David and Goliath: underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling Giants.

Author:Sweeney, Paul
Position:Book review

By Malcolm Gladwell. Little, Brown and Company, $29.00 US/$32.00 CAN/320 pages.

The practice of law did not come easily for David Boies. The brilliant litigator, whose many courtroom credits include the successful prosecution of the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. some 15 years ago, couldn't read until he was in the third grade.

Despite earning a law degree with honors from Yale Law School, he's waged a lifelong battle with dyslexia. In high school, Boies admits, his grades were so "ragged" that he barely graduated. He worked in construction and got married, though prospects for a high-paying career looked bleak.

So how did he Boies end up at an Ivy League law school and vault to the highest ranks in the legal field where the skill of case-reading is regarded as central?

As Malcolm Gladwell tells it in David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants, Boies proved a canny student by overcoming adversity. He was able to master every possible shortcut, strategy and bypass to get around reading. During lectures, Boies paid strict attention to what was said, committing professors' words to memory. Because he was virtually unable to read, Gladwell writes, Boies's memory, had become "a formidable instrument."

That instrument was on broad display during cross-examination in the Microsoft case. With nearly total recall, he could hone in on any inconsistency in testimony--whether it had occurred a half-hour ago or a month earlier. His language, moreover, was concise and plain, distilling the complications and nuances of business, law and technology into understandable terms that resonated with judge and jury alike.

In Blink, Gladwell, a New Yorker features writer and best-selling author, contended that great decision-makers are those best able to do "thinslicing." When presented with an enormous number of complicating factors, they make the best choices by cutting to the chase.

In Outliers, Gladwell explores the elements that led people to become high-achievers. Their success, he determined, lay largely in their backgrounds and in the circumstances of culture...

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