As a bankruptcy practitioner, John Hoard has been appointed a receiver in multiple cases in which his representation helped creditors recover hundreds of millions of dollars. But while he’s built a reputation as a leader in the bankruptcy bar, he also is active in providing pro bono work through the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, where he has served on the board for more than a dozen years and currently is chairman. Hoard also is active in numerous bar and legal organizations.
What inspires the work you do with the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic?
My faith in God provides inspiration for this work and much more. Generally, the work of lawyers is a secular endeavor. That is, rarely are we able to actively and openly use our skills as practitioners in direct service to a faith-based mission. Performing work for the clinic provides this opportunity. It is a very unique and fulfilling experience.
When did you first decide you would become a lawyer, and what motivated you?
I never had a bright light “aha” moment when I decided law school was for me. Rather, I thought about going to law school early in my life, even when I was in junior high school. This sense of direction was molded by my parents. As well, I liked speech, writing, debate, politics and involvement in class leadership. Based on my judgment, becoming a lawyer seemed like a good way to apply my proclivities and abilities, and I never deviated for long from this path.
Who is someone who inspired or mentored you, and what did you learn from them?
My professional mentor has been Elliott Levin. His level of sophistication and experience greatly aided my understanding of how to staff and operate a case of any size. He introduced me to the good work of other professionals and helped me build
working partnerships to assess complex work. As well, he
introduced me to others in the legal community and taught me to take a higher road in the face of conflict; a good lesson to know and to pass on to others
regardless of circumstance.
What’s been the most rewarding aspect of your practice?
At this stage of my career, it is most rewarding to have gained the experience and knowledge of a body of law and procedure that can be brought to bear quickly on a multitude of problems that directly impacts a client’s decisions about his or her business and individual well-being. Thus, most rewarding is that moment in time when the client’s concern or anxiety subsides and they gain a sense of order, assurance or calm that was not present before we met.
What’s something about you not many people know?
I know all of the lyrics to “Danny Boy.”
What are some of the skills you’ve had to learn to succeed as a bankruptcy practitioner?
In order of priority, the short answer is teamwork, organization, financial analysis and continuous and unfailing availability to others during the administration a case. Commercial bankruptcies are designed to provide business owners, creditors and the courts with the tools to bring order and priority to chaos. In order to effectively administer those tools for the client, it is incumbent on the practitioner to know as much about the business operations of the debtor as quickly as possible. Generally, it takes a team of professionals to quickly assess the business environment. Second, it is imperative that the team leaders digest and analyze a large amount of information quickly in order to provide clear choices for the client. Next, clients involved in commercial bankruptcies often do not have any understanding of how to prepare financial forecasts into and out of a case. Understanding realistic financial scenarios for funding and operating in a Chapter 11 is required. Finally, business owners involved in a Chapter 11 are in unchartered waters. The constant advice of counsel is essential. Therefore, the importance of providing 24/7 access to your client throughout the case is vital to the success of the engagement.
What advice would you give your younger self?
When working with others, remember that everyone is generally doing the best they can. Rarely does anyone intentionally do a bad job. So, they are giving you the best of themselves on something you’ve asked them to do. Respect their time and effort. Take the time to carefully assess their work and provide the kind of response you would want to receive if you made a mistake or did a great job. Finally, remember their efforts are also a reflection of your instructions and clarity of thought.
If you could change one law, what would that be?
The Second Amendment.
What’s your advice to a younger person who’s thinking about a legal career?
You will never go wrong obtaining a law degree. It is an excellent education that prepares you for being a responsible citizen in a world growing more complex with each passing year. That said, law school and the practice of law is not for everyone. Test your compatibility for law school and a career in law by asking yourself whether you are passionate about learning, regardless of the subject. If you choose to practice law, select an area that best suits your personal beliefs and fulfills your individual needs. The best and happiest lawyers are those who are passionate about their work, and by extension, their clients. Get to know your peers and look for someone to act as your mentor early in your career. Many bar associations are sponsoring networking and mentor programs, both essential development tools for young lawyers. Finally, be prepared to work hard every day for the rest of your work life because as in any profession, personal development and learning never stop.
What do you most enjoy doing when you’re not in the office?
When office time is over, I enjoy most spending time with my wife and children wherein we watch good movies, discuss and view my daughter’s art, spend time at our lake home, sail, golf and ride bikes. I also like to work in the yard and tend to our two temperamental dogs.
What was your most memorable job before becoming an attorney?
The one job that stands out most is working as a “door man” (aka bouncer) in a Chicago disco during my senior year of college in 1977. The job was fun at first and the music was great. However, eventually, once the club was established, we were told to not admit people of color. I was fired not long thereafter because I could not follow the rules.
Why do you actively engage in pro bono efforts?
First, pro bono representation by active members of the bar is a clear expectation of the Indiana Supreme Court. Hence, it is a professional obligation to so act. Next, providing assistance to the poor and needy is a basic tenet of my faith and upbringing. Often these clients are exploited by fraudsters and bullies or thwarted by complex rules. It is only lawyers who possess the license and training to seek redress through the courts and governmental agencies, recover against wrongdoers and seek justice against the oppressive and dishonest. These powers should be shared freely and often as much as possible.•