One of Chicago’s leading medical malpractice and personal injury attorneys, Michael Cogan (’81) has used his passion and expertise to earn a reputation, and multi-million-dollar verdicts, as a fierce victim’s advocate. Considered one of the top 100 trial attorneys in the nation, Cogan still finds time to support JMLS as an adjunct professor, member of the Board of Visitors, and donor. We’re grateful for the time he took to offer reflections on his career and alma mater.
JMLS: You are one of Chicago’s leading trial attorneys, advocating for victims of personal injury, medical malpractice, and wrongful death. What lead you to pursue these practice areas?
Cogan: I have had an interest in medicine since accompanying my dad on rounds at the University of Chicago as a teenager. My first job after law school was Associate General Counsel at Michael Reese Hospital, where I had opportunities to watch every kind of surgery you can imagine, as well as numerous autopsies. When I entered private practice two years later, I had a working knowledge of medicine that surpassed most of my more-experienced peers.
I spent nine years with a prestigious local firm where my practice was devoted to plaintiff’s medical malpractice. While at the firm, I worked hard to develop a stable of experts from around the country with whom I still work with today. I love medicine, and, most importantly, after 34 years in private practice, I have never seen the same fact pattern twice.
Finally, the clients I represent need my help, and I have worked hard to hone skills that enable me to help those in need.
JMLS: What’s your best piece of advice for more junior trial lawyers?
Cogan: Watch as many trials as you can. Watch attorneys with stunning reputations, and watch those who are trying their first case. You will take away techniques and tactics from both ends of the spectrum that best fit your personality. Also, if you choose medical malpractice as your area of interest, understand that you need to immerse yourself in medicine—read as much as you can and find medical seminars to attend. Join ITLA and never miss a seminar. I’ve gained valuable information over the years, both as a speaker and an attendee, at those seminars.
JMLS: Who was your favorite law school professor?
Cogan: Without a close second, George Trubow was my favorite. He was the master of the Socratic Method, and he taught us to think on our feet, as lawyers must do. He also scared the heck out of us, but we came to realize that his intentions were good. He is truly missed by many alumni.
JMLS: You were recently appointed to The John Marshall Law School Board of Visitors, and you have taught at JMLS as an adjunct professor. What inspires you to contribute to John Marshall?
Cogan: Compared to the law school I attended from 1981–1983, John Marshall has made extraordinary strides in the quality of the faculty, infrastructure, and curriculum. I’ve watched these changes from afar for many years and finally decided that I wanted to be part of something great. I truly believe that the potential affiliation with UIC will result in further improvements in all areas. I am glad I made the choice I did.
JMLS: Your daughter is now a student at John Marshall. What advice, if any, did you give her before she started? How do you think her law school experience will differ from yours?
Cogan: My daughter has two lawyer parents. Additionally, my older brother is a federal judge in New York, his wife—my sister-in-law—is the head of international insolvency for one of the biggest firms in the world, and my wife’s younger brother is a partner and superstar litigator at the biggest firm in the world. So my daughter grew up surrounded by the law; she didn’t need much advice. She saw the work commitment that comes with the practice of law and has worked hard from day one. One thing I did tell her was that, with a family of lawyers in various practice areas, she should use us as resources and we will always be available to help her. I also told her to keep an open mind and to not feel that she has to follow in anyone’s footsteps. She is paving her own way and will find her own success.
JMLS: What’s one thought or idea you’d like to share with your fellow John Marshall alumni?
Cogan: Forget about our day when the study area, smoking lounge, and cafeteria (two vending machines) were all in one room. You owe it to yourself to go see the law school and take a tour. You will come away hungry to become part of something that is quite different than you remember. Be part of something great, as John Marshall will welcome your participation with open arms.