Above the Law Founder David Lat Takes Five

David Lat takes five with The Ex-Lawyers Club to reflect on his career after the law.  Here’s what he had to say:

1. Life for a lawyer who leaves the law is…a blank slate. This is both a good and a bad thing. An ex-lawyer speaking on a panel about career alternatives once said something like, “The good news is, you can do anything with a law degree. The bad news is, you can do anything with a law degree.”

2. The hardest thing about being an ex-lawyer is…having to explain to your parents’ friends at holiday parties why you left a (relatively) secure, well-paying job for something that offers much less pay and prestige (at least early on).

3. The best thing about being an ex-lawyer is…reduced anxiety. Legal work is difficult, and mistakes can have serious consequences for your clients. It’s so liberating not to have to worry about how some error of yours — a misplaced comma in a contract, a case you left out of your brief — could result in your client being liable for millions of dollars, or going to prison, or worse.

4. The primary misconception of ex-lawyers is…that we weren’t good at the practice of law — that we couldn’t cut it, as some of your past interviewees have written. Many of us were perfectly good (or even very good) lawyers; we just discovered other things we’d rather be doing.

5. The main difference between my life now and my life as a lawyer is…I get to express my individuality. As a lawyer, it’s not about you; it’s about your client. As a writer and a blogger, on the other hand, I’m allowed and even encouraged to bring my personality to bear and to let my creativity shine through.

David, with lawyerly precision, wished to note:  I may not be an “ex-lawyer” in the most technical sense, since I still maintain my law license and handle the occasional legal issue for Breaking Media, the company that publishes Above the Law, the legal blog I founded. But I spend only a small portion of my time on legal work, so I definitely have the ex-lawyer sensibility.

Editor’s response:  It’s okay David, we still love you!  Check out David’s fantastic work at Breaking Media and Above the Law.


7 responses to “Above the Law Founder David Lat Takes Five

  1. Definitely not true you can do anything with a law degree. You might be able to do some thing in spite of your law degree, but it does not come close to opening all doors. If you want to be a doctor, you have to go to med school. If you want to be a journalist, you’ll probably need to get a degree in journalism (to get internships and a file of clips). To be a professor you’re going to need a PhD.

    Of course, a law degree doesn’t prevent you from going back to school and getting that education. But, then again, neither does a degree in education or nursing. In what way can you “do anything with a law degree” that wouldn’t be true for any other degree you could get?

  2. You definitely don’t need a PhD to be a professor (law prof? business school prof?). And being a journalist absolutely does not require a journalism degree, just a knack for great writing and certain investigative skills.

  3. BL1Y, are you mentally handicapped? Obviously you need an additional degree to be a medical doctor, but CLEARLY you do not necessarily require additional academic qualifications to be a journalist or a professor (… cause we don’t know any professors w/ JDs sans PhDs… lol).

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  5. Captain Obvious,

    Of course you cannot go into a highly specialized field just because you have a law degree. That wasn’t the point.
    Law Degree=Open Doors with greater ease than most other degrees.

    For example, I went from being a practicing attorney to an oil and gas consultant. I had no experience in the field but my law degree helped get my foot in the door. My writing samples, interview and resume got the job.

    Another example, all the blonde corerspondents on Fox News. Lawyers gone rabid news anchors. (And I do not know, nor do I care, if they have journalism degrees.)

    Not everything has to be taken to such literal extremes.


    Hoping Captain Obvious gets a clue

  6. Bill and Sweet415: Most new law professors have a PhD, JSD or at least a Masters. 20-30 years ago, you only needed a JD, but now it’s pretty normal for a professor to also have a PhD in economics, history or philosophy.

    As for journalism, try looking for jobs. Most news outlets want both experience in journalism and several sample clips. If you go knocking at a news room door telling them “I’m a great writer! I can investigate!” they’ll want some evidence before giving you a job. If you did journalism in undergrad, you’d have written for the school’s paper and gotten a couple summer internships. Breaking into journalism without that experience is extremely difficult.

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