Robert Keefe, JD’72
For the Greater Good
In his pro bono work, he’s represented some of the poorest of the poor—and he’s seen how unrelenting hard times can wear people down. His cases can be emotionally demanding, but for Robert Keefe, JD’72, senior counsel at WilmerHale in Boston, this is his life’s passion.
“The old adage is true: If you love what you do for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life,” says Keefe. “At WilmerHale, we have a firm commitment to public service and pro bono work, the latter of which has been the most rewarding to me. In these cases, I see people day in and day out just trying to get through life, humans at their best and at their worst, with roadblocks preventing them from moving forward. In every case, I want to help.”
Keefe’s parents instilled a sense of responsibility in him as a young boy, demonstrating their own commitment to helping others by volunteering in the community in which they lived. He’s carried out those early lessons of compassion and service throughout his career and his philanthropy.
Establishing a CGA with the Law School was the ideal next step in my philanthropy. BC’s
Gift Planning team made it easy to set up then and even easier to establish the second one this year.
“I didn’t go into law to make money, but I was fortunate to accumulate some during my lifetime,” he says. Several years ago, Keefe established a scholarship fund at Boston College Law School. More recently, he decided a charitable gift annuity (CGA) would be the most tax advantageous option for making his annual gifts to the law school. In addition to providing for future students, Keefe’s CGAs provide him with a stream of income for his lifetime and an immediate tax benefit.
“During the pandemic, I thought more about the scholarship fund and how I could further help the next two, three, or four generations of BC Law students get an education,” he says. “Establishing a CGA with the Law School was the ideal next step in my philanthropy. BC’s Gift Planning team made it easy to set up then and even easier to establish the second one this year.”
As a student in the early 1970s, , Keefe studied under legendary BC Law instructors such as James Smith, who taught tort law; Emil Slizewski, who taught trusts, estates, and estate planning; and Sanford Fox, who taught juvenile justice. “I had some terrific professors,” he says. “All were smart, articulate, and passionate and demanded the highest of all the students. I liked that. If you wanted to excel, you had to work hard and study.”
Early in his career, Keefe served as an attorney in the criminal division of the Department of Justice, joining WilmerHale in 1974. Today he is part of the firm’s litigation/controversy department and an accomplished member of the white collar defense and investigations practice. In 2021, he was named to Boston Magazine’s inaugural Top Lawyers list in the area of criminal defense/white collar.
Driven by his belief in the good of humanity, Keefe sees philanthropy as his way to make a difference in the world. “I’ve been blessed for what I’ve been able to do during my career,” he says. “I also believe that education is the key to solving all problems. It is critical to identifying and solving issues. You never know how a BC Law graduate will make an impact on the world. The more educational opportunities we can give to these young men and women, the better it will be for society.”
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