David Lat

David Lat is the founder and managing editor of Above the Law. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Observer, Washingtonian magazine, and New York magazine. Prior to ATL, he launched Underneath Their Robes, a blog about federal judges. Before entering the journalism world, he worked as a federal prosecutor in Newark, New Jersey; a litigation associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, in New York; and a law clerk to Judge Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. David graduated from Harvard College and Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal. He has received several awards for his work on ATL, including recognition as one of the American Lawyer’s Top 50 Big Law Innovators of the Last 50 Years; one of the ABA Journal’s Legal Rebels, a group of pioneers within the legal profession; and one of the Fastcase 50, "the fifty most interesting, provocative, and courageous leaders in the world of law, scholarship, and legal technology." You can connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

Posts by David Lat

I am on record as an optimist when it comes to the internet. The free flow of information on the web, including but not limited to websites like Above the Law, helps people make better decisions about their lives and careers (and also entertains, a value that shouldn’t be ignored).

At the same time, as we’ve discussed before, the web has its dark side….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Dark Side Of The Web”

Staci here. We’re sure many of you have applied to clerk for or have actually clerked for federal appeals court judges. We’re sure that waiting for a response after you submitted all of your paperwork was simply agonizing.

If you got the job, congratulations; we bet you were absolutely elated. If you got rejected, you might have been disappointed. But if you got a rejection letter like the one we’re about to show you, you must’ve been downright, well, confused. While we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in federal clerkship rejection letters — see, e.g., here and here — we’ve never seen anything quite like this before.

This is something we think you’re going to want to take a look at. Call it “rejection via resignation”….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Rejection Letter Of The Day: You Can’t Clerk For Me Because… I’m Quitting!”

With the death of the Law Clerk Hiring Plan, federal judges are hiring law clerks earlier and earlier in students’ law school careers. We recently wondered — jokingly, but only half-jokingly — whether 1Ls should start applying for clerkships.

So federal judges should be keenly interested in the insights of young legal minds — especially minds being cultivated at the Yale Law School, the nation’s #1 law school (according to both the U.S. News rankings and the Above the Law rankings). Right?

Well, just because a judge wants your advice as a law clerk doesn’t mean he wants to hear from you as an expert witness. A current Yale law student recently learned this lesson the hard way….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Benchslap Dispatches: Judge Not Interested In Yale Law Student’s ‘Opinions’”

“Best amicus brief ever” might not be saying much. Parakeets are pretty indifferent to the liners of their cages.

Every now and then, though, we come across amicus briefs that are a little unusual or interesting. Like one with somewhat surprising or high-profile signatories — say, NFL players, or leading Republicans in favor of gay marriage. Or one that takes the form of a cartoon. Or one that’s just bats**t insane.

Today we bring you an amicus brief that will make you laugh out loud — which shouldn’t be surprising, given that it’s being submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a leading humorist….

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A lawsuit filed earlier this month has raised the ire of several leading lawyers and legal bloggers. Noted First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza — a panelist at our Attorney@Blog conference, by the way — describes the case as “truly disgusting.” Ken White of Popehat, another prominent commentator on the legal profession, calls the suit “despicable” and “thoroughly contemptible,” writing that he “cannot remember a lawsuit that so immediately repulsed and enraged.”

Let’s find out what all the buzz is about. Which law firm filed this controversial complaint, what is the case about, and how bad is it?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Biglaw Firm’s ‘Disgusting’ And ‘Despicable’ Lawsuit?”

We’ve seen this story before. A firm experiences a dip in profitability, then starts losing key partners (or reverse the order if you like; falling profits and defecting partners go hand in hand). Worried about its survival, the firm starts seeking out a white knight, in the form of a merger partner. And then….

Well, that depends. Sometimes a merger partner is found and the combined firms live happily ever after. Sometimes a merger partner is found and the combined firms suffer together, with the weaker firm effectively giving the stronger firm the “cooties.” And sometimes no merger partner is found at all; the troubled firm goes down, and rival firms swoop in like vultures to pick off the top practices and rainmakers. We can all think of examples of each scenario.

What will happen to Patton Boggs, the troubled law firm plagued by plummeting profits, fleeing partners, and layoffs galore? It’s too early to tell. Right now we’re at the stage of the firm casting about for someone to merge with. Who is the firm’s latest love interest?

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SCOTUS: coming to a theater near you?

If you’re a legal geek who loves theater (I know I am), these are exciting times. Here in New York, you can check out a play in which a legal luminary’s daughter appears naked. Down in D.C. in a few weeks, you can attend Arguendo, the SCOTUS-themed play by Elevator Repair Service that’s being staged by the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. (I saw the play last year and enjoyed it.)

That’s not all. Also coming to Washington: a new play featuring a Supreme Court justice as its star….

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Smokey Bear, please report to Patton Boggs.

Is Patton Boggs on fire — and not in a good way?

The prominent lobbying and law firm recently announced the closing of its office in Newark, New Jersey. Discussing the move with Politico, managing partner Edward Newberry said, “We’ve lit intentionally a forest fire, we’ve controlled that forest fire. While we’ve lost a few people over the last year, who are good friends and good partners, our firm is much stronger today than it’s been in a long time.”

The firm has lost “a few people” over the last year? How about roughly 100 attorneys, representing 20 percent of lawyer headcount, plus an unknown number of staff? With additional prominent partners said to be eying the emergency exits?

Somebody call 911, law firm fire burnin’ on the dance floor….

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‘Congratulations. You’re still in the running towards becoming America’s next top law review.’

Replace the gorgeous, leggy models with bespectacled, Bluebook-wielding law students. Replace the photo shoots with cite checks. Replace Tyra Banks with a law librarian.

Voilà! You’ve replaced America’s Next Top Model with something far more fabulous: America’s Next Top Law Review.

And yes, there is a new top law review. Harvard Law Review, which has dominated the leading set of rankings for the past seven years, has been dethroned. To quote Dani from Cycle 6 of ANTM, “Shut yo mouth and say it ain’t true!”

Oh, but it is true. They’re all beautiful — or at least impeccably Bluebooked — but only one girl has what it takes. Who is the nation’s new #1 law journal?

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Yes, benchslaps are great fun to read about, especially if you enjoy a little schadenfreude. But benchslaps are not fun to receive — and they’re not always justified.

Because of the prestige of judicial office, judges generally get the benefit of the doubt when dishing out benchslaps. But sometimes judges go too far. For example, some observers felt that Judge Richard Posner crossed the line when interrogating a Jones Day partner during a recent Seventh Circuit argument.

This brings us to today’s benchslap — directed at a lawyer for the federal government, no less. It’s harsh, but is it warranted?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Benchslap Of The Day: Just. Produce. The Documents!”

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