My Toughest Case
Getting a hotel its Due

For Jonathan McCall, law is all in the family. His grandfather, Harry McCall Sr. joined Denegre, Leovy & Chaffe in 1915 while teaching English and Mathematics at Tulane University. He also served as president of both the Louisiana and New Orleans bar associations while showing his son, Jonathan’s father, the ropes of the law firm.

Princeton degree in hand, McCall spent two years working in City Hall for Moon Landrieu before studying at Tulane Law School.

Upon passing the bar, he practiced general litigation at Monroe and Lemann before getting his chance to join the family practice in 1984.

When he joined the firm as a general partner, McCall had the opportunity to work alongside his father. “I was lucky to be one of the ones working for him,” McCall says. “Chaffe has always been a great place to practice and I’ve always been happy here.”

McCall worked in general litigation and product liability defense when he first arrived, but switched to appellate practice about 10 years ago.

“Back then, you went to a law firm and worked wherever they put you,” he says. “I wanted to stop trying cases and do more written work because I enjoyed the written part of law practice more than any other.”

McCall now only goes to court to argue appellate briefs in appellate court. “Appellate practice is more complicated and much more rewarding than I had expected,” he says. “I am still learning a lot of things in appellate practice but enjoying it every day.”

To prepare to write an appellate brief, McCall first makes sure that he has the entire record of the appeal in his possession. He then prepares an outline of the appellate brief before writing it out. He usually handles about three to four cases at a time.

McCall’s toughest case to date was washed up by Hurricane Katrina. A local boutique hotel flooded during the storm, and its insurance company claimed its coverage was only a third of what it actually was. The specifics of the insurance company policies were so dense and complicated that McCall and his partner spent a year and a half on the case. The case required them to present the policy as simply as possible to the jury.

“I felt that if the appellate courts didn’t clearly understand what the policy was, we would lose,” says McCall. “It was one of my favorites because it was a question of taking a company’s insurance plan and spelling it out so it would be easy to understand.”

In filing the appeal, McCall set out the facts and stated as clearly as possible the details of the insurance plan and what was owed to the hotel. They won the appeal.

This work of close reading, analysis and summary in layman’s terms is a tedious lot not suited for every attorney.

“I see a lot of briefs from other people and I’m not sure where they’re going as far as what they want,” McCall says. “You have to go back and reread and maybe write your own summary of it to understand.”

But McCall enjoys the precision and detail of boiling facts down to their concise core, which is what he does daily as an appellate attorney.

“Most of the time, you’ll get to the end of a brief and still can’t figure out what they’re trying to say,” he says. “The trick is just to spell it out. When you read a book and you get to the end of the chapter and say, ‘Wow, that was good,’ that’s what we try to do every time.

“We try to keep it exciting and interesting.”

35 years in practice
B.A. Princeton – 1972
J.D. Tulane Law School – 1977
Native of New Orleans