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He did return to Michigan to clerk for Charles Levin of the Michigan Supreme Court, but then decided to start a small law firm with friends from law school.

When his partner retired, Ruby decided last year to discontinue his San Jose-based Ruby & Schofield and became a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, one of the world’s largest firms. He knew some people at Skadden when he worked on the NFL case. (In a coincidence, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, who is presiding on the Bonds’ trial, also worked for the NFL when she was a young lawyer at Cotchett, Illston & Pitre in Burlingame).

“It doesn’t take long to figure out why Allen is so good in front of a jury,” said David Zornow, Skadden’s global head of litigation. “I think he’s got a commanding presence. He’s unpretentious. He’s the kind of person who talks to a jury in plain language, takes complicated facts and makes them understandable to a nonlawyer, a person who exudes credibility and belief in what he’s saying.”

He’s done a lot of work for tech firms in Silicon Valley. Despite all he’s done before, no case has brought him the attention of USA v. Bonds, in which the government charges the home run king of lying to a grand jury in 2003 when he denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs.

He wouldn’t necessarily consider a victory his greatest win. Ruby said he doesn’t put his successes in any particular order.

“I think in order to be in court, you constantly face the reality of disappointment, and if you think in terms _ boy, this is disappointing or that’s not disappointing _ I think you can drive yourself crazy,” he said. “So I remember the cases where I wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning and think about them, but I don’t rate them or rank them.”