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Volokh Conspiracy

Book review: 'Supreme Ambitions' by David Lat


I read "Supreme Ambitions" last month, and Ilya Somin has already provided his thoughts. But since the book is finally coming out this weekend, I thought I'd offer my own reaction.

"Supreme Ambitions" is the debut novel of blogger and lawyer David Lat. (Lat originally hit the Internet as the proprietor of Underneath Their Robes, and now runs Above The Law.) The book is a fictional, first-person account of a Yale Law School graduate who clerks on the Ninth Circuit and yearns to clerk on the Supreme Court, and while not all of our readers will like it, enough will that I thought it was worth mentioning here.

You can read the first several chapters online to get a sense of whether you like Lat's writing style. Aside from the writing, the characters are on the nose, and the plot picks up substantially in the back half of the book. Indeed, it ends up posing an interesting and thought-provoking question of legal ethics and professionalism. (I may have a subsequent post on that.)

My bottom-line assessment is that this is the best quasi-fictional account of law school that I have read (even though much of it is immediately post-law school). I would compare it favorably to "Brush With the Law," Lauren Willig's "Two L," and even Scott Turow's "One L" (which is at this point quite dated). It also owes an obvious debt to "The Devil Wears Prada," and maybe also to Tyler Cowen's Straussian interpretation thereof.

I still can't decide whether this is a ridiculous book or an insightful one. It might be both.