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 Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, New York magazine, Washingtonian magazine, and the New York Observer. 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." His first book, Supreme Ambitions: A Novel, will be published in 2015. You can connect with David on Twitter and Facebook.

Posts by David Lat

Hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time with us.

Some of our readers are old enough to remember the 1990s. It was, in my opinion, a glorious decade for popular music. (I have a collection of beloved cassette singles from that era.)

But we’re here to talk about the legal profession, not pop music. What were the nineties like for Biglaw?

Also glorious. There was a recession in the early 1990s, but for the most part, times were good. This was especially true near the tail end of the decade, when the booming dot-com economy filled the coffers of many large law firms (before the arrival of the early 2000s recession).

How much of that wealth trickled down to the associates? Let’s find out….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Flashback Friday: A Look At Associate Compensation In The 1990s (Part 1)”

Staci here. Earlier this month, Vault released its closely watched rankings of the nation’s 100 most prestigious law firms. It was there that we learned Wachtell Lipton held onto its title as the most prestigious firm in America for the twelfth year in a row — but not by much. Cravath was very close to snatching the crown, and we’ll see how this grudge match pans out next year.

In the meantime, please don’t think that we’ve forgotten how much our loyal readers enjoy Biglaw rankings. Perhaps your firm isn’t the most prestigious, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have clout. Some law firms reign supreme when it comes to certain practice areas, and others are known to dominate entire regions of the country.

Which law firms are considered to be at the top of their game by practice area and region? Let’s find out!

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We’re in the home stretch of October Term 2013 at the Supreme Court. After the final two opinions are handed down on Monday, the justices will scatter to the winds (and supplement their incomes with teaching, often in lovely European destinations).

During the month of July, the clerk classes will turn over. Each week, new clerks will arrive and outgoing clerks will depart — do pass go, do collect your $300,000. (Or more; we’re hearing rumors of possible upward movement this year; drop us a line if you have info to share.)

So now is a good time to look at the latest SCOTUS clerk hires. We have almost all the clerks for October Term 2014, plus a few new hires for October Term 2015….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Supreme Court Clerk Hiring Watch: Looking Ahead To October Term 2015″

Warrant or GTFO.

Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple — get a warrant.

– Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the Court in Riley v. California, holding that the police generally need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest.

(Additional highlights from Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion, after the jump.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “SCOTUS Gets Saucy With The Po-Po”

The legal job market remains challenging, but there are some bright spots. As we reported on Friday, entry-level Biglaw hiring is up by almost 10 percent compared to last year.

Many law school students and graduates view working at a prestigious law firm as a cure-all. And it’s true that a starting salary of $160,000 is one of the best ways for law school grads to service six-figure debt loads.

But for some young lawyers, a Biglaw job is far from a panacea. The stress and long hours create new problems — problems that can be hard to solve while holding down a demanding law firm job.

Here is one associate’s very sad situation. What would you advise him or her to do?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Biglaw Associate’s Terrible Dilemma”

Everyone smile and say “certiorari”!

The opinions released by the Supreme Court this morning were not super-exciting. The good news, pointed out by Professor Rick Hasen on Twitter, is that “[t]here are no likely boring #SCOTUS opinions left.” (But see Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer, noted by Ken Jost.)

So let’s talk about something more interesting than today’s SCOTUS opinions: namely, the justices’ recently released financial disclosures. Which justices are taking home the most in outside income? How robust are their investments?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Underneath Their Robes: A Detailed Dive Into The Justices’ Financial Disclosures”

Hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time with us.

Earlier this week, the good folks over at Vault released their annual list of the nation’s 100 most prestigious law firms. As we noted in our analysis of the list, the top 15 for this year don’t look very different from the top 15 from last year.

Wachtell Lipton topped the list for the 12th year in a row. But as Vault noted, Cravath isn’t far behind — and could retake the crown that it relinquished to Wachtell back in 2004.

Yes, that’s right — Wachtell hasn’t always been #1. On this “Flashback Friday,” let’s look back at the Vault rankings from 2008 and 1998 and see how things looked in the past….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Flashback Friday: The Nation’s 15 Most Prestigious Law Firms — In 2008 And 1998″

The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) just released its employment data for the law school class of 2013. Roughly nine months after graduation, how are these folks faring in the job market?

As we’ve come to expect from jobs reports in the post-recession “new normal” (which is no longer really “new”), there’s good news and there’s bad news. The big picture: new graduates found more jobs in total and median starting salaries grew, but the overall employment rate fell due to the historically large graduating class.

Shall we take a look at some numbers?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “How Did The Law School Class Of 2013 Do In The Job Market?”

It pains me to say this, given my own predilection for prestige worship, but here’s a question: does prestige matter as much as it used to? In an era of greater access to information, a law firm’s overall prestige arguably matters less than it once did.

If a client is looking for an excellent firm in a particular practice area, it can now easily access information about which firms, and even which individual lawyers, excel in which niches. It no longer has to rely on a firm’s brand name as a proxy for a specific strength. And other factors matter to the public as well. Is a firm a good place to work? How stable is its partnership, in this era of increased lateral movement? Is the firm growing or declining?

But make no mistake: prestige is still hugely important. Which is why the Vault law firm rankings are so eagerly anticipated each year.

The latest rankings from Vault of the country’s 100 most prestigious law firms just came out. How do they look?

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Ted Olson and David Boies (photo by yours truly)

We do treat [gays] the same. None of them can get married to each other. That’s called equal protection. Are you familiar with that clause?

Stephen Colbert, speaking about same-sex marriage last night while interviewing David Boies and Ted Olson, the lawyers behind the legal challenge to Proposition 8 and the authors of a new book, Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality (affiliate link).

(More about Boies and Olson and their book, plus video footage of their Colbert Report appearance, after the jump.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Lesson In Constitutional Law From Stephen Colbert”

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