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Courting Justice From NY Yankees v. Major League Baseball to Bush v. Gore, 1997-2000 By David Boies Miramax Books/$25.95 If any lawyer should have great stories to tell, it should be David Boies. After all, he’s represented New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, oddball comedian Garry Shandling and former Vice President Al Gore. Boies grilled Bill Gates in an infamous deposition during the Microsoft Corp. antitrust case. And Boies’ defection from Cravath, Swaine & Moore to start his own firm made front-page headlines. So readers of the celebrated attorney’s memoir could rightly expect him to deliver original insights and behind-the-scenes revelations that would cast new light on his cases. Indeed, the book’s publicity materials promise a “riveting” read. Unfortunately, Boies’ tome rivets with all the force of a dull tack. “Courting Justice” takes such a high-minded, pedantic approach that it’s more suited for a law school course than armchair reading. Boies neatly divides his book into chapters that focus on a single case — including Steinbrenner’s marketing dispute with Major League Baseball, Shandling’s battle with former manager Brad Grey, the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust case against Microsoft and the Sotheby’s price-fixing scandal. Boies elucidates the facts and legal issues with all the care that he would put into a brief. After all, one of the keys to his extraordinary success as a lawyer has been his masterful ability to explain complicated legal issues in clear, simple language. But it seems that the ability to write a good brief doesn’t mean that you can write a good book, especially one aimed at a mainstream audience. The best attorney-authors are willing to abandon the cautious language and limited view of the legal profession, and observe the world from a broader and more complex perspective. As a writer, Boies hasn’t yet learned — or isn’t able — to break out of a lawyer’s mind-set. Most glaringly, Boies fails to bring people or events to life on the page. It might seem impossible to render Steinbrenner colorless, but Boies succeeds. The most interesting thing that Boies says about the Yankees owner is that he is “intelligent and direct.” Likewise, the quirky and unpredictable Shandling barely registers. Opposing counsel and fellow partners also fade in print. Boies can’t even convey his own personality. He seems unable to engage in the kind of probing self-reflection that a first-person account needs in order to ring true. Boies presents himself as a man with no edges. He admits to no faults, and few doubts or anxieties. His life purrs along. His three marriages before the age of 42 prompt no introspection. His startling decision to leave Cravath in 1997 to start his own firm generates little drama. His third wife, Mary, is invariably wise and supportive. His partners are talented and fine company. His law firm, Boies, Schiller & Flexner, is hugely successful. And his work is always stimulating. Boies’s idea of pulling back the curtain is to show himself and his wife having a celebratory dinner at the pricey, old-line New York restaurant La Caravelle after his decision to leave Cravath. Even with Boies’ limits as a storyteller, “Courting Justice” could have been compelling if it offered fresh insights into his most famous cases. Instead, he takes the reader along familiar routes that largely retrace what has been written in the press. His chapter on the Microsoft case, in which Boies represented the government, offers little that isn’t known to anyone who followed it. Occasionally Boies slips in a detail that adds a bit of drama. He recounts that in Bush v. Gore, he wanted to subpoena Katherine Harris, then the Florida secretary of state, in an effort to force her to give deposition testimony. But other members on the Gore team cautioned against such hardball tactics. Boies acquiesced in a decision he now regrets. This sort of insight is rare, however. At the end, Boies optimistically brushes aside his disappointment with the U.S. Supreme Court’s resolution of Bush v. Gore: “The court’s reputation, and our faith in it, will survive an occasional lapse.” This implacable, above-the-fray attitude might earn Boies a gold star from the justices. But here, as elsewhere, readers will be left wanting more. Susan Beck is a San Francisco-based senior writer for The American Lawyer. Her e-mail address is [email protected] This review first appeared in Corporate Counsel magazine, a Recorder affiliate.

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