simpson, Jake (January 24, 2013). "Reed Smith Adds Goodwin Procter PE, M&A Partner In NY". Law 360. 
  53. ^ Rosen-Molina, Mike (August 7, 2008). "Overbilling lawsuit prompts debate over ethical duties to smaller clients". Law 360. 
  54. ^ Passerella, Gina (January 24, 2013). "Law Firms". Law 360. 
  55. ^ "IRS punts on secret $6 billion bailout for Puerto Rico: 2011". The Daily Caller. April 4, 2011. 
  56. ^ Mainland, Alexis; Goodman, J. David; Iaboni, Lisa; Vega, Tanzina; Dance, Gabriel; Han/, Rebecca (March 10, 2008). "Milestones in an Ambitious Career: 1992". New York Times. 
  57. ^ "Girl Trouble". New York Magazine. October 16, 2000. 
  58. ^ Weiss, Debra Cassens (August 19, 2009). "Wachtell Nabs Top Spot Again In Prestige Rankings". ABA Journal. 
  59. ^ Belkin, Lisa (January 24, 2008). "Who's Cuddly Now? Law Firms". New York Times. 
  60. ^ Sargent, Greg (September–October 2005). "The Ricochet". Mother Jones. 
  61. ^ Fitzgerald, Patrick (March 13, 2009). "SunCal Lawyer Whacks Weil". Wall Street Journal. 
  62. ^ Dempster, Quentin (April 23, 2005). "Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen: Corrupt populist". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on July 25, 2008. 
  63. ^ Gard, Stephen (1994). Fantastic Australians. Kangaroo Press. ISBN 0-86417-588-4. 

External links[edit]