Arguably the most prominent husband-and-wife legal team in Kansas City—and generally regarded as the most successful aviation-law trial attorney duet in America—Anita and Gary Robb have been champions of litigation since founding their personal-injury firm in 1984. If there’s a liability issue involved in air transportation (particularly with helicopter accidents), you can bet your lunch money that they’ll be sought out for representation.
They do other work, of course—a lot of it. Cases of small-plane crashes, fatal DUIs, school-bus collisions, and more are standard fare. Their success roster includes a $350 million verdict stemming from one fatal helicopter crash and a separate $70 million verdict from another.
The pressures on any lawyer in that space can be enormous. On a married couple? That’s another level. What makes it work?
“First and foremost, Gary is a brilliant, world-class lawyer,” says Anita. “At this point in his career, there is nothing he has not seen or been through before in a case—nothing can throw him. I love to see him in his element at trial, in depositions, or at a hearing. Watching him is art in action—it makes me feel like I am watching a thoroughbred dominate at the Kentucky Derby.”
Gary, returning the compliment, says, “Anita is so passionate about her work that it is infectious. Because we both love what we do, it makes it such a joy to share ideas and thoughts on an almost constant basis.”
Gary, Anita says, “is more willing to try new things. He is the idea guy, and I am the naysayer. That yin and yang has worked well for us.” Meanwhile, he’s inspired by the determination she brings to their work. “Anita is simply relentless. She once took 78 depositions in a case to find the pivotal testimony, and she did—in the 78th deposition.”
Unlike some couples who insist that business conversations stop at the end of the work day, “we have absolutely no separation of business from our home life,” Anita says. “And we wouldn’t have it any other way. We have some of our best ideas on cases at the oddest hours, day or night. There is nothing more fun for us to talk about than our cases.”
When conflicts do emerge, Anita says, a resolution is “always on the merits, and never personal. We know and respect each other well enough to listen to and value each other’s opinions.”
Marriage counselors have long advised against going to bed angry—something easier said than lived. “Our rule of thumb for 38 years is to talk everything out, and we never go to bed angry,” Gary says. “Never.” That’s an important predicate for resuming discussions at odd hours. “Anita has this special quality that she can wake up to respond to a question of mine in the middle of the night—perfectly coherent and cogent—and then immediately fall back asleep.”
Says Anita: “All I can say is that it works for us. We always laugh when people ask us how we work with our spouse; they don’t know what they are missing!”
Gary’s guidance to others is crystalline in its simplicity: “Do you love and respect that person enough that you would want to be with him or her 24 hours a day?” he asks. “If the answer is “yes” then going into business together is a definite go!”