Ep. 32: How Elie Mystal quit practicing law and wrote about it instead

    You might already be familiar with Elie Mystal from his frequent appearances as a political analyst on major news shows or his considerable body of work on Above the Law and other news publications. It is often easy to look at Elie’s success and assume that he had a straight, easy path out of law into journalism. But what you may not know is that Elie walked away from his 6-figure legal job at a prestigious New York law firm, after having received his law degree from Harvard Law School, without a plan as to what to do next. With the support of his wife, and after months of sitting on his couch with no real idea of where to start, Elie began his journey to be a writer by taking a job working for free at a local news agency.
    I got to talk to Elie about how he dealt with all of the pressure from family and society, especially as an African American man, to stay in a “successful” career. We discuss how his path has led him to where he is today as the Executive Editor of Above the Law.
    If you’re a frequent listener of the show, then you might remember that we had David Lat, the founder of Above the Law, on episode 14. We delve more into what Above the Law has evolved into in that episode. In this episode, we focus mostly on Elie’s journey. Feel free to check out Episode 14 here.
Here is what we chat about in this episode:
  • What lead Elie down the path to law school
  • Why he felt that making the decision to go to law school instead of working for Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign was a “dumb” decision
  • Why law school just wasn’t for Elie
  • How being a “successful” lawyer as a minority put additional pressure to stay in the field
  • How the support of his wife was essential for Elie’s decision to quit law.
  • How he dealt with the difficult time of figuring out what his next step was going to be
  • What his path as a journalist has looked like
  • How he ended up winning a competition to work for Above the Law
  • How others can break into a career in writing
Where to find Elie: Follow along for more: