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

As we’ve been covering in these pages, the Houston legal market is quite hot. So I’ve decided to pay a visit myself.

On the evening of September 15, I’ll be headlining an event in Houston sponsored by the Houston Urban Debate League (HUDL). In case you’re not familiar with it, HUDL is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that’s dedicated to re-introducing academic debate to under-served and at-risk students in Houston-area high schools.

You can purchase tickets via the link below. It’s a fundraiser for HUDL, so proceeds will be going to a worthy cause. I look forward to seeing you there!

UPDATE (9/6/2014, 1:45 p.m.): I’ll be having a conversation with Justice Don Willett of the Texas Supreme Court. He’s brilliant and hilarious; for proof, follow him on Twitter.

A Night with David Lat, founder of Above the Law [Houston Urban Debate League]

Mindy Kaling and Preet Bharara at the Harvard Law School commencement.

The legal world doesn’t have too many “crossover celebrities,” figures who are big enough to be known outside our little corner of the world. We can all think of a few — Alan Dershowitz, Judge Judy, Supreme Court justices (arguably) — and not all of them are awesome (cough cough, Nancy Grace).

One of the youngest crossover celebrities is Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He’s been on the cover of Time magazine. He’s attended the Vanity Fair Oscars party.

Bharara is best known for his crackdown on Wall Street abuses and insider trading, but he’s a fun person underneath the prosecutor’s dark suit. Yesterday the New York Times ran an interesting profile of Bharara. Here are some highlights….

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Now we’ll unmask this superhero.

Longtime readers of Above the Law will recall the tale of Aquagirl. She’s the former Cleary Gottlieb summer associate who, while in a state of inebriation, stripped down to her underwear at a Chelsea Piers charity benefit and jumped into the Hudson River. This might have been an effort to demonstrate her swimming prowess (she was on the swim team in college), but ultimately she had to be rescued in a boat by either the Coast Guard or the NYPD. Her exploits are now the stuff of legend, the bar by which summer associate misadventures are measured.

In these pages, we’ve referred to Aquagirl simply by her nickname, in keeping with our general policy of anonymizing summer associate stories. But that policy admits of exceptions. We will now unmask Aquagirl because she’s back in the headlines for newsworthy conduct — this time heroic rather than scandalous….

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In today’s Lawyerly Lairs column, we’ll step inside the beautiful home of a Biglaw partner — a name partner at an Am Law and Vault 100 firm, in fact. There aren’t many of those folks still around, since most of the nation’s largest and most prestigious firms are so old. Paul Cravath died in 1940, in case you’re wondering.

But there are a few Biglaw name partners around — at (relatively) young, super-profitable firms, like Wachtell Lipton, Quinn Emanuel, and Boies Schiller. And these lawyers own some fabulous real estate.

Which they sometimes put on the market. Let’s look at the next item up for bids: the D.C. home of a leading litigator, on the market for $4.85 million….

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The Riling family

I cannot believe how, just how generous and nice that was because you don’t see that very much anymore. Most people don’t take the time of day to do very much for anybody else, especially a stranger.

Sunny Riling, a Florida mom whose family recovered their lost camera containing treasured photos — with the help of a Biglaw partner.

(Read on to find out how….)

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Good luck to all of our readers who are now going through the on-campus interview process for 2015 summer associate positions. We’re sure that, armed with Anonymous Recruitment Director’s 8 tips for OCI, you are racking up offers left and right.

Once you have the offers, how do you decide between them? How do you weigh, for example, overall prestige versus strength in a specific practice area?

To this question we now turn….

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A year ago, in writing about how major law firms performed in the first half of 2013, I wondered whether Biglaw might be the proverbial frog in boiling water. I now wonder whether the analogy might still hold, but in a good way: could we be witnessing a quiet boom for Biglaw, happening so gradually that we don’t even realize it’s here?

In the past few weeks, a slew of mega-mergers have made headlines — which will hopefully turn into contributions to law firm coffers. But even if you focus just on the first six months of 2014, excluding the busy months of July and August, there’s good news to report.

Our friends at Citi Private Bank, a leading law firm lender, just released their report on how Biglaw fared in the first half of 2014. What are the key findings?

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As we noted in today’s Morning Docket, the American Lawyer just published an interesting article with a provocative title: Cleary’s Litigation Slump. In the piece, Michael Goldhaber notes some high-profile defeats recently suffered by Cleary Gottlieb, which he cites in wondering whether the super-elite law firm might be losing its courtroom mojo.

The article struck me as a bit unfair to Cleary. Here’s why….

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Make fun of the University of Chicago Law School’s law-and-economics focus all you want. Their graduates make good use of the training, enjoying tremendous success in the business world. Some of them go on to become billionaires — and then make eight-figure gifts to their alma mater.

The legal eagle featured in today’s Lawyerly Lairs coverage isn’t a billionaire, but he has done very, very well for himself, in both business and politics. And real estate: he just sold his urban mansion for more than $11 million.

You’ll feel pangs of envy when you find out how little he paid for it — and when you see what a beautiful property it is….

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Does being a Biglaw partner mean never having to say you’re sorry… for annoying, rude, or stupid firm-wide emails? When associates hit “reply all” to firm-wide emails, they sometimes wind up in hot water. But when partners send their random musings far and wide, their colleagues often praise them.

Sure, occasionally “reply all” emails from partners don’t go over well. Sometimes the messages come across as lecherous: “I admire your gumption, especially when you’re in a tight dress.” Sometimes they sound disloyal: “Why are we both still at this firm?”

Today’s Biglaw partner “reply all” doesn’t rise to those heights of cringe-worthiness. But it’s still bad enough to be worth sharing with you….

(Please note the UPDATE added below, which puts the partner’s email in proper context.)

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