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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, April 17, 2020

Madison’s specialty takes center stage




Alan Madison is a member of the corporate group at Miller & Martin and his group’s representative on the firm’s COVID-19 task force. He’s also added the task of teacher as a result of being home with his 5-year-old daughter, who is out of school as a result of the pandemic. - Photograph provided

Attorney Alan Madison advises clients on pressing issues as a member of Miller & Martin’s corporate group.

Within this realm of the law, Madison, 40, has developed a niche in debt financing. Through this work, he represents borrowers in financial transactions that allow them to continue operating.

“A client might need to purchase a piece of property or finance their working capital needs in order to meet payroll and pay suppliers,” Madison says.

Miller & Martin’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, however, has coaxed Madison into expanding his duties. In addition to tending to his regular practice, he’s now also serving as the corporate group’s representative on the firm’s COVID-19 task force.

In this role, Madison helps clients navigate new government programs, absorbs government guidelines and keeps a watchful eye on the banks as they administer loans.

“Most of my days involve helping people understand how these programs work and what steps they need to take to access these funds,” he says.

Like Miller & Martin’s other attorneys, Madison is doing this critical work from home. This places him within the domain of his 5-year-old daughter, Sloane, who’s home from school and craving frequent attention.

Madison’s wife, Meara, a nurse educator at Memorial Hospital, minds the young girl when she’s home, but when she’s at work it’s up to Madison to fill his daughter’s time.

“We have a whiteboard on our refrigerator with a schedule we try to get through every day,” he says. “There are worksheets, reading apps, math, art and music, and we try to get outdoors when we can.”

Although this leaves Madison with only a few moments to catch his breath between tasks, he’s not complaining. “We all have different strategies for getting through the current situation, and mine is being very busy,” he says.

Madison developed his law practice in Chicago, where he worked for Skadden Arps, a large international firm.

“Most of the attorneys at Miller & Martin have a particular area in which they specialize, but they can also do other things,” he says. “But that was not the case at Skadden Arps. Because they are bigger, they emphasize developing a depth of knowledge in a particular subject so they can have a level of expertise.

“Whereas I’m one of a handful of people at Miller & Martin who specialize in my area of the law, Skadden has a hundred people that do only that every day.”

Madison interned with the banking group at Skadden Arps during his summer breaks from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago. After graduating from the school, he accepted a job offer from the firm. A few months later, the head of the banking department called him and said, “You’re working for me now.”

“Sometimes, that doesn’t work out, but in my case, it did,” Madison recalls. “I was fortunate to fall in with a group of good people who were focused on teaching me the ropes and allowing me to learn about this area of the law.”

Madison says a corporate practice suits him well anyway, as he enjoys producing results within a specific timeline.

“I’ll go from picking up the phone for the first time to having a closed deal with money available to a company that’s funding an important project in a month or two,” he says. “That pace of work appeals to me more than litigation, which can stretch on for years.

“I like working hard to close a deal and then riding the wave to the moment of catharsis at the end, where the deal is closed and things quiet down and you can hopefully reflect on a job well done.”

A native of Clemson, South Carolina, Madison became interested in the law while in junior high – probably, he says, because his parents told him the profession would befit his proclivity for arguing.

However, the law momentarily drifted out of view as Madison considered becoming other things, such as a history professor or writer. Then, as he began to envision a life with Meara and someday having a family and a home, the legal profession reentered the picture as an attractive option.

Madison was not interested in spending his professional life arguing cases, though. Rather, he says he was eager to apply his abilities in conference rooms rather than courtrooms. “The chance to use my critical thinking skills toward a useful or productive end drew me to the legal profession,” he says.

Today, Madison can look back on many instances when his hard work bore positive results for clients. But he likes to tell a simple story from his Skadden Arps days about a routine task that had significant ramifications for the people it affected.

“A big company that employed thousands of people had fallen into financial distress. They were working with a group of lenders to structure a loan that would enable them to remain in business and continue to employ those people, and there was a critical document that needed to be signed and circulated,” he remembers.

“I had done many things much more intellectually challenging than that, but as I slapped the signature pages onto the document and scanned it and send it out, I realized that simple act was going to allow those people to keep their jobs.

“It feels silly because all I was doing was putting together a few pieces of paper, but it was an important milestone for the business that would allow it to survive and was critical to keeping the economy going. It made me feel good about what I do.”

Madison lived in Chicago for eight years. After his daughter was born, he once again began to contemplate a different future.

“I wanted to give her an upbringing similar to mine in terms of seeing her dad every day and being brought up around nature,” he recalls.

Madison and his wife had visited Chattanooga for a weekend getaway many years earlier and had enjoyed spending time in the city, so they included it in their search for a new home. As Madison began to focus on moving to the Scenic City, exploratory conversations with Miller & Martin evolved into a job offer.

Upon moving to Chattanooga five years ago and then settling in at the firm, Madison says the nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic of his fellow attorneys surprised him.

“There’s this perception among big city lawyers that they’re the only ones who work hard and everything else is doing the 9-5 thing, but the attorneys here disabused me of that notion pretty quickly,” he says with a laugh. “The people here care about what they do.”

Madison says Miller & Martin’s staff and attorneys also welcomed him and his family with open arms. “They went out of their way to make us feel at home,” he says. “We’ve always been grateful for that.”

Today, Madison is more focused on the present than the future. Urgent calls from clients and his time with his daughter fills his day and keep his mind centered on the here and now.

Like the other shifts in thinking he’s experience, he sees an upshot. “My work, combined with being a kindergarten instructor, has not left me with a lot of time to dwell on other things.”