View Full Version : From Harvard Law to "The Practice"

01-05-2007, 11:25 AM
From the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog.

January 5, 2007, 12:10 pm
Law Blog TV Writer of the Day: Peter Blake
Posted by Peter Lattman
Back in October, the Law Blog attended a Harvard University conference celebrating the 100th anniversary of History & Literature as an academic concentration. Several alums gave talks on how their college education informed their careers. For our money, the best remarks came from Peter Blake, a Harvard Law grad and now a TV writer and producer of Fox’s hit show “House, M.D.” (and before that, ABC’s “The Practice”).

After intense negotiations with Blake’s agent, the Law Blog secured exclusive rights to the speech. Here’s an excerpt in which he explains how a paper he wrote in law school opened the door into a TV writing career (click here to read it in its entirety). His comments provide a nice object lesson on following your passions in the face of pressures to pursue more conventional paths.

. . . By the time I graduated [from college], I knew that I really wanted to work with stories, to be some sort of a writer.

So I snapped into action. I went to law school.

This wasn’t totally insane. I was too too much of a wimp to sit down and write a novel, or move to Hollywood and write a screenplay; on the other hand, I was completely unprepared for any corporate job — I somehow was able to graduate without even hearing about even the concept of recruiting.

Law school seemed like the perfect refuge for an English-major type who wanted to be able to buy his own condo. I wrote my application essay about my desire to be First Amendment lawyer. (Since it was impossible to join a History firm or a Literature brokerage house, I figured this was my closest shot: sitting in a big office with views of the East River, sipping my morning latte as I leisurely read, say, the New York Times to vet it for libel, and of course drawing a big paycheck.)

But I soon realized that law school classes weren’t at all like my undergrad ones. Whoever wrote those cases clearly hadn’t read their Twain. Studying was very similar to reading an instruction manual for a complicated electronic device, except with less compelling characters.

I did everything I could to avoid regular law classes: I took as many criminal courses as I could, turning each case over in my mind to see if it could make a good Law and Order episode one day; in fact, I even convinced Professor James Vorenberg to let me do a creative third year paper – the law school equivalent of a senior thesis. I wrote a fake episode of Law and Order. He gave me an A minus. (“More action” was his one comment – which in fact, is one of the best instructions about writing I ever got. But I had to wonder: was there really more action in the twenty other papers he was grading about the Home Office Deduction or the Uniform Commercial Code?)

I finally graduated, ruing my decision to go to law school in the first place. So once again I snapped into action: I became a management consultant [at McKinsey & Co.] . . . .

Luckily, I was so incompetent and miserable, I did what I’d been threatening to do for years and moved to Hollywood. I got a job peoning at a production company, then in the mailroom at an agency, then finally as an assistant and film development executive, the highest rung of peonage.

But I was a step removed from what I really wanted to do so I finally took out my fake Law and Order script, rewrote it, adding more action (thanks, Professor Vorenberg); and wrote another fake script, this time for a new show called The Sopranos, and sent them off to various agencies. (I’m calling them “fake scripts” but in Hollywood, they’re called “spec” as in speculative scripts, as in you’ll never get paid for them, and this is actually how things often work out there.) Within a few weeks, I had an agent; my agent sent my scripts to a legal TV show called The Practice, and a month later, I was a TV writer

01-05-2007, 11:58 AM
The Law and Order was my favorite with Vincent Donofrio.The studios
changed the main structure (more emotional and action line) and came out with a new one.Our teacher in the screeptwriting school has the first examples of international writers The Remains of the Day.It wroted by a Japanies guy.
So more and more series coming out of the studios.I dont understand the concept to put lot of story line in fourthy minutes."Desperates housewife" has four,five or more line but you can see just one time by week.Thats why i liked the Law and Orders at the first time.At now my favorite it the 24.The most problem of the new series you cant connect 2-3 episod couse you wont understand anything that happen.What are you think about this?

01-05-2007, 12:43 PM
If you're interested in the entire article:


01-05-2007, 01:30 PM
Any way to read this without subscribing to the WSJ?

01-05-2007, 04:31 PM
If I had a dime for every Harvard law school grad I've met who's now writing for TV....

I'd have about 80 cents.

Which is no small thing.

01-05-2007, 09:43 PM
Any way to read this without subscribing to the WSJ?

Sure. I could post the whole thing, I guess.