Taranjit Sohanpaul (Allerton High School) reviews Alexandra Wilson's 'In Black and White'

Alexandra Wilson’s In Black and White: A Young Barrister’s Story of Race and Class in a Broken Justice System offers an incredible insight into the legal profession from the perspective of a pupil barrister. She begins by courageously explaining one of the most influential events in her life which results in her decision to becomes a barrister: the devastating death of a close friend. Throughout her book, Wilson mentions - a considerable number of times - that she often has to take a step back and remind herself why she is putting up with this ‘broken justice system’ (to honour her friend). This highlights the arguably immense struggles that a barrister has to endure during their career, and when they recognise the need to keep pushing through, they think back to the start of their journey: why? Could it therefore be argued that barristers battle with their passion in their profession and require more support regardless of the prestige associated with law? This is something that Wilson mentions in her book, particularly in relation to being a young woman.


The epicentre of the book is “Race and Class” which are both thoroughly explored within the book. Many recounts include a barrister or client expressing their surprise at Wilson’s race. This illuminates the everlasting perception of the stereotypical barrister: a white, middle aged man. As it’s also the clients who are often surprised, should change start from outside the justice system? Wilson puts forward the idea that more women (and BAME individuals) should enter the legal profession and aim high to tackle this from within. After all, it is the justice system itself which requires a restructuring from within to allow justice outside of it.  

Overall, this is a tremendous book which encapsulates many thinking points. The focal point is that anyone can make change no matter their characteristics.


Something I agreed with in this book was:

Not only should a more diverse range of people consider the legal profession, those from within the justice system should accept a wider range of people – whether they are recruiting or working with someone from a BAME background.

Something I disagreed with is this book was:

Perhaps the legal system is ‘bent’ rather than ‘broken’ - many years ago there were huge disparities in society which would have reflected within the justice system, however there has been change towards less disparities since and this is even brought to light in the book. Could one final push or change (such as more acceptance of a more diverse range of people at senior levels) equate everyone and “black and white” people?

Something I learnt from reading this book that I didn’t know about this subject before was:

There were many things that I learnt from this book, however the main thing I learned was that racism is still an issue within an institution which we would automatically assume is now equal.