Podcast #1: Alan Dershowitz on Advice for Young Lawyers

As a well-known lawyer and (former) law professor, Alan Dershowitz gives a lot of advice to young lawyers. At one point, he wrote it all down in Letters to a Young Lawyer. The book has been around for a while, but it is still full of good advice for young lawyers — and so is Dershowitz.

When I asked Dershowitz what he would change about Letters to a Young Lawyer if he were writing it today, he pointed out that because law has become much more of a business, he would want to add a chapter on conflicts and billing practices, which are more relevant than they were.

In the book, Dershowitz places great importance on finding a mentor, but acknowledges that a great mentor is hard to find. We talked about how to avoid bad mentors, including two red flags:

  1. Lawyers who advise you to do the same things they have done in their career.
  2. Lawyers who do things just because they have always done things, despite the lack of any evidence those things actually work. There are some great examples in Letters to a Young Lawyer that we discussed in the the podcast.

I asked Dershowitz about imposter syndrome, which he says is an issue for him just as it is for many young professionals.

One of the things that jumped out at me in Letters to a Young Lawyer was Dershowitz’s take on work-life balance. He quotes the old saw that nobody regrets working too much when they are on their deathbed, then says that some people should regret not working enough. During our interview, he elaborated on the right way for young lawyers to approach work-life balance.

We also discussed his view that you should not do what you are best at, why the Yellow Pages and the Internet are a terrible place to find a lawyer, and the three arguments you make to a court:

  1. The one you think you made.
  2. The one you wish you made.
  3. The one you actually made.

Incidentally, Dershowitz claims at 5:59 that the hit show How to Get Away with Murder is a ripoff of his novel, Reversal of Fortune. I have no opinion, since I have not seen the show or read Dershowitz’s book.

To listen to the podcast, just scroll up and hit the play button.

Thanks to Viewabill for sponsoring this episode or our podcast.

Finally, we’re aware of the allegations (pdf) against Dershowitz related to his former client, Jeffrey Epstein. It’s hard to know what to think about that at this point. For what it’s worth, we recorded this interview a while ago, long before those allegations surfaced. (Thanks to Marc Randazza for that pleading.)

To make sure you don’t miss an episode of the Lawyerist Podcast, subscribe now in iTunes, Stitcher, or any other podcast player. Or find out about new episodes by subscribing to the Lawyerist Insider, our email newsletter. We will announce new episodes in the Insider, and you can listen to them right here on Lawyerist.

To ask a question for us to answer in future episodes of the Lawyerist Podcast, send your question to email@lawyerist.com or use the hashtag #AskLawyerist on Twitter.


  1. Avatar static says:

    On his best day, Dersh would be a dubious choice to give advice to young lawyers. After all, few young lawyers get to feed off an HLS paycheck at age 25. But this wasn’t his best day, so why not dredge it up as cheap clickbait?

  2. Avatar James Bellefeuille says:

    @samglover:disqus , I appreciated Alan’s message, specifically his recognition that laypeople cannot distinguish between great, good and just plain bad attorneys in our modern marketplace. Because, it is filled with noise coming from Avvo, Findlaw, Google Adwords and others. The noise has gotten so great that some State Bar Associations have begun to rely on the noise to enforce attorney ethics and advertising rules.

    Secondly, a word on billing from the other side of the table, I was one of Sam’s past clients, and was billed on an alternative pay schedule/ monthly retainer which was ideal for me at the time as I was a college student seeking business advice, and without it I would have been unable to seek legal help.

    I was a happy client then and felt that I received great legal advice. I would hire Sam again and likely pay considerably more as my legal questions have grown with my career.

    #AskLawyerist – How can an unsophisticated consumer of legal services determine the quality of an attorney before hiring them?

  3. Avatar Tony says:

    I listened to this on a commute today. Unlike some commenters, I found it pretty useful. Good work so far – a good law podcast is hard to come by, but keep going and you might have one. Two suggestions:

    1) I subscribe to 32 weekly or bi-weekly podcasts. Big pet peeve: you introduce yourself/the guest and talk about the episode, then you cut to random theme music, then you say: “This is Sam Glover and I’m with… “. It’s akin to introducing yourself in jury selection and again in your opening statement. Obviously introduce yourself to your guest, but edit it out in a way you can make the final podcast transition smoothly to a first time listener. The Start Up by Gimlet does this well, for example. I know who you are 3 minutes in and you’ve already introduced your guest.

    2) Especially since I was driving, I had to up your volume by +3 in Overcast (meaning you are significantly quieter than most of my podcasts). I assume you’re recording via Skype for interviews – Accidental Tech does the same. They posted a great blog on how they monitor audio quality at http://www.caseyliss.com/2014/11/22/how-i-make-podcasts.

    All in all, keep it up. I like the Q&A idea at the end, too.

  4. Avatar Julie says:

    As a young lawyer, I very much enjoyed this podcast. I think the idea that, as attorneys, and just as people in general, it’s important for us to know our limitations and be self-critical. I appreciated Mr. Dershowitz’s advice and his views on work-life balance. Just because I’m obviously not going to have the same career as him (like another commentator mentions below), doesn’t mean I can’t value his opinions. No, I won’t have a HLS salary, but I do intend to work hard and consciensously.

Leave a Reply