Robert Brady: Chairman at Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor
As a child, Robert Brady argued and debated so often that his mother would say he’d make a great lawyer.
After more than 30 years at the second-largest law firm in Delaware, you could say Brady’s mother was right.
Young Conaway is known as a leading bankruptcy, corporate counseling and litigation firm that draws local, national and international clients. The Wilmington-based law firm primarily represents companies in need of a restructuring, whether that requires being sold through bankruptcy or modifying their balance sheet to turn debt into new equity.
“We try to restructure these companies so we can keep jobs and keep another competitor in the marketplace,” Brady said.
Brady has spent his entire career at Young Conaway since joining the firm in 1990 after graduating from Penn State Dickinson School of Law. In 2000, he was elected to the management committee and chaired the bankruptcy group for a decade. He then served as vice chairman for eight years before becoming chair of Young Conaway.
“I recognized you can practice law on a national level but still live with a small-town feel, so that appealed to me in particular,” Brady said of Delaware.
During that time, Brady and his wife Jennifer raised two kids while working as full-time lawyers. Despite the challenges of juggling full work schedules with family, they both made partner at their respective firms.
In the three decades since Brady joined, his firm has grown from 35 lawyers to more than 120 and has offices in New York City and Wilmington.
“The thing I’m most proud of is we’ve been able to develop a national reputation, to handle very sophisticated restructuring as lead counsel,” Brady said. “People viewed Delaware lawyers as the ‘local’ counsel. We’ve been successful at changing that and having people hire us for larger matters.”
As CEO during a global pandemic, Brady worked to keep all employees on staff and paid with full benefits.
“We were incredibly productive while working from home, so the firm held up tremendously well,” Brady said. “No one expects to have to manage a business through a once-in-100-year event, but I’m proud of the way we weathered that storm. We didn’t seek any government money – those programs were for other businesses harder hit than ours.”
For Brady, running a successful firm requires more than building a solid argument: It requires being part of the community.
“We recognize that we’re fortunate to be able to practice law in such a great community, so we make sure we have a ‘community-first’ principle,” Brady said.
Young Conaway lawyers provide more than 5,000 hours of pro bono work every year, as part of a historic commitment since the firm’s founding in 1959. Those efforts include protecting the legal rights of both children and adults in need through the Office of the Child Advocate program and the Combined Campaign for Justice, as well as serving on the boards of local nonprofits.
Brady has helped solidify the firm’s commitment to diversity and inclusion-related advocacy. Months after George Floyd’s death and nationwide protests calling for justice, Young Conaway joined the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance. Under Brady’s leadership, the firm added its first director of diversity, equity and inclusion this year and revamped its diversity committee.
Last year, Young Conaway donated $250,000 to a variety of health care and social justice programs, such as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Equal Justice Initiative and Leading Youth Through Empowerment. The firm also works with an international nonprofit called Wine to Water, dedicated to building filters for communities that don’t have access to clean water.
During the pandemic, staff members developed initiatives to support the Wilmington restaurant industry. That “community first” principle shines within the firm as well.
“A lot of the time we focus on what the attorneys do, but we also have non-attorneys that are incredibly dedicated, so we highlight a member of our staff and the volunteer work they do in our newsletters,” Brady said.
When he’s not at Young Conaway, Brady explores national parks with his wife and plays golf when he can. He loves the sport, “but for some reason I don’t get any better,” he joked.
As far as being recognized as CEO of the year, Brady said it’s not about him.
“It’s a nice recognition of the firm,” he said. “As they say, it takes a village, and we have an awesome village here.”