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Laura A. Foggan

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Laura A. Foggan

Partner
Wiley Rein L.L.P.
Washington
Age: 53

Laura A. Foggan is a partner at Wiley Rein L.L.P. and leader of its insurance appellate group, which represents trade groups such as the American Insurance Assn. and Complex Insurance Claims Litigation Assn. She provides advice on emerging risks and litigation trends under general liability and other coverages, and litigates coverage for consumer privacy claims, construction defects, mass tort and pharmaceutical claims, global warming, bad faith exposures and other areas. She joined Wiley Rein in 1988.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO WOMEN ENTERING THIS FIELD?

My advice to women entering any field is not to shy away from technical issues and to learn the business. Also, dealing with the nitty-gritty tasks and paying attention to detail is what ensures top-quality work. And it will give you the knowledge, skill and experience needed to succeed over time.

WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING THING YOU'VE LEARNED IN YOUR CAREER?

The most interesting part of my work is identifying and working with emerging risks; I enjoy the new challenges presented by technology and cyber crime issues, nanotechnology, hydrofracking and the like. Often for me, this means taking on the legal challenges of explaining to courts why these exposures cannot be shoehorned into existing insurance coverages. Sometimes I am advising clients on legal issues involved in the design of new insurance products, too. Some coverage lawyers say that today's headline is tomorrow's insurance dispute, but I've learned to spend some of my time thinking about tomorrow's headline, too.

DID YOU HAVE A MENTOR EARLY IN YOUR CAREER?

Two early mentors—both colleagues at Wiley Rein L.L.P. now—are my former practice chair, Tom Brunner, and former client, John Cole. Tom taught me to develop a big-picture strategy early on in evaluating legal problems—a case-by-case version of the “vision thing.” John Cole, former executive vp and chief claims officer of Zurich North America, was an early and very demanding client. From him I received an education on how the insurance business works. Both guided me toward becoming an advocate for insurers in my legal practice.

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM JOB, OUTSIDE OF YOUR CURRENT ROLE?

I have a tough time narrowing down my dreams to a single specific position. If I weren't a practicing attorney, I might be in education, the public sector or industry—perhaps in a position designed to educate the public or influence decision-makers about an important problem, such as flaws in the education, health care or judicial systems. I know that I am a “Type A” person at heart, so my dream job is definitely a high-energy position. I like to work in a fast-changing environment, stretching myself with new challenges. This is something that litigation offers, but it can be found in a wide variety of other settings. A key to job satisfaction for me is being in a position where I acquire new knowledge and insights—having that breakthrough “aha” moment and the satisfaction of accomplishing a difficult task.

OUTSIDE OF FAMILY AND COLLEAGUES, WHOM DO YOU ADMIRE MOST?

Women who are trailblazers, who dare to be first. I'm inspired by the inner determination, integrity and positive outlook of women who have pioneered new roles and accomplishments. I live in Washington D.C., so prominent women in government and public life here come immediately to mind—people such as Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Patsy Mink, Barbara Jordan, Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton, Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. I could go on and on; this list is just a beginning.

WHAT'S YOUR CAN'T-MISS TV SHOW?

I like BBC mystery shows, such as “Foyle's War,” “Inspector Lewis” and “Zen.” Also, I watched every episode of the BBC miniseries “Downton Abbey.” Honestly, I can and mostly do miss many popular TV shows, but a while back I was somewhat addicted to HBO's “The Wire.” I'd have to say law and crime shows are the ones I'm most likely to watch—it must be the lawyer in me.

BEYOND WORK, WHAT ONE THING DO YOU WANT TO DO OR ACCOMPLISH IN LIFE?

I'm fortunate to have had a great education and legal training—I actually have a master's in education as well as a J.D. I'd like to be able to say that I've used my training and experience to help others—to solve problems and benefit the community. I've worked on domestic violence issues in the past, and I now work with a local charter high school in Anacostia, The Thurgood Marshall Academy, to offer a “law day” program to rising ninth-graders who learn critical thinking skills, public speaking techniques, and how to respectfully disagree and respond to an argument. Next year will be my 10th year as the volunteer organizer of that event, and I hope to do more of this type of thing throughout my life.

DO YOU USE SOCIAL MEDIA? IF NOT, WHY NOT?

It's tempting to talk about whether I “like” social media or whether I'm a “fan” of certain sites. Actually, I tend to turn off the computer when it's time to relax. I do have a professional profile on LinkedIn, and I've found that site a useful tool for staying in touch with professional peers, sharing ideas and information, and keeping up with professional organizations. I have formed great friendships and ties with others in the field through industry and bar association groups.