White Lawyering: Rethinking Race, Lawyer Identity, and Rule of Law

19 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2005 Last revised: 12 May 2010


Critical race theory challenges the idea of neutrality with regard to race. In contrast, professionalism requires that lawyers bleach out their racial identity. For white lawyers like myself, our tendency to view our white identity as neutral reinforces the approach of professionalism and leads us to see racial issues as belonging to people of color. This essay explores what would happen if we acknowledge whiteness as a particular racial identity that shapes how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. Recent research in the field of organizational behavior indicates that businesses employing racially conscious integration-and-learning approaches are more successful in promoting their objectives than those applying racially neutral paradigms. Applying these findings in the context of the legal profession, the Essay concludes that replacing the neutrality of professionalism with a racially conscious approach will promote more effective representation of clients and more equal justice under law.

Keywords: critical race theory, neutrality, race, whiteness, jurisprudence, legal ethics, lawyer identity, rule of law, counselling, professionalism, legal profession, color blind, race conscious, equal justice

Suggested Citation

Pearce, Russell G., White Lawyering: Rethinking Race, Lawyer Identity, and Rule of Law. Fordham Law Review, Vol. 73, p. 2081, 2005, Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 94, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=779525

Russell G. Pearce (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States
212-636-6834 (Phone)
212-636-6899 (Fax)

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