Like Father, Like Son: The Altmans Return to GW Law

Morant-the Altmans
February 28, 2018

Entrepreneurs Robert Altman, JD '71, and James Altman, JD '14, returned to their alma mater this month to join Dean Blake D. Morant for his "Conversation with the Dean" series. The father-son duo spoke about their successful careers both inside and outside the legal profession and answered questions posed by students in the audience. The popular series gives GW Law students the opportunity to meet and connect with accomplished alumni.

To kick off the conversation, Dean Morant asked Robert and James about their career paths.  Robert, who comes from a family of lawyers, explained that his path to the legal profession took a natural course. "I was one of those people who loved law school…I liked the intellectual side of it, the debates with the professors, and the Socratic Method…The practice of law was something that I saw as my career path." He went on to practice law for many years in Washington, D.C. as a partner of Clark Clifford, former United States Secretary of Defense, in the law firm of Clifford and Warnke. Robert later opened his own law firm.

James shared that his path to the practice of law was a bit more circuitous. He initially resisted the idea of going to law school because "I wanted to be different," he said. But with time, his interest in the law began to grow. "I looked at law as an opportunity to learn about interesting things and work with interesting people." After graduating from GW Law, he joined the Washington, D.C., offices of Skadden as an associate and was involved in the firm's pro bono efforts.

James told the students that "law school does a great job of giving people the tools they need to be successful," but added that it is impossible to be prepared for everything. He emphasized the importance of taking the time to learn and grow, especially in one's early career. James had heard "interesting" stories about entering the world of big law, but at Skadden, he learned that not everything he heard was what it seemed. He assured students that law school graduates "should know that they have the skills to succeed"–from logical thinking and reasoning skills to the ability to look at a problem and figure out creative ways to solve it.

Robert is the Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ZeniMax Media, a publisher of video games for the PC, consoles, and mobile devices. James is the Director of Publishing Operations at Bethesda Softworks, a ZeniMax Media company and a publisher of acclaimed video game franchises like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and DOOM. Toward the end of the conversation, Robert and James discussed their decisions behind their transition into the business world. To hear more from the successful duo, including their advice to students interested in pursuing similar career paths, please click on the link below.