David Boies, the lawyer who won Al Gore's fight for a recount, is an awfully rumpled sort for the permanently pressed Vice President. He has a steel-trap mind but the quirks of a little kid. When I catch up with him on Friday morning--after he has cut short his Thanksgiving break, flying back to Tallahassee, Fla., from his home in New York's Westchester County ("I had two turkey lunches, but no dinner")--he runs upstairs to his room at the tiny Governor's Inn to change out of his blue suit; it's the only one he has in Tallahassee, and it has started to rain. Fond of Lands' End tailoring, knit ties and cheap watches, Boies quickly returns in a gray tweed wool jacket, which, for the rest of the day, he pulls over his head to stay dry, as if an umbrella might slow him down. He feels the same way about briefcases and legal pads. As best I can tell, through 13 TV appearances, several meetings and one press conference, everything comes from memory. He never takes a note or refers to one. When his counterpart, James Baker, appears in the briefing room they share, the former Secretary of State brings aides, files and a bank of supplementary flags to solemnify his surroundings. Boies just shows up.
Before representing Gore, Boies had met the Vice President only once, back in 1988 at the Manhattan apartment of First Amendment lawyer Victor Kovner. More a vague Democrat than a fierce one, he rarely mentions George W. Bush in his statements, although he tells me he would never have represented the Texas Governor. "I believe in Gore's side, which is, Let's get an accurate count," he says. "I don't know about Gore as a campaigner, but here he has been reflective, thoughtful and searching for the right thing to do. I was surprised when he announced Tuesday night he was giving up any thought of changing an elector's vote. If this were simply up to me as a lawyer, I wouldn't give up anything."
Boies often works out of his hotel room, but he also goes over to a local law firm, where upwards of 20 lawyers for Gore have set up shop in a space designed for five. Amid the teetering chairs and snaking phone cords and cable wires, Boies perches, writing in longhand in an 8 1/2-by-11-in. notebook on his lap. Mildly dyslexic since childhood, he memorizes almost everything, so he need only read things once. Junior partners are warned never to tell him anything they aren't sure of, for he might pull it out of thin air months later in open court.