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They’ve Got Next: Healthcare and Life Sciences Fresh Face Rob Roberts

April 22, 2021, 9:30 AM

Rob Roberts worked in sales and marketing for the Detroit Pistons NBA basketball team in Michigan and went to law school because he saw it as a path to becoming a sports executive.

Now the 37-year-old father of two plays on a different court. Roberts is one of the newest associates to make partner at Ropes & Gray LLP where he focuses primarily on health care, life sciences and restructuring litigation.

Roberts became interested in litigation while at Harvard Law School, but it wasn’t until he worked with Jane Willis, a partner and mentor at the firm, that he found a passion for the health-care and life sciences practice areas.

“As soon as I started working in this space, I found it incredibly interesting,” he said. “The complexity and obviously the importance of the health-care and life sciences space in our economy and our country is just huge.”

The coronavirus pandemic has only highlighted the importance of that work. Before Roberts made partner in November, he was selected to be lead associate on a pro bono assignment helping the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decide how best to consider issues surrounding the decarceration, testing and vaccination of prisoners during the Covid-19 public health crisis.

A senior partner at the firm was appointed special master, but Roberts has been running the day-to-day work, leading teams, and making sure the special master’s weekly reports on the state of Covid-19 within the prisons are completed.

In April 2020, the court largely adopted the framework and expedited procedures Roberts’ team came up with for how prisoner releases should be considered. As of March 31, 5,964 inmates have been released from state and county correctional facilities in Massachusetts. The team continues to serve as a mediator and negotiator on other Covid-19 related issues as they arise.

“There have been questions and concerns about the level of testing that’s being done in the prisons, what’s being done to provide access to counsel when the jails are closed to all visitors and prisoners need to be able to prepare for their release hearings,” he said.

Once vaccines were released, Roberts said there were questions over how the vaccination rollout would work in prison and what was being done to ensure inmates were getting access to the vaccines.

Willis said Roberts shows a lot of wisdom and judgment, and did so very early in his career.

“He’s deliberate and thoughtful, and sort of unflappable,” she said.

Over the summer, Roberts represented Advent International in a lawsuit brought against the private equity investor for breaking its deal to acquire Forescout Technologies Inc., a company that provides cybersecurity solutions for the health-care industry, and other government and private industries with high levels of regulatory compliance.

The case was expected to be the first in the U.S. litigated over a deal that fell apart because of the Covid-19 crisis, but Roberts and his team were able to renegotiate the deal on more favorable terms for Advent and settle the case before trial.

Roberts is a Boston native who was drawn back to the area for to attend Harvard Law. He now gets to do meaningful work in his own community.

Roberts also successfully defended Boston Children’s Hospital in 2016 through 2018 against litigation that aimed to stop construction of a new clinical care building. Opponents wanted to save an existing garden the 11-story building planned to demolish, but Roberts said new green space was always part of the construction plans. The facility, which includes a state-of-the-art newborn intensive care unit, is scheduled to open this fall.

“It was a really interesting case from a legal perspective and also a great case to work on because it’s something where you can see the sort of tangible benefit of the work you’ve done,” he said. “There is this new building where kids are going to receive life saving care that you were a part of helping to get built.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Lydia Wheeler in Washington at lwheeler@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lisa Helem at lhelem@bloombergindustry.com; Karl Hardy at khardy@bloomberglaw.com