By Annie Butterworth Jones
Andrew Hall’s passion for justice springs from an unusually dark place: a cellar floor in war-torn Poland during the summer of 1944.
Hall, a Miami trial attorney, has channeled his unique childhood experiences into over 40 years of service as a lawyer, representing survivors of the USS Cole and American victims of violence overseas.
Born during the Warsaw Uprising, a two-month period in which 250,000 Poles lost their lives rebelling against the German occupation, Hall spent his first days with 30 other Jews hiding in the coal cellar of an apartment building in Warsaw. Just months after his birth, Hall and his family — his mother, father, and brother, Allan, a retired Florida attorney — fled through the sewers to Krakow, where they stayed until the end of World War II.
“It would have been very nice to have lived a very conventional life, but you learn very quickly to never take anything for granted,” said Hall. “You also never feel entirely safe.”
The war ended, and Hall and his older brother were sent to the Polish/German border in 1946, after questions regarding their father’s job with the government gave the family reason to believe he might be arrested and executed.
While hiding away from their parents and in what Hall describes as “plain view,” Allan was able to contact a family member in Israel who offered to help the boys — then 2 and 10 — escape to Israel. The two brothers had given up hope of being reunited with their mother and father, but in 1947, shortly before leaving for Israel, the family was brought together by a chance meeting in Munich.
“I’ve learned that your survival — and the people who are counting on you for their survival — is due to your constant vigilance,” said Hall. It’s a lesson that inspired Hall to attend law school at the University of Florida, where he and his brother both graduated in 1968.
“I found that that sharpened my instinct to be protective of myself and other people, and it also sharpened my instinct in terms of any form of abusive authority, whether or not it was governmental abuse or just abuse by people with great wealth and power,” said Hall. “I found I had very little tolerance for that. And so what better making for a trial lawyer than somebody who basically wanted to make sure that everybody got a fair shake all the time?”
As a trial lawyer, Hall has dedicated years of service to helping parties overcome perceived dominance by another person or group. In 1992, Hall represented an American contractor kidnapped and tortured by Iraqi officials after the Gulf War. Eight years later, families of victims of the USS Cole contacted Hall for representation; Hall and his team have collected over $14 million on their behalf.
“At the very earliest age, I knew that the only way to stand up to any level of oppression is to not tolerate it for one minute,” Hall said. “The bully in the schoolyard stops the minute the first kid steps up and says, ‘No.’
“On a bigger basis, that holds true in the court of world opinion and the judicial system. It just takes one person having the knowledge and ability to appropriately allow what the law permits to get it stopped, and it takes enough desire and courage to stand up and say we’re not going to let this happen anymore.”
This task, Hall said, is unique to the United States, and is part of the reason Hall’s family chose to move to America.
“It’s one guy making a difference in the judicial system, to really make a substantial difference in the way justice is administered, which in turn has an effect on foreign policy and a variety of other things,” said Hall.
“That’s an unbelievable thing. I think the United States is the only place in the world where you can do that. It just tells you the brilliance of our system.”
Hall founded the Coral Gables law firm, Hall, Lamb and Hall, in 1975, and his son Adam serves as a partner. A passion for law, it turns out, runs in the Hall family. His brother, stepdaughter, and son-in-law all serve as attorneys. It’s a high calling, Hall said, and he’s quick to offer advice to those who serve in the field with him.
“Read your oath of office and live by it. The oath of admission is amazing. Pull it down every couple of years and read it. You’ll be surprised how powerful it is.”