White shoe firm
is a phrase used to describe the leading professional services firms in America
, particularly firms that have been in existence for more than a century and represent Fortune 500
companies. It frequently—but not always—refers to securities, law and management consulting firms, and frequently (but not always) refers to firms in New York City
. A similar phrase, Magic Circle
, refers to law firms
in the UK
, while the Big Six refers to leading Australian law firms and Seven Sisters to similar Canadian firms.
According to William Safire, the phrase derives from "white bucks", a type of laced suede or buckskin shoe with a red sole, long popular among upper-class New Englanders, especially at Ivy League colleges. Originally, it reflected a stereotype of old-line firms populated by WASPs, but the phrase has since become innocuous. In the case of investment banks (Goldman, Lazard, Lehman), the term referred to not only WASPs but also aristocratic Jews.
Examples of white shoe firms
The following firms are often referred to as being White Shoe firms:
The "New" White-Shoe Law firms
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 law 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.
Notes and references