The Life and Career of David Lat: The Biggest Law Firm Troublemaker Around
by Stony Olsen
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<<Lat is a blogger, and he has been one for a long time. His current legal blog is called Above the Law, and can best be described as a sort of "legal tabloid." In other words, he digs up the gossip, the scandals, and also reports the good news on many firms and their inner workings.
Lat was born in 1975 and graduated from Yale Law School, where he served on the Yale Law Review and was also vice president of the school chapter of the Federalist Society. He then clerked for a judge on the Ninth Circuit, after which he went to work for Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. After two and a half years there, he moved on to the US Attorney's Office in New Jersey.
It was there that he ventured into blogging, starting the website Underneath Their Robes — an anonymous gossip blog about the federal Judiciary. He posed as a female lawyer at a large law firm, until finally "outing" himself in November of 2005.
While at Underneath Their Robes, he conducted a poll on the "Superhotties of the Federal Judiciary," which catapulted the blog to widespread popularity, especially after several federal judges corresponded with the blog. The blog also served as a source of news about the clerks on the Supreme Court, or, as the blog called them, The Elect.
When he announced his identity as the blogger at Underneath Their Robes, Lat's real workplace asked him to take the site down, which he did.
Lat left the US Attorney's Office in 2005 and joined the political blog Wonkette. In June of 2006, he left Wonkette and started Above the Law, which went online in August of 2006.
Ever since, Lat has proved to be a thorn in the side of big law firms, judges, and anyone else he can dig up juicy stories on. Above the Law is widely read by many associates and others who find it a fascinating way to spend time.
Under Lat's direction, Above the Law tracks the spiraling increase in associate salaries (on hold at the moment), mergers, and other things. Particularly fun are the "Judge of the Day" and the "Lawyer of the Day" columns, which usually involve some poor lawyer or judge behaving rather poorly.
Being featured on Above the Law usually leads to some form of Internet celebrity, whether for good or ill. Law Firms have quickly come to find out that in addition to regular legal news magazines such as Law.com and Legal Times, Above the Law can drive coverage as well. For example, earlier this year the large firm Paul Hastings got savaged by Lat based on their alleged underhanded firing of an associate. The savagery, which many associates, lawyers, and others participated in, was exacerbated by the fact that Paul Hastings apparently decided that they had no need to respond to Lat and Above the Law. Meanwhile, the associate in question emerged, generally, as a hero.
But Above the Law isn't always bad news for featured firms — those firms that provide or increase associate benefits are usually noted and praised for those decisions. In short, Above the Law really is the view of the anonymous associate.
Indeed, many anonymous associates and others are willing to dish dirt about their firms, leading to much of the content being derived from tips, which Lat tries to confirm by contacting the firms.
Lat has created a monster with Above the Law, and in doing so, has likely become the most feared lawyer in America. Now that he is moving to New York, look for more firms to be even more afraid of him and his unequaled talent for digging up the stories you want to read about — just not at your firm.
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