by Art Levy
Updated 7 yearss ago
As a pre-med student at the University of Florida in 1964, Andrew C. Hall attended a party that changed his life.
"I had too much to drink," Hall says. "The next morning, my fraternity brothers decided it would be very funny to wake me up and take me with them to take the LSAT. I was still in a fog. The next thing I knew, I had a No. 2 pencil in my hand."
The joke ended up being on Hall's friends. Hall, who'd never even thought about applying, did so well on the test that UF's law school offered him admission.
Three years later, he graduated second in his law school class and got a job clerking for U.S. District Court Judge Joe Eaton in Miami. At law firms in Atlanta and south Florida, and then at his own firm in Miami, Hall focused on complex commercial litigation, gaining a reputation as someone who could handle big cases.
Among his bigger cases was representing Robert Bell, the inventor of Banana Boat suntan lotion, in a shareholder derivative suit that won his client $3.2 million. He also represented Redland Co. In an accounting malpractice claim against the company's former auditor and is currently representing the former COO of AT&T in a $16-million malpractice suit against his former lead counsel.
Hall takes particular satisfaction in high-profile cases that cast him as a Don Quixote tilting at windmills. Late last year, for example, he won a $2.8-billion judgment against the Cuban government on behalf of a Cuban exile whose family was harmed by the Castro regime. He also sued the governments of Iraq, Libya and Sudan on behalf of terrorism victims, including the sailors on the USS Cole when it was attacked 14 years ago in Yemen by al-Qaida suicide bombers.
So far, Hall says he has collected $60 million in judgments for American terrorism victims over the last 20 years, including $15 million for the victims of the attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors and injured 39; $20 million for a case involving Iraq; and $14 million for a case involving Libya. He has collected $6 million so far from the $2.8-billion Cuba judgment.
"If you have a really tough and difficult case, lots of emotion involved, lots of high stakes, then I suspect I'll find myself on the short list, particularly if there is a David-and- Goliath scenario going on," he says.
Hall's self-identification with the Davids of the world — and his relentless way of litigating cases — has much to do, he says, with how he grew up. He was born to Jewish parents in Poland on Sept. 16, 1944, as his family was hiding from the Nazis in a coal cellar. His mother was so thin and malnourished she didn't even know she was pregnant. He weighed 2 pounds.
His family survived the Holocaust, but by the time Hall was a toddler, the family was hiding again. His father had been the superintendent of insurance for Poland's coalition government after the war, but when the Communists took over, they put his father in jail. Hall and an older brother were separated from their mother and lived in a series of camps for war orphans. Eventually, the family reunited and immigrated to the United States, first to upstate New York and then to Miami.
"You never stop trying — that's the lesson you learn," he says. "Even when you think the game is over, it's not. You don't take anything for granted. You're not really ever able to turn the switch off and be comfortable and figure everything is going to be fine."
His experience, he says, gives him confidence that "you can essentially take on a foreign country, and you get to take on the biggest financial interests in the world and you get to win. That's really cool. If you want to talk about chasing a windmill and being successful, I can't think of anything better than that."
Andrew C. Hall, 70
Managing partner Hall, Lamb and Hall, Miami
Specialty: Complex commercial litigation
Community work: Chairman, Miami Beach Holocaust Memorial
Notable client: From 1973-75, Hall represented John D. Ehrlichman, Richard Nixon's former senior adviser.
On working with his son, Adam S. Hall, a partner at the firm: "Can you think about having a tough taskmaster — and I think I am — and you have him as your father and you look forward to the day when you grow up and you get to be away from him and then you find you have to be with him every single day? It's a tough job."