Triple-Matter Hours: Matt Levine, Financial Journalist

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Go back Thrillable Hours, my interview about a number of alternative works for lawyers.

I first encountered Matt Levine at Dealbreaker in 2012 when I traveled and ate. While I was not the desire of my former career in law firms, I wanted to keep up with financial news. Matt's style of writing – funny, intelligent and thoroughly able to see the forest through the trees – was the reason I began to read Dealbreaker. That's why I moved to Bloomberg when he started blogging for them in 2013.

His works are accessible and interesting when dealing with extremely complex topics. A former lawyer and financier is able to provide important information on current news. She enjoys sarcastic footnotes. And even my own Twitter bot that someone has created who learns to speak to read everything Matt Levine writes. Do you know you did it when …?

I realize that not all of my readers like to read credit default swap or Argentine debt saga, but I think someone can learn from the skill to make complex problems and recognize them so they are less opposed. That's what Matt Taibbi knows about American politics and the financial crisis, and why I enjoy writing Matt Levine no matter where he's employed.

His responses to work for lawyers, leaving law and advice for those who want to do the same, everywhere down.

-Jodi

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Alternative Work for Lawyers: Questions and Answers with Matt Levin

alternative jobs for lawyers

Matt Levin on the TV series Bloomberg

What made you choose to follow a less conventional path than typical law school graduates? Was there some time she decided for you?

It was all quite dependent on me. I started working as a legal entity in 2005, and at that time all lawyers wanted to become investment bankers. (Still there?) So a year and a half ago, a former colleague who left to be an investment banker and a question asked if I wanted to work. And I said, "Is it better than this job?" And he said, "It's a bit better than the job," and so I took it. And I've been an investment banker for four years. I think this is really a typical way for a law graduate or was in 2007.

But then I also failed investment banking. I always imagined myself as a writer without doing anything about it. And a random combination of factors – I was trying to stop working on banking, Dealbreaker's financial blog had a job opening and I knew there were some people – led me to get into financial blogs. And I proved to be okay, and after two years I was hired at Bloomberg View and since then I'm here.

So I'm a little awful story: good luck was involved in each of my career moves, and frankly, "The strange moment that made me decide for me was probably months after I started at Dealbreaker, I went to this job and thought "Well, it will be a strange experiment and maybe it will work!" And my first weeks were terribly frightening, and after a while I was like "oh wait for it to work," and it became incredibly entertaining.

What do you do most about your current job?

I'm thinking and writing about things I find fun! That's the main thing. Unlike law and banking, I do not really have tasks, I have no tasks or anything. I just wake up and try to find things I care about, and I think I'm going to be interested in my readers. In a strange sense that feels more pressure than my law and banking: it can never go back to just checking the list of tasks; I have to come up with something new everyday. But it is definitely the most successful part of the job.

Also, readers who know that strangers are interested in what to say are very fulfilling. I am constantly surprised when I write something that I think will only be entertaining, it refers only to my narrow strange combination of interests and someone sends me an email to say, "I loved that part." I love when I find out – People in the industry have read my column, but I also like when random people are emailed and saying, "I'm not working in finances, but everyday I read my column because it's fun." It's always incredibly nice to hear.

Do you have any advice for professionals who are interested in leaving conventional private practice but have what's out there?

Honestly, my first advice is that if you want to leave the law for something strange and risky, you should save a lot of money first. This is what (often) good law is. I really do not regret working in a big law firm and a big investment bank, partly because I learned a lot, but also because it provided a financial pillow that later allowed me to risk. I think, for example, if I started in journalism in a conventional way, I would have a less fun and interesting career because I should be more conservative in my journalistic career choice.

Otherwise I do not know. I talk to many young people about issues like "I'm going to law school" or "how can I change from law to finance?" And the impossible question I would always like to ask is: well, what are you good on?

For example, I think that when moving from law to finance, people who are good sellers and people who are trustworthy analysts and people who are good creative scientists are very successful – but these are very different skills, and everyone should look very different roles in finance.

And you ask the 23-year-old "who you are," and they have no idea.

They are good at school and socially engaged in standardized career practices and are trained to think they can do whatever they choose. It's so hard to know this central fact about yourself until you've been working for a while, and you've just gotten a sense of where your real skills are and what you're wrong with, and you do not want to do anything else. The fact that self-awareness is also very easy to avoid: You have a job and just try to get the good things that the job demands.

But – according to my experience, when you have done both – it is much more fun to find a job that requires what you are good at.

How did your legal education inform you about how you see the world today? Still seeing yourself as a lawyer?

I try to avoid "identifying myself as a lawyer", partly because it was strange and stigmatized things in banking. People would introduce me to clients like "this is Matt, he's a lawyer," and I'd be lucky: No, I was a banker with a degree! Very, very different.

But I'm a deep lawyer. My work is very legally controlled; I spend a lot of time writing on legal issues and reading legal documents, and I'm well aware that my legal training is part of what allows me to do my job the way I do it. My wife is also a real lawyer so I can sometimes talk to her about legal matters.

One of my domestic pet theory is that law school tends to turn people into legal realists-that is, their thinking is less legalized in some ways. Investment bankers always ask lawyers, "I can do ____," and lawyers always answer "well, that's a quiet question."

My old colleague Bess Levin, who is not a lawyer, would sometimes see strange litigation and ask me, "wait, can you really sue someone for ___?" "This is an obvious point, but this general sense of the law as a nuance and human system for disadvantaging potential decisions by government officials, rather than a list of black and white rules, really seems useful in in many contexts, certainly in writing about the finances. It still seems to me to be accurate. And it's the thought you develop in law school and in practice.

What should I tell those who tell me that lawyers can not talk?

That seems to me to be accurate, yes.

More about Matte Levine in Billford's interview on how to handle money as a financial reporter, and in this business journalism interview on moving from finance to journalism funding.

Interview Matt Levine Bloomberg Matt Levine, editor of Bloomberg View, writes about Wall Street and the financial world. He is a former investment banker, a lawyer for mergers and acquisitions and a high school teacher of Latin. Levine was former editor of Dealbreaker. He worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and a merger and acquisition at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. One year he spent the Third Circuit on the American Appeal Court and taught Latin Latin. Levine holds a Bachelor's degree in Classic at Harvard University and a law degree from Yale Law School. He lives in New York. Its columns can be found on Bloomberg View here, and is also very active Twitter.

School hours:
Matt Levine, a financial journalist, first appeared at the Legal nominees.

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