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Lawyer Limelight: Robert Bingle

Photo by Michelle Nolan. 

Serendipity is cast in the lead role when you ask Robert Bingle how he landed a coveted slot at renowned Chicago-based plaintiffs’ firm of Corboy & Demetrio after earning his law degree at night.

But those who know him say he should take more credit. With mentoring from legendary name partners Philip Corboy Sr. and Tom Demetrio, Bingle established himself as one of the region’s most prominent trial attorneys by adding to the firm’s astounding record of multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements in personal injury and wrongful death cases. He has also more than left his mark with his compassionate advocacy for terribly injured clients and their families, many of whom have become his friends.

He started out after college, however, operating a punch press in a sign factory, before moving on to teaching. From there, he used his people skills in hospitality, but decided to give law school a try. He graduated in 1981 from Loyola University Chicago School of Law – which he attended while holding a full-time sales job. Bingle also has been the firm’s managing partner since 1995.

Lawdragon: In your years after graduating from college at Notre Dame, how did you begin to develop an interest in going to law school?

Robert Bingle: My oldest brother, Bill Bingle, is a lawyer in Toledo, Ohio, and throughout undergraduate school I always had in the back of my mind the possibility of going to law school. Once I started working in the hotel industry, while I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, I continued to think about the idea of expanding my potential in the corporate world by getting a law degree. That led me to Loyola night school.

LD: And how did you end up at Corboy & Demetrio specifically?

RB: In relation as to how I got a job on the plaintiff’s side, it was certainly somewhat serendipitous. Going to night law school and working as the Director of Sales of the Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel, was, to say the least, a challenging experience. I didn’t have a lot of time to participate in extracurricular activities going to law school; most of the time I was racing out of the hotel at 6:00 p.m., and taking the “L” up for class that would get out somewhere around 8 or 9.

At some point in my tenure at the Palmer House, a young man approximately my age was hired and I undertook the role of his mentor. This individual became a very good friend and his family, I think, knew that I had taken a special interest in helping him. In any event, after I had graduated from law school and was about to take the bar and looking for a job in the legal industry, this young man mentioned to me that maybe his father and uncle could help me. I did not know that his father was Sydney J. Marovitz, who was the Former Park Commissioner of the City of Chicago ,and his uncle was Abraham Lincoln Marovitz, a revered and renowned Federal District Judge here in Chicago. After meeting Mr. Marovitz and Judge Marovitz, within three days I was sitting in front of Philip Corboy – and 34 years later I’m still here.

LD: Did you draw any memorable or relevant experience from your hotel job?

RB: I would say that my experience with Hilton Hotels certainly was invaluable in helping me hone whatever skills I had in dealing with people. Throughout my practice of law, I have always taken the approach of trying to work with people even though most of the time we were in an adversarial position. I certainly was taught this approach from Tom Demetrio, who was my mentor here at the firm.

LD: What about your practice and the Corboy & Demetrio law firm has kept you there for your whole career?

RB: I have often thought that of all the areas of law that I could have gotten into, plaintiffs’ personal injury is really, I believe, one of the most intimate and personal areas of law that you can experience. Over my career, I have had the privilege of representing families, widows, children, and all assortment of individuals who were hurt. What I have enjoyed most about this practice is that it has not only allowed me to provide for my family, but also to satisfy some innate sense inside of me of helping other people in a time of need.

LD: Was there a case early in your career where you feel you really cemented your skills as a trial lawyer or that convinced you that you could excel regularly in court?

RB: Approximately four years into my career, I had the opportunity to work directly with Phil Corboy on a major case involving a young man who had his leg cut off in a railroad yard. I worked daily with Phil for more than half-a-year on every facet of this case. Phil was approaching the end of his trial career and for the first time ever he allowed another lawyer to give an opening statement. I can tell you I don’t know if I could ever describe how nervous I was when I stepped up to give an opening statement in that major case four years into my career with Phil Corboy sitting behind me.

Fortunately, I was able to perform this statement in a good fashion, even receiving a compliment from my other mentor, Tom Demetrio.

LD: Beyond that, is there another case that sticks out to you as particularly memorable because of the nature of the litigation or the result obtained for your client?

RB: Early in my career I, along with one of my partners, represented a young man from Lockport, Illinois, who was a junior at Joliet Academy. This young man was an excellent athlete and student. He was on his way to the Air Force Academy when he was injured in a rather unusual incident where a foal got loose and a mare followed. He was coming home on a summer night to his home, and the mare ran right in front of his car. He was rendered a quadriplegic. We were able to settle the case and provide enough money for this client to take care of himself even up to the present date. Additionally, the client has become one of my dearest friends. We stay in touch all the time and see each other throughout the course of any given year. That case really cemented in my mind the idea that I could, on occasion, do some good for individuals.

LD: What about your practice this year – what types of cases are you litigating currently?

RB: As far as this year, I am very much involved in a major piece of litigation involving an oil spill in Kankakee, Illinois. I have also been involved in an interesting and tragic trucking case that occurred in Michigan.

LD: Can you discuss your community involvement in terms of what areas you tend to focus on, and how you developed these extra-practice interests?

RB: Throughout my career, I have been involved in different community projects. Many of these projects deal with education. In addition to coaching all of my children’s different sports teams, I have served on the St. Isaac Jogues Parish School Board; the Board of Trustees of Fenwick School; I am currently on the Board of Trustees of Christ the King Jesuit Preparatory High School, which is a new high school in the Austin neighborhood in Chicago. I have also been involved for over 40 years with the Big Brothers Big Sisters, serving for several years on its Board of Directors.

My little brother from the program, who is a part of my family, is in his mid-40s and has three children of his own.

LD: What do you do to relax or have fun outside the office?

RB: Outside the office, I thoroughly enjoy spending time with my wife and my wonderful family of three children, Margaret Ann, Bobby and Colleen. I certainly also enjoy an occasional round of golf.

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