June 12, 2009

"Divorce was almost viewed as though an associate had made the decision to stay with the [Cravath law] firm rather than have a personal life."

Gerald Posner tells the story of his transition from a big law firm into a life of writing books. Lots of great stuff at the link. Excerpts:
What was your “I have to get the f**k out of here” epiphany?

Never had it. It wasn’t a single light-bulb moment. Instead, I did this pro bono lawsuit (that was unsuccessful) for twins of a Nazi concentration camp. And during the four-year course of gathering documents and doing research, I became an expert of sorts on the so-called Angel of Death, Josef Mengele. When the suit was over, I approached a publisher, McGraw-Hill, without an agent, and they figured this obsessive work of mine might make a good biography. I never expected to never practice law again. But I so liked writing the book (a bit like doing a giant brief on a tight deadline) that I never looked back....

Do you think your legal background gives you an edge as a reporter?

Big time. The major thing is that I’m not afraid of documents, after getting used to them in the antitrust litigation against IBM while at Cravath. So when I approached the JFK assassination, reporters would say there are tens and tens of thousands of pages of docs. And I’d think, “So?” Also, non-lawyers tend to be more impressed with a legal degree than they should—it helps open up doors.
(He's not related to Judge Posner, by the way.)

10 comments:

Pogo said...

Damn good investigative reporter.

His JFK and MLK assassination books are stellar.

EDH said...

Indeed, Posner's Case Closed is the most definitive debunking of the JFK assasination conspiracy theories, well, except for explaining this.

It's even better remembering that Wayne Knight played an ADA in Oliver Stone's JFK.

David said...

Agreed, Pogo. If you are interested in the JFK assassination you might also look at Norman Mailer's (!) book on Oswald. I think it's called Oswald's Dreams. Amazing book--fabulous portrait of Oswald's time in Russia. Influenced by Posner Mailer concluded that Oswald was probably a lone assassin.

I had not realized that Posner was a lawyer--at Cravath, no less.

Pogo said...

Thanks for the advice!
I always wondered about that book, but Mailer is so hit-or-miss, I never picked it up.

Not that I haven't already read way too much on the topic or anything. =)

Bissage said...

I wish I were Mr. Posner.

kathleen said...

With the amount of underemployed lawyers about, the degree should really become a pre-requisite for being a paid reporter. So many times, the importance of certain issues passes reporters by because they have zero legal background.

mccullough said...

Posner's JFK book is good, but the negative gun powder test on Oswald is suspicious considering he shot a police officer with a handgun shortly after the shooting.

Libra by Don Delillo is also good, though it's a novel.

Zach said...

Case Closed was excellent. It's one of the best researched books you'll ever read -- he doesn't just argue his points, he nails them. His portrait of Oswald's life is harrowing -- I got the strong impression Oswald was going to kill somebody, most likely Marina.

Lem said...

Are you sure he wasn’t with The Crimson Permanent Assurance ?

Beldar said...

Posner is dating himself with the reference to U.S. v. IBM, which had already largely played out even by the time he joined Cravath in 1978. His comment mostly proves that big-firm junior-most associates were as whiny (and likely to bug out) then as they are now; the only thing that's changed is that today's version is better paid but with even less job security.