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the messengers and the people that were
Boies: Lawyers are not known as people
without egos. But there wasn’t any ego
apparent in the entire case. Everybody
Q: How would you describe your different
law firm cultures?
Boies: Gibson Dunn has clearly been
around a lot longer than Boies, Schiller
& Flexner, and it’s clearly a lot larger. I’ve
often, within our firm, talked about Gibson,
Dunn & Crutcher as the kind of firm that
demonstrates that you can get very large
and still be competitive, collegial, [with a]
high standard of excellence. It doesn’t have
to get diluted. I think one of the challenges,
frankly, for Boies, Schiller & Flexner is
whether we will have the discipline to
maintain the quality, the collegiality, the
dedication, that we have now as we grow.
Q: Where does that discipline come
from? Is it leadership?
Boies: I think it has to come from
leadership. I think it has to come from
Boies, Schiller & Flexner, or some of the
younger partners that are coming up. Or
at Gibson Dunn, whether it’s Ted or Randy
Mastro or Bob Cooper. Bob is another
lawyer I’ve been on the side of and against.
Great integrity. Great trial skills.
Olson: He’s great on the golf course, too.
Boies: [smiles] Then he’s not working
Q: Where do you see your firms in five
Boies: I think for five years, all we have to do
is continue to do what we’re doing. The much
harder task is what happens 20 years from
now, or 30 years from now, when the entire
leadership of the firm will have turned over.
Olson: Boies is the first name in that firm,
so his responsibility is a little bit different.
I’m co-chairman of our appellate practice
group, which is something that I helped
create. My responsibility is to create, by
helping to hire at the law school level
and the clerkship level, but also laterally
wherever we have an opportunity, talented
people that can carry our appellate practice
group. For example, we’ll have five of our
partners arguing cases in the Supreme
Court this term. I’ll do one, but four other
partners in our firm will handle, between
them, six cases in the Supreme Court.
Boies: A firm that continues to attract the
very best young people is a firm that’s going
to succeed. Once you stop doing that, you
begin to deteriorate, and that deterioration
can accelerate as you go downhill.
Q: What advice would you have for a
young man or woman looking to go to
law school in this environment?
Boies: Even before they decide to go, I’d
say, “Why are you going?” If you’re going to
get a really good education that will teach
you to think and solve problems, regardless
of whether you practice law or not, that’s a
good reason to go. If you’re interested in the
justice system, that’s an even better reason
to go. If you’re just trying to mark time,
that’s a poor reason to go.
Olson: Don’t go to law school because you
want to make lots of money. There are other
ways to make lots of money. If you really
get a bang out of practicing law and solving
problems and trying to persuade and doing
something very creative, and if you like the
history and you like the law and you like the
structure of our legal system, then you’re
going to be spending your life doing things
that you like. That’s the only reason to do it.
Q: Is that what you’re looking for when
recent law school graduates try to get
jobs at your firms?
Olson: Absolutely. You want people that
really love to work, and want to work
hard, and have manifested, through their
achievement in college and law school,
that they have the ability to think these
problems through. It’s the enthusiasm. You
can see it in their eyes.
Q: What do you think the future of law is
with regard to the billable hour?
Olson: I like to do a fixed fee for whatever
I can: a cert petition, an argument in the
Supreme Court, handling an appeal. Then a
client knows if it’s expensive, it’s expensive.
Many, many clients, I’m finding, prefer it.
Boies: I think the billable hour is a problem.
I think it creates a conflict of interest
between the lawyer and the client. Lawyers
actually do an extraordinary job of trying to
avoid that conflict, [but] I think it’s always
disadvantageous to have the economic
incentives skewed. The client wants the case
over as fast as possible. For the lawyer on an
hourly rate, you want the case to continue
from an economic standpoint. I think the
less business a firm may have, the more
that’s true. If I could give a client any advice,
it would be pick a very busy law firm. Pick
a law firm that has to fit you in, not a law
firm that is out spending lots of marketing
dollars to get you to hire them. Because I
think that the busy law firm is a good law
firm, but also it’s a law firm that is going to
try to be efficient, because it needs to be
efficient in order to service all of its clients.
I would rather that we always were on a
fixed fee or a contingency fee as opposed
to an hourly rate. For the last three years,
we have had more than 50 percent of our
revenues come from fees other than hourly
fees. That was our goal when we started. It
took us almost 15 years to get there.
Q: You both have children. What is the
one thing you hope you’ve taught them?
Boies: One thing is really tough. I would
say patience. Respect for others, respect
Olson: I have two children and now three
granddaughters. The granddaughters, one
of them has become a nurse, one of them’s
still in college and one of them’s still in high
school. If I said one thing, it is that if you
apply yourself and work hard, take education
seriously, it gives you options. If you don’t do
that, your choices are foreclosed for you. You
want to take as many opportunities as you
can in life to do what you want to do. You can
open lots of doors by being a good student,
learning when you have an opportunity for an
education at the expense of your parents or
your grandfather. Take that opportunity. For
God’s sake, do it now. There’s lots of times to
be on the playground or at dances; but for
God’s sake, get an education so your freedom
will be maximized.
Q: You’re both obviously good debaters:
Who do you lose arguments to?
Boies: [Points to Olson] I lose arguments
This interview has been condensed and edited.