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Even though David Boies basically lost two of the biggest cases of 2000 (to the dismay of Democrats and online music junkies), his young law firm still had quite a year. Boies, Schiller & Flexner has doubled in size in the past 12 months. With that, this new model of a national litigation boutique has increased to 100 lawyers in 10 offices since its founding some three years ago. Founding partner Jonathan Schiller, who vows that the firm will never exceed 150 lawyers, says that growth hasn’t poisoned the firm’s culture. “Nothing’s changed,” he says. “We’re still small, and Boies is still not sleeping at night.” Boies Schiller is one of a few young firms that are built around a superstar litigator, compete nationally for both elite business clients and top law school talent, and are unafraid to venture into the controversial, high-risk world of class action plaintiffs. Others include Houston’s Susman Godfrey and Chicago’s Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott. “When we started,” says Schiller, harking back to September 1997, “our plan was to have 10 lawyers and take on interesting and difficult cases.” They took on a dozen major commercial actions within four months, including a little case called U.S. v. Microsoft. “We didn’t take on the case anticipating that it would make David the most famous lawyer on Earth,” says partner Stephen Neuirth. “David saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime litigation opportunity that someone who loved litigation couldn’t turn down.” The firm picked up the third name partner, Donald Flexner, at the end of 1998, as part of an antitrust group that came from Crowell & Moring in Washington, D.C. The other big chunk came in June 2000, with the acquisition of Barrett Gravante Carpinello & Stern, a 20-lawyer splinter of Boies’ former firm, Cravath Swaine & Moore, with offices in Manhattan and Albany, N.Y., and longstanding ties to Boies. Along the way a few lateral partners with personal ties to the firm founders joined in Florida, New Hampshire and, most recently, Oakland, Calif. The firm’s history can be traced in recent national headlines: A record $1.15 billion victory in a class action price-fixing suit against vitamin makers. A $512 million recovery for price-fixing from the major auction houses. A settlement to ensure the up-market quality of Calvin Klein clothing. Bush v. Gore. Microsoft. Napster. Even though Boies lost the Napster case at the trial level, the firm maintains that its client won by winning a stay of judgment pending the appeal (which has yet to be decided). “We bought Napster enough time to renegotiate its existence with the music industry,” says Schiller, “without losing its 30 million-plus user base.” Strategically, the firm aims to devote about a third of its docket to plaintiffs’ work. With a lead role in bringing health maintenance organization class actions against Humana and Aetna, the firm is sure to get more news ink. But some of its biggest victories — in international arbitration — didn’t earn much notice. In the past year, Schiller obtained for Westinghouse a vacatur of a $1.4 billion Pakistani default judgment, and for Florida Power & Light and Caithness Energy a $261 million damages award against a major state-owned oil company for the cancellation of a power project. The firm declined to identify the oil company, pending public announcement of the win. All told, it is estimated that the firm’s 35 partners took 15 cases to trial last year and enjoyed revenues in the range of $50 million to $75 million. Microsoft and the other headlines aside, the firm’s partners say, an important part of their success is the ability to remain small. “The myth of needing a huge firm for a big case ignores the ability of the client to put together a team,” says Florida partner Stuart Singer. Like many nongiant firms, Boies Schiller keeps costs low by renting subprime real estate, going easy on perks and keeping staff lean. It also has flexible fees. “We’re not in the business of supporting 500 lawyers and requiring offices in major cities,” says Flexner. Low overhead gives the firm the freedom to take gambles on class actions — gambles that even most plaintiffs’ firms would find too unnerving. In the auction house case, the innovative judge auctioned off the position of lead plaintiffs’ counsel to the firm that guaranteed to the plaintiffs the highest fee-free recovery. Boies Schiller won the auction by promising to give the first $405 million of any recovery to the plaintiffs and take 25 percent of the excess. This bet paid off when, unusually, the class recovered two-times damages. The firm’s take turned out to be 25 percent of $107 million, or about $27 million. A TECH EDGE Technology has enabled the firm to go national even while staying small, and to build outposts on the outskirts of major markets, in cheaper real estate zones near partners’ homes. The first offices grew in Armonk, N.Y., near Boies’ home, and on the Maryland border of Washington, D.C., near Schiller’s. In Florida, one can drive from the Palm Beach office to the Fort Lauderdale office to the Hollywood office in about an hour. Partner Richard Drubel, in Hanover, N.H., pop. 8,000, is the most dramatic example of Boies Schiller’s liberation from the central business district. Drubel and his family spent time at his mother-in-law’s New Hampshire farmhouse and fell in love with the area. Now he can ski in the morning, duck onto the Appalachian Trail in the evening and kayak on the weekend. He overlooks the Dartmouth College bookstore and can see his four kids walking down the main street from his second-story window. “It’s like looking out onto a living, breathing Norman Rockwell painting,” he says. And it’s workable: “If I have someone on my speed dial, it doesn’t matter whether they’re down the hall or a continent away.” As a young firm, founded by Baby Boomers and with offices in trendy suburbs, Boies Schiller has a “Bobo” feel, to use the term popularized by writer David Brooks, signifying the blurring of bourgeois and bohemian culture, in his book “Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There.” When interviewed, Schiller was wearing a flannel shirt, Flexner a turtleneck and Drubel a green sweater and hiking boots. Boies is famous for his off-the-rack Land’s End suits. The D.C. office is in a complex anchored by a Neiman Marcus and a Saks. As one associate said, “We’re working in an upscale shopping mall.” But the bourgeois consumerism is packaged with a bohemian ethic. Indeed, shop signs outside the entrance — “elan: Center for Rejuvenation” and “Roche Bobois: Expressing your interior world” — could serve as slogans for Bobo office culture. In the ultimate expression of his inner world, partner Stephen Neuirth, who is playing a key role in the HMO suits, took a year off to play piano after his stint in the Clinton White House counsel’s office. David Boies and the firm that bears his stamp boast many of the Bobo virtues described by Brooks: stylish eccentricity, casual brilliance and passionate workaholism. The only whispered criticism of the firm, voiced by a former Cravath colleague, is, “What’s going to happen when Boies retires?” With Boies going strong at 59, that is not an immediate concern. And the firm is building depth fast. Boies Schiller offers a competitive starting salary of $135,000 for an incoming first-year, with the possibility of a case-by-case bonus surpassing $35,000. Carl Nichols, who clerked for the U.S. Supreme Court two years ago, chose the firm over top large national litigation firms because he anticipated more responsibility and a shorter partnership track. Todd Thomas and Mike Brille, both from Yale Law School class of ’93, joined the firm with similar hopes. As a senior associate, Thomas opened the firm’s Palm Beach office, 12 minutes from his home (and an undisclosed distance from the beach). He seemed well-positioned for partnership. When Brille got married last summer, Boies, Schiller and Flexner attended, and they welcomed Brille into the partnership. After making the announcement about the groom in a wedding toast, Schiller returned to the guests’ table, turned to Thomas and said, “Oh yeah, you, too.” “I had a few anxious moments there,” said Thomas, “but that was one of the better weddings I’ve been to.”

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