Like many students, David had no clear sense of why he wanted to go to law school, and similarly, did not initially know he was interested in journalism. As he reflected, "I did do some journalistic work in college for the Harvard Crimson, but nothing in law school other than law journal." He first became interested in blogging when he was a Assistant United States Attorney ("AUSA"). Around this time he started Underneath their Robes:
In the U.S. Attorney's Office, I was doing a lot of legal writing on appellate briefs, and I wanted to have an outlet for non-legal writing. Blogs, at the time, weren’t ubiquitous so I thought it would be fun. Further, I knew a lot about judges, so it made sense to write about them. And of course, they are basically celebrities at Yale, so it was a natural fit for me.Working as an AUSA is quite a demanding job, so he managed the blog more heavily during evenings and early mornings:
People who write books have a day job--they have to wake up really early or stay up really late. Writing a blog is similar. It was difficult because my day job was very demanding, and it was hard to find the time to do it but it had to be done. So I made it work.Of course, at least in the legal profession, David Lat is also well-known for his affiliation with Above the Law. I asked him what his goal was in starting the addictively popular site:
I felt there was a market need that wasn’t being filled. When I created the site, I was working for Wonkette, and wondering why there wasn’t a site like Gawker that covered similar types of issues in the legal profession. In other words, there wasn’t a blog that covered legal topics in a fun and irreverent way.He was right about the concealed demand, and Above the Law has been quite successful. In fact, David notes that the already-massive daily traffic continues to grow. But as we've noted before, Professor Kerr at Volokh has opined that law student blogging has progressively declined over the past few years. One reason may be the effect blogging has on one’s legal career--many students with whom I’ve spoken have expressed concern that blogging could harm their ability to practice law. After all, a blogger’s words are permanently cached in the public eye, and subject to considerable scrutiny. David still practices, however, and sees no reason why he wouldn’t be able to do so on a full-time basis in the future if he so desired:
I effectively act as in-house counsel for Breaking Media. In this capacity, I deal with routine legal issues that arise, but this takes up only a small amount of time. Primarily, my functions are writing and editing. Though I enjoy blogging more than practice, I certainly don’t rule anything out. I do enjoy being a lawyer, and could certainly go back to it full-time one day. Blogging is fun, but it is nice to also have a law degree in the journalism industry.Finally, he gave some general advice to law students and practitioners interested in blogging:
Just do it and stick with it. Many blogs fail within first year of operation. If you're getting good traffic, it can be addicting, but if not it becomes hard. Keep expectations reasonable. It’s tough to be heard above the noise, and equally tough to get hits. Starting from scratch is especially hard, and it can take a long time to gain consistent traffic.Truer words have never been spoken, and the insight provides what I submit is one of the key answers to the question I posed: blogging is about captivating your readers. We hope we can continue to do just that for all of you.