With an impressive trial record and deep roots to Philadelphia, Rob Sachs has emerged in the last decade as one of the region's leading plaintiffs' lawyers. For starters, the 54-year-old Sachs is the longtime managing partner of Shrager, Spivey & Sachs, one of the truly legendary boutique personal-injury law firms in the U.S. Even after the death of its founding partner, the renowned David Shrager, in 2005, the firm has continued to excel in complex negligence litigation - thanks in no small part to Sachs. That success is especially remarkable given that the firm, made famous by Shrager's courageous HIV hemophilia litigation in the 90s and Wayne Spivey's settlement-saving negotiation in the Phen-Phen litigation in the 2000s, remains a team of barely five lawyers. The firm handles a range of accident and medical-malpractice work today, and it's too a leader nationally in nursing-home liability law, an area in which Sachs himself has special expertise. "There's no question we have a unique legacy - and we work to live up to it every day," says Sachs. In fact, Sachs himself - calm and even-tempered, free of the bravado so many trial lawyers are known for - brings a steady determination to his work. It's a low-pulse style not far removed from the 1,500-meter rowing national championship he won in 1977 as part of the four-man crew of Harriton High School in Lower Merion Township.
Growing up in nearby Penn Valley, Sachs and his crewmates practiced on the Schuykill many days a week; he continues to row. Sachs's father and grandfather operated a clothing store in the city's Frankford section; his mother, a one-time fashion model who went on to earn a doctorate in education, spent years of her life teaching young people about The Holocaust. In high school in the early 70s - in the age of Watergate and the hearings that followed - Sachs was inspired by current events, U.S. history and political activism. "I'll never forget my 8th grade teacher making us read 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee' and 'All Quiet on the Western Front' - it was an intellectual awakening, at an early age. I knew then I wanted to be a lawyer." At ultra-competitive Amherst College he majored in American Studies, graduating with honors. And he rowed - on the Schuykill and later the Connecticut River. "It's always been an important part of my life." For law school Sachs considered many options, but ultimately chose Villanova, close to home.
He landed his first job interview when the recruiting partner at a major Center City firm knew of Sachs's exploits on the Schuykill. That led to his first job as a corporate litigator. When a team of lawyers split off from the Obermayer firm in the 80s, Sachs joined them and spent ten years as a litigator defending major malpractice claims. After Sachs battled with Wayne Spivey on a malpractice case, Spivey, in a Center City coffee shop, convinced him to join them. The two sides - defense vs. plaintiffs - are "fundamentally different, our side requires a tolerance of risk, and a sensitivity to your clients and their experience, that the other side simply doesn't have." With Shrager and Spivey, Sachs in many respects received first-rate coaching in selecting and building solid plaintiffs' cases, and Sachs tackled a range of them, from drug liability to auto-accident claims (Shragerlaw.com today lists many seven-figure judgments and settlements.)
In recent years, Sachs - in part motivated by his own experience with his elderly father - began focusing on abuse and neglect in nursing homes, particularly for-profit institutions that routinely increase profits by cutting staff. Sachs sits on a national board of trial lawyers dedicated to victims of nursing-home negligence, and such cases make up a substantial part of his practice today. Finally, Sachs has added talented lawyers to his team, including Jason Tucker, Chad Galvin, and Mary Beth Christiansen. Sachs' wife, Teresa Sachs, is a well known appellate lawyer; they have three children, two of whom are in college; another attends Germantown Friends School. Over the years Sachs has coached youth sports leagues and volunteered for many community activities. He still owns a double scull, and remains a member of a Schuykill boathouse. "Rowing taught me early in my life the value of consistent preparation - and as we work for our clients, that's what makes us effective."