From the Pitcher's Mound to the Negotiating Table
After three years in the minor leagues, Robert Robbins '16 is pursuing a new passion for labor law.
Within three years of graduating from Stevens, Robert Robbins ’16 made ten cities home. Three baseball teams, including the Chicago Cubs, signed the pitcher to minor league contracts, and during off-seasons, Robbins took every presented opportunity, including an environmental law internship, a coaching position, and a warehouse gig.
“It's just the way that life works out,” said Robbins, who refers to these years as some of his life’s best. “It really has changed my perspective and permeates everything I do.”
Now, Robbins finds himself in Williamsburg, Virginia, where he’s starting his final year at William & Mary School of Law. His interests lie in labor law and workers’ rights, and though he’s hung up his jersey, Robbins carries lessons from baseball into his career's next chapter.
Robbins reaches all the way back to his days at Stevens for inspiration, as his time as a Duck instilled an appreciation for healthy competition. Quick to compliment others, Robbins recalled the talents of former teammates Greg Jakusik ’16 and Jayson Yano ’16. The three practiced days in and day out, and the healthy rivalry pushed Robbins to be a better player.
“I think that sort of sets the archetype for me and everything else that I do,” said Robbins. “Being around successful people and not being afraid to talk to them, not being afraid to collaborate with them and not being afraid to fail next to them makes you a lot better in the end.”
Following graduation, Robbins entered the minors, where he practiced and earned every new opportunity. Good company once again proved invaluable, and at one point, Robbins bunked with six other players, all of whom lived and breathed baseball.
In 2019, Robbins experienced the high point of his sports career when his pitching closed out a winning game during the Cubs’ spring training. When reminiscing, Robbins doesn’t recall the gameplay but his family watching from the stands. "When I think about the biggest accomplishment of my life, it would be for him to see me that last time," said Robbins, referring to his grandfather. "I was really at peace with it after that.”
“I’d done what I wanted to do,” Robbins continued. “It exceeded my expectations.”
During his time in Stevens’ College of Arts and Letters, Robbins prearranged his transition from baseball into law. One day, a panel of visiting lawyers spoke to students about the profession, and Robbins experienced an epiphany. "Literally the next day, I started researching how to study for the LSAT," said Robins. "It was like it couldn't have been a more immediate reaction.”
His acceptance into law school preceded his time in the minor leagues, which introduced him to non-unionized sectors of the workforce. The interactions solidified his interests in labor law, a field he also feels a personal connection to. “My grandfather was a union member and representative for a while growing up,” said Robbins, reflecting on his earliest calling to the profession. “I grew up in a union household that provided a lot for me.”
Robbins spent the last summer as a Peggy Brown Law Fellow at the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA). This progressive union represents approximately 800,000 construction workers, and Robbins worked with on-site general council to help employees navigate arbitrations, awards, grievances, and elections. “I’d like to go help workers,” said Robbins, when pondering his new career ambitions. “I’d like to be on the ground and see the fruits of my labor and see how I positively affect their lives.”
“I just want to interact with people as much as possible.”
About the College of Arts & Letters
Devoted to research and scholarship, the College of Arts and Letters explores the humanities and arts through the lens of science and technology. This interdisciplinary unit of Stevens offers seven undergraduate majors, 14 minors, and an accelerated law program.