The MetroHartford Alliance (MHA) honors and recognizes newly appointed leaders in our community, including Rhonda Tobin, who has been with Robinson+Cole for more than 30 years and was elected Managing Partner in February 2021.
MHA Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Rhonda about building a career in the Hartford Region and what she enjoys most about Connecticut’s capital city.
NAN PRICE: Tell us a little about your evolution within Robinson+Cole.
RHONDA TOBIN: This was my first job out of law school. I interviewed with a number of firms and Robinson+Cole was where I clicked most in terms of the people. The lawyers’ involvement in the community was really attractive to me. At the time, there were a lot of young lawyers whose lives reflected what I wanted for myself. .
It’s been a tremendous career. The firm has a collaborative and inclusive culture that allows you to follow your passion and find what you love to do. For me, that’s been representing insurance companies—which makes it good to be in Hartford, “The Insurance Capital Of The World.” Many of my clients are in our backyard in Hartford and the Greater Hartford community.
I’ve been involved in management at Robinson+Cole for the last 14 years. So, becoming Managing Partner was a natural evolution of what I’ve been doing and, happily, my partners entrusted me with this important role when I was elected at the end of February.
Robinson+Cole is a place where many of people spend their entire career. We still have a lot of people join us from law school who plan to stay and spend their careers here. I think they find that they have the opportunity to get involved in various community boards and professional organizations, not just come and practice law. It’s a much more robust experience.
NAN: Does the proximity to colleges and universities in the Hartford Region help with the talent pipeline?
RHONDA: It does. Although we’re based here in Hartford, we’re a Northeast regional firm with national practices. The abundance of talent in terms of universities and law schools throughout New England, and around the country, is helpful to us in our recruiting. Locally, we have a long history of successfully recruiting outstanding talent from the University of Connecticut School of Law in West Hartford, many of whom have become successful partners and leaders within the firm.
NAN: In what ways does Robinson+Cole make an economic impact in our region?
RHONDA: Robinson+Cole has been in the Hartford Region for a very long time. We just celebrated our 175th anniversary. Lucius Robinson opened his law office on State Street in Hartford in 1845 as a one-man shop. So, our roots are incredibly deep. That translates to a culture at our firm that’s very invested in the community. It’s part of the fabric of who we are and what we encourage all our staff and lawyers to do in all of our communities. We try to cultivate those roots and ensure we’re as committed now as we were in the 1800s.
Robinson+Cole has approximately 420 lawyers and staff with about 225 in Hartford. That’s where we started and it continues to be our main office. While less than half of our lawyers work in Connecticut, a larger percentage of our staff work here because it’s our home base. That contributes to a significant economic impact in Hartford, with people living in surrounding suburbs and more and more people happily living in Hartford.
NAN: What are the benefits of being a Strategic Partner with the MHA?
RHONDA: We have a mutual interest in always improving the Hartford experience and ensuring we’re making it as vibrant as it can be so we can attract and retain the best talent. The networking we get to do with other MHA members is very important to us, too. Connecting with other corporate and community leaders to enhance Hartford has been an added value for us as a firm.
Also, I think it makes a community that much smaller when you get to know other corporate, legal, and community leaders. Particularly in this time, when we’re all trying to figure out best practices and how to return our people to the office safely and comfortably, it’s helpful to have those relationships with other Hartford leaders to know what other organizations are doing.
NAN: What makes Hartford unique?
RHONDA: I grew up in Philadelphia. When I finished law school at Duke University in North Carolina, I thought about going back to Philadelphia and decided to come to Hartford to practice law as my experience during summer internships was that it might be better to practice in a smaller bar.
It turned out as expected, which is that Hartford and Connecticut in general are incredibly collegial places to practice law. Hartford is a little more personal than a big city. People get to know each other more easily and you can establish a name for yourself and a reputation in this community—in the corporate world generally, but particularly in law. That was very attractive to me coming out of law school.
As I tell people, Hartford is a great city and it’s also a great place to raise a family and have kids without a huge commute. You can be in the city, stay for dinner, go home, and still be involved in your kids’ lives. That’s what’s kept me here all these years.
Another thing that makes Hartford unique is that it has an amazing arts community for a city this size. I currently sit on the Hartford Stage board, so I’m very aware of the importance of the arts in this community. Overall, with the arts, the universities, and the corporate community here, it’s a wonderful conglomeration, which makes it easier for us to attract people to come to the Hartford Region.