Getting a handle on his identity has never been easy for Lat. At Harvard in the mid-1990s, he was notorious; an archconservative on a liberal campus who held nothing back in a biweekly opinion column for the Crimson. "I was at a party once, chatting with a woman, and at a certain point I introduced myself," he recalls. "And she said something like, 'You're David Lat? But you're so nice.'" In one column, he argued that discrimination was reason enough for a gay person to stay in the closet. He protested National Coming Out Day, writing, "How many homosexual Harvard students are still in the closet? Two? Three? . . . These alleged celebrations of diversity have devolved into mutual masturbation festivals."
Lat laughs uncomfortably when reminded of these words. "If I'd looked in the mirror . . . at least one," he says. As a hard-working associate at Wachtell, Lat begged out of dating using the old too-devoted-to-my-work-to-bother-with-love excuse. "I realized in my late twenties that I was going crazy trying to be in the closet," he says. "I was just miserable and deeply unhappy, and then I decided to come out. I think part of me then also thought it would be much harder to have the kind of success in the law that I wanted because my mentors, my connections were on the conservative side and yet I'm gay." Lat lives in an apartment in New York's Flatiron neighborhood and has been in a relationship for three years. "Maybe I should just throw in the towel, then, and become a journalist. This is another thing that's very liberating about not being on that lawyer-judge track; you can be a lot more open about your life."
After leaving the Attorney's office, Lat became the co-editor of the political-gossip site Wonkette in 2006. Shortly afterward he started Above the Law—with Elizabeth Spiers (a Gawker founder), Justin Smith, and Carter Burden—for a privately held blog company called Breaking Media (at the time known as Dead Horse Media), whose most successful property at the time was a Wall Street gossip site called Dealbreaker. (Spiers later left the company.) The voice and range of topics covered weren't all that different from Underneath Their Robes, but this version had Lat's name proudly emblazoned on the site's masthead as managing editor. "Maybe it was vanity on my part or something," Lat says, "but I just felt like I wanted to go back to being a character. [Now] I enjoy what I do. I think it's societally useful—and I don't have trouble sleeping at night."