This month’s spotlighted VADA member is Robert Tayloe Ross. Robert is a Director at Midkiff Muncie & Ross, PC, in Richmond, where he chairs the firm’s Coverage, Property, and Subrogation Sections. He has served the VADA as a member of our Board of Directors and as a “two time” Chair of the VADA’s Policy Coverage Section. Robert has also been a speaker for the VADA over the years, including most recently at our Spring Meeting in May 2020.
1. Where were you born?
I was born in Washington, D.C., where my father was an energy lawyer for the Federal Power Commission, his first job after serving in the Second World War.
2. Spouse? Children? Pets?
I married my law school sweetheart, Laurie Hughes Ross. Laurie is a permanent judicial law clerk in the Bankruptcy Court in Richmond. We have two children. Catherine is married, lives in New York City and has a 7 month old baby girl. She is a media relations specialist at a non-profit. Our son James is a mechanical engineer and works with a government contractor in Northern Virginia.
3. What type of law do you practice?
I began my career as a law clerk to the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, in Atlanta. I then served as an assistant United States attorney in Atlanta in the Civil Division before entering private practice and moving back to Virginia. Both positions involved litigated insurance cases. My practice for well over 30 years has been as an insurance defense litigator in the Mid-Atlantic Region. I have enjoyed my practice, which focuses on property, first and third party coverage and subrogation. Many of the cases involve construction litigation.
4. How long have you been a member of VADA?
I joined the VADA in 1989, right after moving back to Virginia from Georgia.
5. What have you enjoyed most about your time in VADA?
I have always been active in bar associations and wanted to become active as a Virginia insurance defense attorney. The VADA was a perfect organization to join. The VADA provided me with the opportunity to get to know so many lawyers who practice insurance defense throughout Virginia. Many have become some of my closest friends and colleagues. The VADA has been instrumental in my continuing legal education. The Policy Coverage Section in particular has provided me with contacts with other lawyers in my field of practice who are on the cutting edge of the legal issues facing defense lawyers in Virginia on a daily basis. These resources have been very important in my career.
What I enjoy most about the VADA is the congeniality and professional relationships I have developed over the years. The receptions, seminars and committees all foster our development as defense attorneys. I especially enjoyed serving in the leadership of the VADA. I encourage all members to step up when called upon to serve the VADA.
6. What do you like most about practicing law?
I enjoy the relationships developed with clients and other members of our legal community. I have particularly appreciated my partners, associates and staff over the years. The attorney client relationship is so important, and has been the guiding force for me throughout my career.
I have particularly enjoyed my colleagues at the VADA, bar associations and the Inns of Court. I also enjoy mentoring young attorneys, and sharing wisdom passed along by my father who practiced law for over 50 years and other mentors who have taken the time to share their advice with me over the years. Being an attorney provides all of us with a special role in our communities.
7. What do you like least about practicing law?
I like least the billing process insurance defense attorneys must endure.
8. Who is the most famous person you ever met?
In the year 2000, I attended an Inn of Court banquet at the United States Supreme Court, at which Judge Robert R. Merhige, Jr. received a national professionalism award. I was fortunate enough to sit with Justice Clarence Thomas during the banquet. He was very collegial, and in our conversation, I learned that his best friend is Larry D. Thompson, the United States Attorney for whom I worked in Atlanta. My knowledge of Larry Thompson provided me with a background to have a very friendly discussion with Justice Thomas, which I appreciated very much. It’s a small world!
9. What book is currently on your bedside table?
The book on my bedside table is “On the Edge of Malice.” A close friend from high school gave me this book, which was written by his tennis partner. The author is a former insurance defense attorney who became a plaintiff’s attorney. The book is about his client, who had been assaulted at a fast food restaurant. The assailant was caught and prosecuted; the author advised his client through the criminal prosecution and then pursued a civil action against the restaurant. It is a very interesting and realistic recount of how lawyers on the Plaintiff’s side as well as the Defense’s side handle their cases, and the issues they face.
10. What is at the top of your bucket list?
I would like to travel to Scotland with Laurie to have a tour of the Bed & Breakfasts around the many unique and charming cities, towns, and villages in Scotland.
11. What is your favorite movie or TV show?
I enjoy the travel channels and food channels because my hobbies mainly involve travel and food.
12. What was your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject in school was French. My first French class was in first grade. I was able to continue my French classes through college, and I was fortunate enough to travel to France during the summer of my Junior year, where I lived with a French family and studied in a total immersion program in Normandy.
13. What was your first job?
My first job was on a tobacco and cattle farm as a teenager. I worked with a very diverse group and learned many lessons of life during that time period. I also learned to appreciate air conditioning!
14. When I am not at the office, I like to …
When I am not in the office, I like to be with family. Laurie and I travel to New York to see our daughter, her husband, and our granddaughter as often as we can. Covid-19 has interrupted this travel, but we look forward to getting back on schedule. We enjoy exploring New York City with them, which always includes long walks and delicious food. We also enjoy visiting our son in Northern Virginia, where we enjoy the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria, along with many other close fun and historic spots.
15. If I wasn’t practicing law, I would be …
During my Junior year in college, I was asked to be a crew member on a brigantine, a two masted sailing ship, chartered in the Virgin Islands. I declined to take a gap year in the Virgin Islands, but I sometimes wonder what experiences I may have missed. Back to the question however, I would have attended business school and pursued a career in business.
16. What is your favorite type of music?
I enjoy, very much, popular music from the 60’s and 70’s. I am the youngest of four sons, and my brothers always had music from the 50’s and 60’s playing. I was in high school, college and the beginning of law school in the 1970’s, and 70’s music brings back fond memories.
17. What was the last live concert you attended?
The last three live concerts I attended were of the Eagles before Glen Frey passed away. They were fabulous concerts. I am so glad I was able to attend them.
18. What is the one app on your phone that you cannot live without?
As a typical lawyer, I could not live without my dictation app.
19. What advice would you give someone who just passed the bar?
I would advise a new member of the bar to find a practice that’s active, demanding and exciting. I often recommend that new attorneys seek judicial clerkships or positions that expose them to the courtroom. The key is to learn as much as possible as soon as possible about practicing law. I would also recommend becoming active in the bar and other similar activities such as the VADA, Inns of Court, and/or state bar. It is also important to have a mentor, who will impart experience of what to do and what not to do in the practice of law. First impressions are lasting impressions.