The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Albert L. Hogan III, Partner—Litigation
Al Hogan concentrates on commercial litigation at the trial and appellate levels of the state and federal courts. Al’s practice focuses on complex business disputes with an emphasis on achieving rational business solutions or efficient judicial resolutions of such disputes. He has represented a broad range of clients in high-priority cases involving merger and acquisition disputes, commercial contracts, intellectual property, securities class actions, ERISA class actions, and corporate control challenges. Al also has significant experience in bankruptcy litigation and has represented debtors, committees, and creditors in core bankruptcy issues, as well as proceedings related to bankruptcies.
Al is a graduate of The University of Chicago Law School and The Ohio State University.
Please provide an overview of what, substantively, your practice area entails.
I represent clients in active litigation in courts and tribunals around the country, and I also counsel clients with respect to litigation risk and preparation in a wide variety of settings. I routinely partner with lawyers in other practice groups to address the litigation aspects of much more complex matters in transactional and restructuring settings.
What types of clients do you represent?
I advise clients across many sectors of the economy, which is a wonderful practice in terms of variety and exposure to new businesses. On any given day I might work on a matter for a manufacturer, a large bank, or other major financial institution, or a consumer products company. The common characteristic of most of my cases is that they involve significant monetary and/or strategic stakes.
What types of deals and/or cases do you work on?
In general, my cases tend to involve important strategic or commercial issues. As an example, I worked on a multi-jurisdictional dispute for a large manufacturer involving a critical joint venture, which supplied an essential raw material to its other operations. I routinely work on disputes relating to the conclusion or implementation of strategic mergers and acquisitions. I also am regularly involved with restructuring matters and litigate contested strategic issues, as well as significant commercial disputes in bankruptcy.
How did you decide to practice in your area?
I figured out in law school that I really liked reading cases and thinking about how to create persuasive arguments about the law. I also really enjoy developing the factual stories and themes that are persuasive and grounded in reason and fact. So this area of law was a natural fit. To this day, I still really enjoy making a good brief great. If a young lawyer likes reading cases and writing about the law, or thinking about putting a factual puzzle together, then he or she should consider becoming a litigator.
What is a typical day or week like in your practice area?
There is no such thing. What I do on a day-to-day basis is dependent entirely on what cases I am focused on, and where that case stands procedurally. As a partner at my firm, I now tend to spend more time talking over strategic issues and bigger-picture directional issues than I did as an associate; but that is a natural progression of being a lawyer.
What is the best thing about your practice area?
Every new case is a chance to learn a new business, or a new aspect of a business with which I was already familiar. It is also a chance to learn new law and apply (hopefully!) the law I already do know. Over the years, I have had the chance to work on cases that touched upon a variety of legal issues—everything from the 21st Amendment and the history of prohibition, to our government’s funding of the 2008 auto industry bailout. This career is a never-ending exercise in learning.
What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?
One of the biggest challenges of practicing law, particularly in litigation, is that your schedule is subject to a great deal of uncertainty and change. You have to deal with constantly shifting priorities flowing from client demands, opposing counsel, judges, and new matters and issues. You need a good team around you that is flexible and patient.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone hoping to enter your practice area?
At a large firm, the skills you need will evolve and expand over the course of your career. Young litigators will get the greatest opportunities if they are organized, detail oriented, and a strong writer. Those skills are critical early on. But it is never too early for lawyers to start thinking about the other skills that will become more important as their careers progress. In the long term, the ability to inspire trust and confidence, and to project a sense of leadership become more and more critical. Finding ways to create your own presence that is genuine and reassuring is very important. Also, it is crucial from the very beginning of your career to demonstrate that you are invested in and take ownership of your matters. New lawyers should not think about their jobs as crossing off task lists. Own your cases and deals.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area? What do you wish you had known before joining your practice area?
The biggest misconception is that litigators love to argue for the sake of arguing and are the “hyper competitive” personality type. It is true that crafting and delivering arguments is a great part of what a litigator does, but a good litigator chooses the timing and subjects of their arguments carefully, not reflexively. Most good litigators are, indeed, competitive, but I don’t think any more so than my colleagues in transactional and other practices. This misconception makes young lawyers feel as if they have to be in “full adversary” mode all the time with respect to opposing counsel, when in fact it is much more important to be professional and courteous. Fight hard over the substance, but not personally. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but new lawyers should try to keep to that mode of thinking.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm?
Skadden is a highly integrated firm. I work across practice groups and offices on the vast majority of my matters. Practicing here gives me the sense of being a business lawyer, who happens to specialize in litigation. Advances in technology have made our ability to act seamlessly across the firm even stronger over the years. I really have the sense of being a part of one Skadden community, day in and day out.
What activities do you enjoy when you are not in the office, and how do you make time for them?
I love spending time with my family. I learned from one of my mentors that spending time with family while maintaining a fast-paced career can be a tricky but necessary balance that everyone should strike. You will have to juggle, for sure, and so a “family appointment” may not be your priority every day, but it is important to make it a priority whenever possible.
I also like to exercise. I’m a big believer that your best gym is the one that is closest to you. I’m lucky that at Skadden we have a gym in our office space (and a nice one!), which makes it hard for me to find excuses to not exercise.