Mr. Olson was Solicitor General of the United States during the period 2001-2004. From 1981-1984, he was Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice. Except for those two intervals, he has been a lawyer with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. since 1965.
Time magazine in 2010 as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, Mr. Olson is one of the nation's premier appellate and United States Supreme Court advocates. He has argued 62 cases in the Supreme Court, including the two
Bush v. Gore cases arising out of the 2000 presidential election,
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and
Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case upholding the overturning of California’s Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriages. He has prevailed in over 75% of those arguments. Mr. Olson's practice is concentrated on appellate and constitutional law, federal legislation, media and commercial disputes, and assisting clients with strategies for the containment, management and resolution of major legal crises occurring at the federal/state, criminal/civil and domestic/international levels. He has handled cases at all levels of state and federal court systems throughout the United States.
Mr. Olson's Supreme Court arguments have included cases involving separation of powers; federalism; voting rights; the First Amendment; the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses; jury trial rights; punitive damages; takings of property and just compensation; the Commerce Clause; taxation; criminal law; copyright; antitrust; securities; campaign finance; foreign sovereign immunities; telecommunications; the environment; the internet; and other federal constitutional and statutory questions.
As Solicitor General, during the presidency of George W. Bush, Mr. Olson was the Government's principal advocate in the United States Supreme Court, responsible for supervising and coordinating all appellate litigation of the United States, and a legal adviser to the President and the Attorney General. As Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel during the Reagan Administration, Mr. Olson was the Executive Branch's principal legal adviser, rendering legal guidance to the President and to the heads of the Executive Branch departments on a wide range of constitutional and federal statutory questions, and assisting in formulating and articulating the Executive Branch's position on constitutional issues.
Mr. Olson has served as private counsel to two Presidents, Ronald W. Reagan and George W. Bush, in addition to serving those two Presidents in high-level positions in the Department of Justice. He has twice been awarded the United States Department of Justice's Edmund J. Randolph Award, its highest award for public service and leadership, and also received the Department of Defense's Distinguished Service Award, its highest civilian award, for his advocacy in the courts of the United States, including the Supreme Court.
Mr. Olson is a President Obama appointee to the ten-member Council of the Administrative Conference of the United States as well as the Commission on White House Fellowships. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and a member of the Board of Visitors of the Federalist Society. He was a visiting scholar at the National Constitution Center in 2007. He served on the President's Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board from 2006 to 2008. He was Co-Chair of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy from 2008-2009 and served two terms on the Board of Directors of the National Center for State Courts.
Mr. Olson is a Fellow of both the American College of Trial Lawyers and the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers. The National Law Journal has repeatedly listed him as one of America's Most Influential Lawyers. The American Lawyer and Legal Times have characterized Mr. Olson as one of America's leading advocates. In 2016, Lawdragon selected him as one of the "500 leading lawyers in America". In 2011, Washingtonian Magazine listed him as number one on its compilation of the finest lawyers in the nation's capital. In 2010, Times Magazine listed him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. The late New York Times columnist William Safire described Mr. Olson as this generation's "most persuasive advocate" before the Supreme Court and "the most effective Solicitor General" in decades.
Mr. Olson received his law degree in 1965 from the University of California at Berkeley (Boalt Hall) where he was a member of the
California Law Review and Order of the Coif. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of the Pacific, where he was recognized as the outstanding graduating student in both forensics and journalism. He has written and lectured extensively on appellate advocacy, oral communication in the courtroom, civil justice reform, punitive damages, and constitutional and administrative law.
Selected Appellate Litigation [PDF]