This past Saturday, the 2014 graduating class of UC Berkeley School of Law was given speeches by two successful litigators: Ted Olson and David Boies, the pair who took on the daunting task of battling Proposition 8—California’s ban on same-sex marriage—all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The duo worked alongside the American Foundation for Equal Rights, whose leadership board includes director Rob Reiner and Republican and former campaign manager Ken Mehlman. Olson and Boies won their battle on behalf of gay couples just eight years after facing off against each other in Bush vs. Gore which determined the 2000 presidential election.
There’s something to be said for two adversarial attorneys and their ability to team up for justice. It is tremendously inspiring for those 450 newly minted law students graduating from Berkeley to see such collaboration and cooperation in action. “They were great,” said Kathryn Robinette, who received her juris doctor over the weekend. “Their message of unity was really strong and important.”
This year’s graduating class is especially diverse. This school would be an excellent example of true diversity in education, as 57% of those attending are women, and 42% are people of color. Acting Dean Gillian Lester stated the university had chosen Olson and Boies because they “were inspired by their common goal of marriage equality.”
Olson, who is a Berkeley law school graduate of 1965, said many people he comes across are confused by his ability to become “not only colleagues but very, very, very good friends” with Boies. Both attorneys state that graduates should take note of their personal and professional alliance.
Said Olson, “When the presidency of the United States was at stake for five big, whole weeks, I was filled with respect and admiration for David. He was brilliant, professional, respectful and never lost his poise, his grace or his sense of humor,” he said. “I caught myself hearing his arguments in court and in front of the media and finding myself almost convinced, he was that persuasive. Fortunately, I was able to come to my senses and avoid nodding my head when he was speaking.”
Boies imparted advice as well in his speech, stating, “When we serve justice, we are bringing this country together. It’s very easy to remember that in law school but it gets hard when you get out.”
Olson also added, “It’s a wise thing for a lawyer to listen closely and respectfully to the other side, because it’s hard to prevail if you don’t appreciate the strength of the other side and the weaknesses of our own.”