When the federal challenge to Proposition 8 was announced, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Theodore Olson and Boies, Schiller & Flexner’s David Boies became media darlings, an irresistible odd-couple story. That attention continued on the first day of trial last week: Olson and Boies conducted dramatic direct examinations of their plaintiffs in a courtroom packed with reporters. The next day, they entertained a cooing Rachel Maddow.

But as the evidence moved into dryer territory, Olson, Boies and their chief adversary, Cooper & Kirk’s Charles Cooper, receded into the background as a different set of lawyers platooned into action. The performance of these other attorneys could play just as large a role in the outcome of the case, because evidence from expert academics — while not delivered with tears — will be crucial in Northern District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker’s factual and legal analysis.

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