Dan Kolkey was born in 1952 and grew up in the Chicago area. Although enamored with the roar of greasepaint in his youth, he received his BA in history with distinction and departmental honors from Stanford University in 1974, and his JD from Harvard Law School (magna cum laude) in 1977. After clerking a year for US District Judge Dudley Bonsal of the Southern District of New York, he joined the law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. In 1995 he was appointed to serve as legal affairs secretary and counsel to Governor Pete Wilson. Kolkey was appointed to the Third District Court of Appeal in December 1998. He resigned in November 2003 to return to private practice.