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It was early 1999. Matthew Neumeier from Chicago’s Jenner & Block was cross-examining a key witness in a big insurance coverage arbitration for his client Dell Computer Corp. Things were going well. But near the examination’s midpoint, his partner, John Mathias Jr., leaned in and whispered, “Wrap this up. We’re done.” The command wasn’t Mathias’. It came from the woman seated next to the attorney — Paula Boggs, head of Dell’s litigation at the time. To Boggs, ending the examination was a no-brainer. Neumeier had already made his point, and she saw no sense in insulting the intelligence of a seasoned arbitration panel. To Mathias, however, the instruction was brilliant. “Every other trial lawyer I’ve ever met would have wanted to keep going,” he says. “But Paula knew that it was better to leave something to the arbitrators’ imagination. It was pure instinct, and it was right on the money.” The outcome of the proceeding was kept private. Yet Boggs says that Dell “got a very good result” out of the arbitration. Adds Mathias: “Paula just seemed to know exactly how to handle that case. She’s just got this wonderful natural radar.” Natural. It’s a word that’s applied to Boggs as often as it is to Robert Redford. “She’s naturally smart, she’s verbal, and she’s one of the most outgoing people I’ve ever met,” says Kirk Dublin, a former law partner of Boggs’ at Seattle’s Preston Gates & Ellis. By the time Boggs landed at Preston Gates in 1995, her resume spoke for itself: Assistant U.S. Attorney, junior staffer on Iran-Contra, and army paratrooper. But her natural sociability was a big part of the reason Dell GC Thomas Green hired her away from Preston Gates two years later to oversee Dell’s litigation. “She was visible and had a great reputation,” he says. “A lot of judges knew her.” At Dell, however, she had few opportunities to impress judges. After only four months, Green decided Boggs could handle bigger things: He moved her from litigation and put her in charge of the lawyers supporting a smattering of smaller groups: intellectual property, labor, procurement, and factory operations. Then, last May, Green promoted her to head of legal affairs for all product operations. The 43-year-old admits that the increased responsibilities only added to her ambitions. “I think I’d bring a lot to a GC position,” she says. The attorney isn’t the only one with that opinion. As this article went to press, Boggs announced she was leaving Dell to become general counsel at Seattle’s Starbucks Corp., where she’ll lead the 54-lawyer law department. Boggs was slated to begin her new post in mid-September. “I’m heading home,” she says of her adopted hometown, Seattle, “and I couldn’t be happier about it.” Sounds like a natural move.

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