He's been called the Tiger Woods of the courtroom.
He represented the federal government in its attempt to break up Microsoft, Napster in its battle with the recording industry, and Al Gore in his failed bid to force a vote recount in Florida after the 2000 presidential election.
Now, 67-year-old David Boies is representing Wachovia in what is sure to be a blockbuster legal battle between Citigroup and Wells Fargo over which bank will ultimately buy the Charlotte-based company. Boies' firm – Armonk, N.Y.-based Boies, Schiller & Flexner – was active in court hearings this weekend on Wachovia's behalf, and more hearings are expected this week.
In Boies, Wachovia has hired a lawyer able to quickly weed through an array of complicated facts and construct a compelling argument.
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“He's quite simply one of the smartest lawyers I've ever known,” longtime friend Walter Dellinger of Chapel Hill, a Duke law professor, said Sunday. The two were classmates at Yale Law School.
“David really has no specialty. He has a capacity to come into almost any situation and figure out what it's about and what is the best argument to make.”
It was Dellinger, a former Solicitor General and adviser to President Clinton on constitutional matters, who got Boies involved in Gore's recount bid.
The case brought Boies national prominence.
Initially, he was added to Gore's legal team to provide thoughts on strategy and prepare himself to argue the case to the Florida Supreme Court.
Ultimately, he argued the case before the U.S. Supreme Court at Gore's request.
In 2004, he wrote a book about his more celebrated cases – in longhand on yellow legal pads.
Some say he's able to quickly assemble complex arguments because he has a photographic memory. In a 2004 interview, Boies refuted that. He said he was hindered by dyslexia as a boy growing up in Illinois and couldn't read until the third grade.
Despite his high profile (other clients include: Dom Imus, George Steinbrenner, Calvin Klein and comedian Garry Shandling), Boies is anything but pretentious. He has a reputation for frumpy suits and black tennis shoes, but owns a California vineyard and ocean-going yacht.
“He just has a very natural manner,” Dellinger said. “He's at home in any environment, whether in front of a jury or the U.S. Supreme Court.
“He loves the challenge of doing battle.”