Books Notes: In Black and White – A Young Barrister’s Story of Race and Class in a Broken Legal System

3 Sentence Summary

Alexandra Wilson sets out her very real experience of being a pupil Barrister, the professional challenges and the skills that made her have the success she has. She poignantly highlights throughout the book the various discrimination issues facing the Bar and the Criminal Justice System whilst shattering the stereotype that Barristers are old white men. She also notes how the state of the Criminal Justice System leaves those from the most deprived backgrounds likely to suffer the most.


The book provides and incredibly accessible overview of life as a pupil barrister with very real court room examples (all pseudonomised) which highlight the various human challenges presented when trying to administer justice.  The book clearly sets out the challenges of racial bias which still exist at the Bar and throughout the Criminal Justice System. You are left thinking that more must be done to challenge perceptions and attitudes so that black people and minorities are no longer over represented in prison by underrepresented in at the various levels of the system  that placed them there.

Who should read it

It is a must read for any aspiring barrister and anyone interested in understanding the levels of racial prejudice that (sadly) exist in the Criminal Justice System.

My key take aways

If you are about to have a criminal hearing maybe ask for Alex Wilson to represent you and don’t be surprised when Alex is a woman. On a more serious note, the future of the Bar (and the legal industry as a whole) is one of diversity and this book highlights the desperate need for that. If the public is to have faith in the Justice System then it must be operated (at all levels) by a workforce that represents society. It has also reminded me to remember how my background has made my life and career easier.

Top three quotes

“There should be representatives from all types of ethnic and racial backgrounds that better reflect the public we serve.”

“In a well-functioning society, people should only convicted if we can be sure of their guilt and should only face a punishment proportionate to the crime.  One way to ensure this is for every defendant to have good legal representation, as well as the state being represented.”

“I take pride in the fact I am a barrister from a non-traditional background, my clients feel that I am relatable and trust me to help them with the significant choices they have to make.”

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