Long-running litigation cases can be an occupational hazard for attorneys, with lawsuits going on for years.
Michael Van Sicklen of Foley & Lardner LLP knows this all too well. Since 2008, he’s represented the Wisconsin Commissioner of Insurance as lead counsel in all of the litigation involving the Ambac Assurance Corp. Rehabilitation — the largest insurance company liquidation in American history.
“No doubt it’s been big,” he said. “There’s more than $300 billion in liabilities there, but the key is they are not all the same case. There are different people involved, which keeps it interesting.”
Since the rehabilitation began, Van Sicklen has litigated and won more than 20 disputes and appeals related to the case. Ambac is chartered in Wisconsin and the state insurance commissioner selected Foley & Lardner to represent the office in court.
“We’ve taken care of some big issues,” Van Sicklen said, “but there are still other things that will come up.”
The Foley & Lardner partner’s work on the Ambac case shouldn’t be underestimated, Anne Ross, managing partner of the firm’s Madison office, said.
“Those disputes were contested by sophisticated parties represented by Am Law 100 law firms,” she said, “and involved high stakes, ranging from tens of million to several billion dollars.”
Despite the challenges, Van Sicklen said it’s a job he’s enjoyed.
“The case keeps you on your toes,” he said.
Though his work in the courtroom speaks for itself, Van Sicklen initially wasn’t sure he wanted to be a litigator. That changed in law school after he did a clerkship with an appellate judge.
“I knew then that’s what I wanted to do,” Van Sicklen said.
Despite working for high-profile clients such as Ambac and Physicians’ Insurance, Van Sicklen still enjoys and makes time to work one-on-one with clients and to take on pro bono jobs. He recently helped more than two dozen low-income residents avoid eviction.
“It was nice to receive handwritten thank-you notes from them,” Van Sicklen said. “It’s great to win big ones like with Ambac, but knowing you’ve helped someone individually is very gratifying.”