David Lat

A clerkship with a U.S. Supreme Court justice is one of the most coveted credentials in the legal profession.  Obtaining one establishes you as one of the law’s brightest young stars. Clerking on the Court is a chance to participate in history.  Post-clerkship opportunities – jobs at leading firms, elite government positions, tenure-track professorships – are unparalleled.

In September 2000, I interviewed for a clerkship with Justice Antonin Scalia.  I thought to myself: if only I can get this, then my life will be perfect.  I had thought the same thing about getting into Harvard College, and then Yale Law School.  Of course, each time I snagged a brass ring, a new one materialized.

Alas, I didn’t get the clerkship.  Looking at my rejection letter was so deeply painful – sometimes it pushed me to the verge of tears – that I buried it in papers stashed in a bottom drawer.

Little did I know that my feelings of dejection and inferiority would come in handy.  Several years later – while working as a federal prosecutor, after a few years at a New York law firm – I started a judicial news and gossip blog called Underneath Their Robes. I wrote under a pseudonym, “Article III Groupie” – a young lawyer whose failure to secure a Supreme Court clerkship gave her an amusingly unhealthy obsession with federal judges.

The rest is history – of a bizarre and perhaps trivial nature, but history nonetheless. Underneath Their Robes became a runaway hit.  After I was featured in the New Yorker magazine, I received  an offer to blog full-time, for the politics blog Wonkette.  After gaining that experience, I launched Above the Law, a blog about law firms and the legal profession.  

Today it is one of the country’s most successful (and profitable) legal blogs, receiving over 10 million page views per month.

Although I never got a Supreme Court clerkship, I suspect I’m more professionally satisfied now, as a blogger, than I would have been as a lawyer.  Sometimes failure in achieving one goal is merely a way station for success in achieving another.

David Lat rejection letter