The Tiger Woods of the Legal World: David Boies

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David Boies
David Boies is a high profile attorney who is chairman of top-notch power firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner. He is often called the Tiger Woods of the legal profession. He may not be famous by name, but he has worked to bring justice to some of the biggest names in the industry. Cases he has fought and won include his successful defense of IBM in the 13-year antitrust brought against the company in the 1960s. What makes that position notable, though, is that some three decades later, Boies switched sides and represented the Justice Department in United States v. Microsoft for similar charges of monopolization.

He also unsuccessfully defended Presidential candidate Al Gore before the Supreme Court in 2000 (this case is discussed in more detail below for what perhaps may be the constitutional consequences of that Supreme Court decision).

Early life and educational background

Boies was born in Illinois in 1941 to two teacher parents. He was industrious from an early age, which would serve him well. Despite his later success, he was not especially academically inclined at first. In fact, he was dyslexic at a time when this condition was not regularly diagnosed; therefore, he didn't learn how to read until he was in third grade. This is particularly admirable considering the obstacles he had to surpass to achieve his later scholastic greatness.

Nonetheless, his dyslexia and related reading delay had little lasting impact academically. His parents were both supportive and patient teachers, so it wasn't much of a psychological strain either. As Boies says, "Boys who did well in school weren't all that popular…. I was pretty good at thinking and talking, so I could get by."

He became a voracious reader, and took a particular liking to Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason series, something that ultimately helped lead to his love of the law. Years later, he would find the challenge of cross examination as represented in those gritty books particularly exhilarating.

Boies received his bachelor's of science from Northwestern in 1964, and graduated with a Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from EL in 1966. He received his Master of Laws from New York University's Law School in 1967, and an honorary doctoral equivalent in that same focus from the University of Redlands in 2000.


After graduated from law school in 1966, Boies immediately began working at Cravath, Swaine & Moore. During his first two years, he worked in the firm's pro bono program and represented civil rights workers in Mississippi and African-Americans trying to register to vote. He said of that time, "I liked the idea that I was accomplishing something. I liked the idea of conflict, the challenge, the use of verbal and intellectual skills to search for the truth. I loved cross-examination — particularly of people trying to lie."

After becoming a partner in 1973, Boies represented the Yankees in a case related to major league baseball; a major client objected to this, and he resigned. (It should be noted that the firm itself found no conflict.) Within two days, he left and formed his own firm, which still exists as Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP . It is very successful and ranks 48th in "overall prestige," according to one major legal career website.

Boies continues to represent clients like American Express; recently, he negotiated two of the highest civil antitrust settlements for an individual company, winning American Express $1.8 billion and $2.25 billion from MasterCard and Visa respectively.

Mr. Boies has also taught courses at Cardozo School of Law and New York University Law School.

Government Work

In 1978, Boies served as Chief Counsel and Staff Director of the United States Senate Antitrust Subcommittee. In 1979, he served as Staff Director and Chief Counsel of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee.

Bush v. Gore

Despite his amassed successes, Boies has indeed had failures. He was unsuccessful in defending Presidential candidate Al Gore in Bush v. Gore. In the 2000 election, the United States Supreme Court stopped the vote recount in Florida and summarily handed the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush. Known for his calm demeanor, Boies was once famous for saying, "Why should I worry? Because I might lose? That's the worst thing that could happen to me?" However, with his loss in Bush v Gore, the stakes — and consequences — were much higher, and he knew it. "I lost the whole f***ing country," he said of his failure to win Gore’s case then.

This failure, however, caused Boies to champion the cause of a more efficient voting system. He has called for high-tech voting machines to leave a paper trail so that votes can be counted or recounted by hand if necessary. He calls this a constitutional issue and argues that Bush v. Gore should be treated as "a serious constitutional precedent; it would stand for the proposition that there must be a single, uniform type of voting machine, at least within any particular state."

However, because of the way majority opinion was stacked, it has been overlooked as a precedent-setting case. The justices wrote in 2000, "Our consideration is limited to present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities." To that end, subsequent attempts to use the case as a means to create a more uniformed voting system have been largely ignored to date. With Boies continuing to fight, though, it's not likely that we've heard the last of this.

New York University School of Law


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