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04 December 2020

Above the Law founder David Lat unveils new legal title

Original Jurisdiction launches with Boies Schiller interview that challenges narrative firm is in trouble

By John Malpas

Above the Law founder David Lat has launched a new title that promises a serious tone and a ‘generally positive outlook’ on law and the legal profession.

Lat will be the sole contributor to Original Jurisdiction, which is published on the blogging platform Substack, and is adopting a subscriptions model. This, he says, will allow him to avoid ‘sensationalism and partisanship, that advertising-based (and therefore traffic-based) models tend to reward’.

He will, however, continue in his current role as a managing director at legal recruiter Lateral Link, advising readers that ‘any information I share in these pages is either information not gleaned from my recruiting work or information I have been authorised to share by the relevant parties’.

And while the publication will be very different from Above the Law – with its million-plus monthly visitors – the quality of Lat’s contacts book and his knowledge of the profession promises to make it influential. 

It launched yesterday (3 December) off the back of an interview with Boies Schiller Flexner (BSF) founder David Boies and co-managing partner Natasha Harrison.

Published after news broke of the departure of co-managing partner Nicholas Gravante to Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft – the latest and most eye-catching of dozens of departures this year – Lat explicitly offered Boies and Harrison the opportunity to set out their case as they seek to reshape the firm.

‘Reporters and commentators gather facts and turn them into narratives; it’s our job,’ he wrote. ‘But sometimes we try too hard to squeeze facts into a narrative that happens to be sexy, click-generating, or familiar, but maybe not entirely accurate. And in the case of Boies Schiller, I wonder if some of us have been trying to shoehorn the BSF story into the familiar “partner departures culminating in collapse” narrative – the Brobeck/Thelen/Heller/Howrey/Dewey tale – even if it doesn’t quite fit.’

Lat enjoyed an impressive career as a lawyer before becoming a journalist. He was a litigation associate at Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz before working as an assistant US attorney in Newark, New Jersey.

In 2004, while still practising, he started blogging anonymously about the federal judiciary and subsequently launched Above the Law in 2006. He only left last year – to join Lateral Link – the title having become ‘less representative of my voice and my vision’.

In March, he spent 17 days in hospital including about a week on a ventilator suffering from a severe case of Covid-19. ‘As I recovered from that near-death experience, I found myself reflecting more and more about my life and career — and I realized I wanted to return to writing, in an outlet under my sole control,’ he writes in his introduction to the title.

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