Sometimes, the career you start out in isn’t quite what you expected. For J. Michael Hannon ’80, that’s exactly what he experienced in his first career as a high school English teacher and swimming coach in Montgomery County, Maryland. Hannon had enjoyed teaching and coaching high-caliber swimmers, but after returning to high school teaching post master’s degree, “he became restless with the education bureaucracy […and] concluded that the modern public school system was no longer in the business of education.” It was then that he decided that his next step would be to go to law school.
Hannon continued teaching while attending law school in the evenings. Hannon’s father, the Honorable Joseph H. Hannon ’51, had attended The Catholic University of America on the GI Bill for both his undergraduate degree and law school, so when law school became Hannon’s path, Catholic Law seemed like the place to go. At Catholic Law, Hannon made strong connections with faculty and peers; attending mass, chatting with classmates over coffee before class, and even trying to convince Professor George Smith to give him a score of 103 in his Property Law class. “Law school was intellectually entertaining, and a path towards being a trial attorney fit my personality and heritage, I suppose.”
As he stepped out of law school and into his first job, Hannon also found an incredible mentor. “My first legal job was clerking for Judge Frank Q. Nebeker on the D.C. Court of Appeals. We remain very close today as he enjoys his 90s. He was personally responsible for my taking a case to the United States Supreme Court and winning a unanimous decision in favor of my client, a Korean War veteran.” What Hannon considers the biggest challenge of his career came right after his clerkship—serving as an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) for the District of Columbia. While the work was challenging, what made it more so, was following in his father’s footsteps as an AUSA. Hannon’s father was an Associate Judge on the D.C. Superior Court by the time Hannon became a prosecutor, “Fortunately for me, I could never prosecute a case before him, but his colleagues on the bench were not timid in putting me through the gauntlet.”
Hannon has had a successful and full law career for over 30 years and embodies the ethos that Catholic Law graduates create a supportive alumni network that engages Catholic Law students and helps them along the path to success. Since founding his own law firm, Hannon Law Group, LLP, in 2006, Hannon has taken particular pride in having only hired Catholic Law graduates. Now 14 years since its inception, the firm boasts a staff of seven Catholic Law alumni and two current students. When asked what advice he has for law students and up-and-coming lawyers, Hannon shared, “Don’t get in the hunt. By that I mean, do not allow yourself to seek victory as you see it, at all cost.” Hannon highlighted the importance of working hard and being able to see both sides of a case, “One of my favorite lawyers would give her opponent her entire case file, and win every case justly charged.”