This interview originally appeared on the VADA site, here.
This month’s spotlighted VADA member is Bob Yates of O’Hagan Meyer in Richmond. Bob is a past member of the VADA’s Board of Directors. He also has served as Chair and Vice-Chair of the VADA’s Auto and Premises Liability Section and as Chair and Vice-Chair of the VADA’s Professional Liability Section. In addition, Bob was the second ever Chair of the VADA’s Young Lawyers Division.
1. Where were you born?
2. Tell us about your spouse? Children? Pets?
Married to Katie Bailey Cowen. My son Harry Yates and his wife just had our first grandchild, James William Yates. Daughter Emily lives in Austin, Texas. Stepson Rives Cowen also lives in Austin. Stepson Harry Cowen—yes, we have two Harrys—is at UVA. Stepson Charlie Cowen is at Denison.
My wife rescued Maisey, a golden retriever–dachshund mix. Basically, a golden retriever with six-inch legs. Maisey adopted me as her person.
3. What type of law do you practice?
A mix of transportation defense, products, premises, professional lines, construction, and commercial liability.
4. How long have you been a member of VADA?
5. What do you like most about practicing law?
Litigation is sports for those of us who can no longer play sports. That and the feeling you get at trial when you have laid a trap for a witness, you know it, the judge knows it, the jury knows it, opposing counsel knows it, but the witness does not … until you snap it closed.
6. What have you enjoyed most about your time in VADA?
I have learned more from listening to the generations above me tell war stories than I ever learned in law school or any CLE. That experience has been priceless.
7. Who is the most fascinating person you ever met?
I was co-counsel with Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch on a fraud case when we were both young associates. You could tell even back then his mind was on another level.
8. What is the one app on your phone you cannot live without?
Spotify. My therapy is yardwork—cutting down trees, clearing brush, splitting firewood. I listen to music or podcasts and just keep cranking.
9. What is at the top of your bucket list?
At my age, I’ve pretty much checked off everything. Being a grandpa is my current focus.
10. Do you have a favorite movie or television quote?
I can rattle off on command every quote from Caddyshack, Airplane, and My Cousin Vinny.
11. What talent do you wish you had?
I have a friend who is a wildlife artist. His drawings look like photographs. My stick figures don’t even look like sticks.
12. When I am not at the office, I like to …
Play golf, snow ski, hike, watch college sports, and spend time with the family.
13. If I wasn’t practicing law, I would be …
A radio DJ. I actually did it a little bit in high school on WROV AM radio in Roanoke.
14. What would your courtroom walk-up music be?
Superstition by Stevie Wonder.
15. What was your first job?
Pumping gas and changing oil at Flint’s Exxon in Roanoke. Rode my bike to work and had an Exxon shirt with “Bob” on it.
16. In what section of a bookstore would someone be most likely to find you?
Cooking. I love to cook and am always tinkering with recipes. I won the Keswick Hunt Club Chili Cook Off with my turducken chili.
17. What is your favorite travel spot?
Bath County—the Cascades Golf Course, hiking, the spa, The Homestead, and kayaking on the Jackson and Cowpasture Rivers.
18. What advice would you give someone who just passed the bar?
Ask lots of questions. Law school gave you the tools, but did not teach you how to use them. Never sacrifice your integrity. Book smarts get you hired, but street smarts are how you win.
19. What is your definition of success?
Finding your work enjoyable and finding the right work/life balance.