Founder Of Above the Law
David Lat is a Managing Director in the New York office of Lateral Link, a leading legal recruiting firm, where he focuses on placing top associates, partners, and in-house counsel into preeminent law firms and corporate legal departments around the country.
David is also a well-known legal writer, covering legal affairs for several (U.S.) national publications, and is a highly sought-after speaker for law firm events including firm-wide retreats, partner retreats, summer associate gatherings, and diversity initiatives.
David Lat is a Managing Director in the New York office of Lateral Link, a leading legal recruiting firm, where he focuses on placing top associates, partners, and in-house counsel into preeminent law firms and corporate legal departments around the country. David is also a well-known legal writer, covering legal affairs for several (U.S.) national publications, and is a highly sought-after speaker for law firm events including firm-wide retreats, partner retreats, summer associate gatherings, and diversity initiatives.
Glad to have you here today. First off, I’m happy that you are here available for this interview after your Covid-19 infection. Since you’ve shared your experiences through social media, as a Covid19 survivor, I hope you don’t mind my asking if there is there anything you would like to say about the infection and our general approach to containing this pandemic?
The main point I’d like to make, which I made while chronicling my illness in real time on Twitter (@DavidLat), is that Covid-19 isn’t just an issue for the elderly or the infirm. At the time that I got sick, I was a healthy 44-year-old who could run long distances – I completed the New York marathon twice, years ago – and who went to the gym multiple times a week. But I still wound up in the hospital for almost three weeks, including a week on the ventilator. Reasonable mind can disagree on what measures we should impose to deal with Covid-19, but it is definitely very real and very dangerous.
Following up on the prior question, I think it is fair to say that Covid-19 has been the biggest disruptor of 2020 (and hopefully will remain so). In your opinion, how would you say the legal world has adapted to the necessary constraints of remote working, and travel restrictions? In addition to collaborative teleconference solutions, what LegalTech tools / features do you think are most prized by lawyers and their clients?
The legal world has adapted surprisingly well to working remotely and to traveling less. Lawyers aren’t always the greatest about adopting new technologies, but the pandemic has forced them to – and many of them are glad that they did. In addition to teleconference solutions like the now-ubiquitous Zoom, many lawyers I know have gotten to learn Microsoft Teams – which does have its own video function, but which also allows for collaboration on preparing written work product, a key task for lawyers.
“Many great opportunities don’t come with great paychecks.”
Worked at a very prestigious Law Firm, AUSA, founded Above the Law, and penned Underneath Their Robes…. Are you a lawyer that writes, or a writer who happens to know a thing or two about the law?
At this point, I would say that I’m a writer who happens to know a thing or two about the law. Although I still maintain my New York bar license, I haven’t practiced in years. Whenever I need legal help, I hire another lawyer. Legal work has gotten complex enough that you really want an expert in any given field you are dealing with.
What motivated you to go from Wachtell Lipton to the Department of Justice – isn’t that the reverse of the typical career route?
Actually, it is not unusual for lawyers to start their careers at large law firms, aka “Biglaw,” before going on to do something else. The Department of Justice typically wants lawyers with a few years of experience, and so many young lawyers get that experience at firms. Firms train well and also pay well, so it isn’t surprising that many lawyers begin their careers at firms.
You are a respected legal mind, a celebrated journalist, and burgeoning author. What advice do you have for others who are starting out in their legal careers, or perhaps want to disrupt their current career path? How would Lateral Link help someone with a career trajectory as unorthodox as yours?
I have two main pieces of advice. First, keep yourself open to possibilities; you never know where your next opportunity might come from. I entered the journalism world through legal blogging, but when I was in law school, legal blogging didn’t really exist. Second, make yourself financially independent as soon as you can – for example, by paying off law school loans. Many great opportunities don’t come with great paychecks, and the more financial flexibility you have, the more freedom you will have to accept these opportunities.
Can we expect more novels in the future? Another clandestine blog?
I would like to do more outside writing, but between being a parent – my husband and I have a three-year-old son, who’s a handful – and my work as a recruiter, it’s hard to find the time. I would definitely would like to write another book, but I haven’t figured out what it might be. Perhaps I’d write a non-fiction work drawing on some of my own experiences. I certainly feel that I have had an unusual and interesting career and life.
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