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Apple Enlists Ted Olson, Who Will Hire David Boies?

February 22, 2016, 11:00 AM UTC

David Boies

Superlawyer, founder of Boies Schiller & Flexner "Try to listen before you speak," my father told me when I was 13. "Anyone who's worth talking to is worth listening to." It was for some time hard advice to take onboard. I could understand listening to a teacher, or anyone with special knowledge, about a subject I was trying to learn. But I often thought I knew more than the person I was speaking with (and occasionally I did). Over time I came to understand that almost everyone knows something or has some insight or experience I do not -- or can say something that, even if wrong, triggers a thought or idea I might not otherwise have. Even if my only interest in someone was to teach, persuade, or seduce them, listening was still important. People I listen to are more willing to listen to me.
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Reading the news that Ted Olson will join the Apple legal team fighting the Justice Department made me wonder whether Apple (AAPL) or Justice should seek help from David Boies.

Olson and Boies, two of America’s most prominent lawyers, are well-known for having joined forces to overturn Proposition 8, a California voter initiative designed to ban same-sex marriage. The story of that effort was captured in an HBO documentary and in a book they wrote, The Case for Marriage Equality.

Before that, however, they were fierce rivals in 2000, when Olson bested Boies in Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court case that gave the presidency to George W. Bush.

In the late 1990s Boies successfully represented the Justice Department in its antitrust suit against Microsoft (MSFT).

The Justice Department’s effort to compel Apple to help the FBI unlock an iPhone that belonged to one of San Bernardino killers is likely to set important precedents and the case could easily end up before the Supreme Court.

I have followed both lawyers’ careers and have known each of them for more than a decade, signed up Olson to represent Time Inc. (TIME) in 2005 in a case involving anonymous sources, and spend a week biking with them and their spouses every summer.

As much as it is fun to see them enjoying each other’s company, it is even more interesting to see them when they disagree. So I am rooting for Justice to reach out to Boies before Olson thinks to do so.

Norman Pearlstine is chief content officer of Time Inc.