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Big Law’s Most Famous Practicing Lawyer is...

Oct. 28, 2016, 1:36 PM

David BoiesandJohn Quinnare the most famous practicing lawyers in Big Law according to two polls Big Law Business conducted. Boies was the winner of a poll of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg BNA executives, editors, and reporters, while Quinn was the winner of a poll of Big Law Business readers.

Boies was the only attorney to receive votes on all 12 ballots from the Bloomberg panel; 10 ranked him first. More than 150 ballots were cast in our reader poll. Quinn received votes on 92 ballots; 85 of them ranked him first.

Among the top 15 vote-getters, 10 lawyers appeared on both lists (indicated in red below):David Boies,Ted Olson,Marty Lipton,Eric Holder,Ted Wells,Paul Clement,Rudy Giuliani,Joe Lieberman,Vernon Jordan, andKathleen Sullivan.

Both Boies and Quinn started their careers at Cravath, Swaine & Moore before founding their own firms, Boies, Schiller & Flexner and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. All three firms are among the very top of The American Lawyer’s annual profits per partner and revenue per lawyer rankings. Paul Barrett wrote about Boies in an article for Businessweek last year:

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For three decades—at least since a June 1986 New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story anointed him “The Wall Street Lawyer Everyone Wants”—Boies has reigned as the country’s premier litigator. His clients range from DuPont and Philip Morris to the New York Yankees and Sony Pictures; from Calvin Klein and Don Imus to Tina Brown and Harvey Weinstein. When he argued the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case that decided the 2000 presidential election, Boies became, even in defeat, a liberal hero. Thirteen years later he helped engineer a major high court victory for same-sex marriage. Theodore Olson, Boies’s opponent in Bush v. Gore and unlikely conservative ally on gay unions, says, “In his range and brilliance on his feet, David has no equal.”

Quinn’s firm is often noted for its focus on litigation, and an outside the box approach to law firm management. He received a healthy dose of mainstream press attention earlier this year, around the opening of a Los Angeles museum that he funded, the Museum of Broken Relationships. The New York Times wrote about him in their Fashion & Style section, noting about his early career:

[caption id="attachment_4209" align="alignright” width="217"][Image “Courtesy of Quinn Emanuel” (src=]Courtesy of Quinn Emanuel[/caption]

Back in New York, he quickly found that fast-paced work-centric Manhattan life wasn’t for him. Southern California beckoned again. After several false starts, by 1986, Mr. Quinn had a steady flow of clients, and with three associates, he opened what is now Quinn Emanuel. From the beginning, he sought to do things differently: only cases involving litigation, few meetings and no dress code. (On a recent day at Quinn Emanuel, he wore athletic pants and a Nike Dri-FIT top).

As noted in our initial post about the poll, the idea started as an office conversation. We hoped that our readers would enjoy participating. While we expected some voters to cast ballots for lawyers from their own firm (readers were instructed to vote for five lawyers, ranked in order of most famous), we did not anticipate that readers would cast ballots for only a single lawyer, or only lawyers from their own firm. While not against the rules as we had laid them out, this type of voting behavior wasn’t in keeping with the spirit of the poll. Also, as my colleague Casey Sullivan wrote in our post Big Law Confidential , we did not anticipate email marketing campaigns to be named the Most Famous Practicing Lawyer in Big Law.

In counting the ballots of our reader poll, it was apparent that some had tried to game the system. Patterns emerged that made it clear that there had been campaigns. Also, many ballots came from email addresses with law firm domain names. Often these emails only had votes for their own firm’s lawyers.

There was questioning and debate in our own office, and from our Bloomberg panel, about both what we meant by “famous” and what we meant by “practicing.” Famous was the easy part. We meant well-known, known to many people, prominent — the standard dictionary definition.

Practicing was a little more difficult to define. Many famous people (most often politicians) are lawyers listed on law firm websites and are, ostensibly, practicing. We decided to leave that part up to our voters. If you were an attorney listed on an Am Law 200 law firm website, at the time of the voting, you were eligible.

One of our panel members wrote in explaining his vote:

I interpret the poll to ask who is the most famous for practicing law in a law firm, (not being an elected official, serving as US Attorney, or doing anything else) and famous to other lawyers, whether they are at Big Law or not. My answers are...mostly litigators, because very few corporate lawyers grab enough headlines to become famous.

Below are the results for the top 15 vote-getters in each poll. In both polls, lawyers received 10 points for each first-place vote, seven points for each second-place vote, five points for each third-place vote, three points for each fourth-place vote and one point for each fifth-place vote. The balloting was tabulated by Big Law Business. Again, red indicates the lawyer appeared in the top 15 on both polls.

Most Famous Practicing Lawyer in Big Law - Jury Poll

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Most Famous Practicing Lawyer in Big Law - Reader Poll

[Image “Voting Results - Reader Poll - Most Famous” (src=]