Q&A With Robert Rhoad, LLM ’99

Q: Please tell us a little bit about your practice. A: I am an equity partner at Crowell & Moring LLP in Washington, D.C., and co-lead the firm’s Procurement Fraud/False Claims Act and Health Care Litigation teams. My primary practice is devoted to the representation of government contractors and health care entities that are defendants in government investigations/litigation under the federal False Claims Act (FCA). It involves the representation of clients in connection with both criminal and civil FCA and qui tam (“whistleblower”) proceedings. In addition, I represent health care plans, as plaintiffs, in connection with nationwide cases involving the pursuit of drug-spend and medical-spend recovery. The former actions are based on alleged anticompetitive conduct in the markets for pharmaceuticals; the latter actions are based on alleged product defects and/or alleged fraudulent marketing of medical devices or pharmaceutical products. With the recent amendments to the FCA and increased focus on alleged government contractor fraud and health care fraud and abuse, business is booming.

Q: Why did you decide to pursue GW’s LLM in Litigation and Dispute Resolution degree?

A: As a Navy judge advocate, I was given ample opportunities to try criminal cases as both a prosecutor and defense counsel. As a result, as a young attorney, I developed a great sense of confidence in my knowledge of the rules of evidence and procedure and my ability to try cases. I also knew, however, that ultimately I would transition my career to the private sector, which would require an established skill set of being able to handle high-stakes civil litigation. At the time, I requested a transfer from my duty station at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to one of the Navy’s few civil litigation billets in Washington, D.C. I was able to secure a position as a special assistant U.S. attorney litigating civil cases brought against the Navy under the Federal Tort Claims Act, but rightly believed at the time that I needed more substantive training and experience in civil litigation to best position myself for my transition from the Navy to private practice. GW’s LLM Program in Litigation and Dispute Resolution seemed the perfect opportunity for me to hone my civil litigation skills and to complement my trial experience to make myself attractive to large national law firms. Indeed, as a result of the trial experience I gained in the JAG Corps and the civil litigation education and training I received through my participation in GW’s LLM Litigation and Dispute Resolution Program, I realized that I had obtained highly marketable skills and a prestigious degree, which made me sought after by some of the nation’s most well-established law firms. I accepted a position as a litigation associate at a large national law firm and was elected to partner within two years of joining the firm. 

Q: You were in one of the program’s earlier graduating classes. Do you still draw upon the skills that you learned in the program?

A: Absolutely. The skills and training I received from the Litigation and Dispute Resolution LLM Program at GW—even in its nascent years—have informed my approach to how I plan for and execute litigation and trial strategy to this day. I owe my success as a large firm national litigator/trial attorney to all that I learned through both the JAG Corps and as an LLM student at GW. Most JD programs throughout the country have traditionally offered civil procedure, evidence, and trial practice courses. While these courses are valuable, they don’t educate or train attorneys to actually litigate cases, which is one of the primary things lawyers do and how law firms achieve success. GW’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution LLM Program—one of the first, if not the first, of its kind when it was begun in the mid-1990s—recognized this shortcoming in legal education and has successfully endeavored to fill this gap and train “master litigators.” My favorable experience as a student in GW’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution’s LLM Program and my commitment to helping to train highly skilled litigators drew me back to serve as a member of GW’s adjunct faculty to co-teach courses in the program, which I have done since 2002.

Q: What were your favorite courses?

A: My favorite two courses were, without hesitation, Pre-Trial Practice in Civil Cases (taught by Alfreda Robinson) and the College of Trial Advocacy (taught by Professor Stephen Saltzburg). They both provided “real world” opportunities to serve as a trial team member in settings that replicated the challenges I face every day as a litigator and trial attorney. They also provided invaluable opportunities to test and hone my litigation and trial skills in realistic mock scenarios, which enabled me to improve my litigation and trial skills, build my confidence, and prepare for everyday law firm practice.