David E. Kelley (’83) had every intention of making a living as a lawyer — rather than writing fictional versions of them for television.
In fact, after four years at Princeton, Kelley got his law degree from Boston University, then landed a job in the litigation department at nearby Fine & Ambrogne. But like all good Hollywood tales, Kelley’s had a twist: In his spare time, the Waterville, Maine, native had written a script for a legal thriller that scored him both a film deal and an agent. And in 1986, when Steven Bochco was seeking writers with a legal background for his new NBC series, L.A. Law, that rep passed Kelley’s screenplay along. Bochco liked what he saw, and a two-week assignment turned into a full-time position. Kelley was soon elevated to showrunner and, in 1989, at age 33, won his first of nine best series Emmy Awards; not a decade after that, he had three series of his own on the air. And by the turn of the century, Kelley was not only widely considered one of the medium’s most successful writer-producers but also had become the first to win the best drama Emmy (The Practice) and the best comedy Emmy (Ally McBeal) on the same night.