What Does White-Shoe Law Firm Mean?

White Shoe Law Firm Meaning

Definition: An old, well-established, and prestigious law firm.

Sometimes people use the expression white-shoe firm to describe other institutions that fit this criteria—not only law firms. For example, banking, accounting, finance, etc.

Origin of White Shoe Law Firm

This expression comes from the white buckskin shoes that students wore at Ivy League schools. Those students often went on to get good jobs in the best law firms. It originated around the 1950s.

If someone describes an institution as a white-shoe firm, it is usually thought to be well-established, prestigious, East coast, and traditional.

Examples of White Shoe Law Firm

white shoe law firms In this dialogue, two employees are discussing the possibility of a job change.

Deanna: Hey, Emily. I was thinking of accepting a new position at a different place.

Emily: Really? That’s great! This job never gave you a chance to grow. What kind of job is it?

Deanna: It would be a marketing position with a white-shoe law firm.

Emily: Really? Which law firm?

Deanna: It’s called Lockheart and Holmes.

Emily: Wow! They’ve been around for over a hundred years. That’s a very prestigious firm! I’m surprised they even need advertising.

Deanna: They don’t, actually. My role will be in keeping up the company image, rather than creating ads.

white shoes law firmIn the second example, two baseball players are discussing a lawsuit against their team.

Billy: I can’t believe Tom is suing us!

Angie: Yeah, it’s a ridiculous claim. He says that we made him practice in rainy weather, so the mud made him slip and break his leg. He could have chosen to not practice! No one made him do anything. There’s no way he’ll win the lawsuit.

Billy: Don’t be so sure. He’s hired a white-shoe law firm to take his case.

Angie: Really? How could Tom afford to pay such high rates?

Billy: Tom comes from a very rich family.

More Examples

This excerpt uses the expression in an excerpt about lawyers working with the video game industry.

  • “I just love games,” he said, his freckled face stretching into a grin that makes him look more like Dennis the Menace than an envoy from a white-shoe law firm. –LA Times

This excerpt is about a lawyer at an established law firm.

  • Before running the New York City public school system, Klein served as antitrust chief at the Justice Department and was previously chief executive of Bertelsmann Inc. Last year, Lon Jacobs, News Corp.’s longtime general counsel, left after bumping up against Klein. Earlier this month, News Corp. named Gerson Zweifach, a partner at the white-shoe law firm of Williams & Connolly, its new top lawyer. –LA Times


A white-shoe firm is a highly respected, professional institution that usually has existed for over a hundred years and is very profitable.