David Benjamin Lat|
June 19, 1975
Bergenfield, New Jersey, U.S.
Harvard College (AB)|
Yale Law School (JD)
|Occupation||Legal Commentator and Author|
|Notable work||Supreme Ambitions; Founder of Above the Law|
David Benjamin Lat (born June 19, 1975) is an American lawyer, author, and legal commentator. Lat is the founder of Above the Law, a website about law firms and the legal profession.
Before blogging, Lat attended Harvard College and Yale Law School. After law school, he worked as a law clerk for a federal appeals judge (Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain), an associate at Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, and an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the appeals division in the District of New Jersey.
Lat first began blogging anonymously for the judicial gossip blog "Underneath Their Robes," until he revealed his identity in a November 2005 interview with Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker. Shortly thereafter, Lat launched Above the Law, a website featuring news about law firms and the legal profession and legal gossip. In December 2014, Lat published his debut novel, Supreme Ambitions.
Early life & education
David Lat is the son of Filipino doctors. He grew up in Bergenfield, New Jersey, and Saddle River, New Jersey. While living in Saddle River, his neighbors included former President Richard M. Nixon. On Halloween, he would get a Halloween card and a handshake from the former president. Lat attended Regis High School in Manhattan, New York. Lat won the Villiger Tournament for extemporaneous speaking in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
He attended Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he studied English, wrote dozens of columns for the Harvard Crimson, and was a member of the Harvard Speech and Parliamentary Debate Society. He earned a Bachelor of Arts Magna Cum Laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, graduating in 1996.
After law school, he went on to work as a judicial law clerk for a federal appeals court judge in Portland, Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, during the 1999–2000 judicial year. After his clerkship, he went on to a job at the Manhattan firm Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz. While at Wachtell, he worked on a fight over insurance payments for the World Trade Center on behalf of Wachtell's client, Larry Silverstein. One Wachtell partner noted that he seemed very unhappy in the drudgery of litigation.
After leaving Wachtell, Lat took a job in the appeals division of the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, and twice argued before Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. in the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. When his blogging became public, he met with then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, who praised his blog. At the end of 2005, Lat left his job at the U.S. Attorney's office. He reported that the resignation was his own choice, though his supervisor encouraged him to take any blogging opportunities afforded by his new notoriety.
Underneath Their Robes
In June 2004, Lat anonymously started the website Underneath Their Robes (UTR), a gossip blog about the federal judiciary, under the pseudonym Article III Groupie (also known as A3G). While Lat mentioned his background as a former federal judicial clerk from a top law school, he gave the readers the impression that the author was a female lawyer at a large law firm. The blog became widely popular when it conducted a poll on the "Superhotties of the Federal Judiciary", and several federal judges, including Alex Kozinski and Richard Posner, corresponded with Article III Groupie. The blog interviewed several judges and gained national media coverage in the wake of the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court nominations of John Roberts, Harriet Miers, and Samuel Alito. The blog also served as a clearinghouse for news and gossip about clerks for the Supreme Court, whom A3G called "the Elect."
In November 2005, Lat revealed A3G's identity in an interview with Jeffrey Toobin for the magazine The New Yorker. In the story, Lat gave an explanation for his alter ego: "[t]he blog really reflects two aspects of my personality, I am very interested in serious legal issues as well as in fun and frivolous and gossipy issues. I can go from the Harvard Law Review to Us Weekly very quickly." After leaving the U.S. Attorney's office in January 2006, Lat became an editor of Washington, D.C. blog Wonkette (at the time, part of the Gawker Media network), formerly run by Ana Marie Cox. (Lat no longer actively posts on UTR, but the archives are available online.)
Above the Law
In June 2006, Lat announced his decision to leave Wonkette in order to form a legal gossip blog with Dealbreaker's Elizabeth Spiers. In August 2006, this blog was founded as 'Above the Law'. In July 2008, he became the managing editor of Breaking Media, overseeing its stable of blogs out of its New York office. In December 2009, Lat announced that he would be returning to full-time writing and editing of Above the Law, after a new CEO and executive editor joined Breaking Media.
As Above the Law's readership and network of informers grew, Lat and his staff began to exercise substantial influence on the legal industry. One of their biggest scoops came in 2012, when Lat "broke the news that one of most prestigious law firms in the world, Dewey & LeBoeuf, which employed more than 1,300 attorneys in 12 countries in 2007, was on the verge of imploding.". Business Insider named Lat one of the 20 biggest legal stars on Twitter, calling his Twitter feed a "treasure trove of law firm gossip, employment trends, stupid law student antics, and pretty much anything else concerning the legal industry."
Author and writing
Lat's writing has also appeared in various newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, New York Observer, and Washingtonian.
In 2014, Lat published his first novel, Supreme Ambitions, to favorable reviews. The novel details the rise of Audrey Coyne, a recent Yale Law School graduate who dreams of clerking for the U.S. Supreme Court, mirroring Lat's own former ambitions. After graduating from YLS, Audrey moves to the West Coast to clerk for a highly regarded appeals-court judge, just as Lat did. Also similar to Lat's familiar blogging style, the novel features some headline-making cases, romance, and judicial gossip. According to The New York Times, "for an elite niche — consisting largely of federal judges and their clerks — Supreme Ambitions has become the most buzzed-about novel of the year."
Lat is gay. He is married to fellow lawyer Zachary Baron Shemtob. They had a son in October 2017.
- Jonathan Miller, He Fought the Law. They Both Won., The New York Times, January 22, 2006.
- "National Circuit Tournament Champions". Extemp Central.
- "David B. Lat". thecrimson.com.
- "High School Students Flock to Annual Debate Tournament". thecrimson.com.
- "Legally Speaking Interview with David Lat". uchastings.edu.
- "The Yale Law Journal – Masthead: Volume 108". yalelawjournal.org.
- David A. Kaplan, Judges: Who's Fairest?, Newsweek, July 19, 2004.
- Jeffrey Toobin, SCOTUS WATCH, The New Yorker, November 21, 2005
- Letter From the Editors: Politics Makes Strange Blogfellows Archived April 12, 2006, at the Wayback Machine., Wonkette, January 30, 2006.
- Shakeup At Gawker Media: Jesse Oxfeld Out; Shuffle Across Blogs; Two Properties Up For Sale, The Huffington Post, July 2, 2006.
- "David Lat Heads to New York – The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times". typepad.com.
- "Above the Law". Above the Law.
- French, Alex (December 12, 2012). "How Gossip Transformed the Legal Industry". Details. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
- Abby Rogers (October 17, 2012). "The 20 Biggest Legal Stars On Twitter". Business Insider. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
- New York Times article
- New York Times op-ed
- David Lat (October 25, 2013). "Book Review: 'The Partner Track' by Helen Wan". WSJ.
- Alter, Alexandra (December 7, 2014). "Pleasing the Court with Intrigue". Retrieved September 23, 2015.
- "About The Book". Supreme Ambitions.