In Memoriam: Rob Doyle (1942-2014)

Rob Doyle, a founding member of the (reestablished) Massachusetts Chapter of the NLG in the late ‘60s, died on May 1, 2014. In the ‘70s he worked with the Wounded Knee Legal Defense Project and was an active member his chapter throughout his career. This is a selection of a remembrance of him delivered at his memorial by his law partner of many years, Carol Steinberg:

Ever since law school in the late ‘70s, I had known about this tall dignified lawyer striding around Boston courtrooms, defending demonstrators, representing tenant organizations sued by landlords for conspiracy, and suing, along with others here today, the lead paint industry on behalf of poisoned kids. I saw him annually at the Lawyers Guild dinners trying to raise money, always with humor. Through the ‘80s, I practiced in a nice personal injury firm but Rob’s firm was where I aspired to be.

In the ‘90s, [I joined his firm and] our offices at Kehoe Doyle were side by side. It was then that I began the practice of bugging him for advice many times a day—a practice I continued up until the day he died. He would quickly give me a suggestion that was right on the money, tell me succinctly to go “look it up,” or remain coolly silent while I babbled on until I came to the answer myself, said thanks, and he said “was I in this conversation?”

In 1998, Kehoe Doyle broke up. I was stunned and so flattered when he asked if I wanted to go into practice together. For 16 years, it’s been just the two of us representing people hurt or sickened by the negligence of others. Adventures and jokes have been abundant, disputes rare. He already knew I had MS when he asked. He didn’t blink as it progressed. More than once, I would fall in the middle of the street. Unfazed, he, with the help of the characters from the shelter next door, would lift me up and we would continue on. When I started using a wheelchair and was having trouble fitting into the bathroom in our office, he came in one day with the tools to take the door off its hinges and change its swing from inward to outward. I hadn’t even asked. We started trying the cases together then—dividing up the openings, closings, and witness examinations 50/50.

He was a sight to behold in court. His presentations were always smooth, eloquent, and to the point. His cardinal rules in court were “less is more” and “no notes.” I tended to violate both and am doing that right now. But we were a great team. The clients loved him—they could never stop telling me how kind and empathetic he was. I loved practicing law with Rob—and I’m not ready to leave it behind.