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Robert T. Haar – Haar & Woods

While he was growing up, Robert Haar knew no one in the legal profession. But as a high school student, he attended The American Legion’s Missouri Boys State program, which teaches students about government and leadership. The experience included a chance to take part in a mock trial.

“I didn’t appreciate the influence [it had] on me until my mother made the comment she didn’t hear me start talking about being a lawyer until I came back,” from the program, he said. “I think programs like that have a real value.” 

The south St. Louis native had the legal profession in the back of his mind as he went to Stanford University to study electrical engineering. Although he went on to study economics at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, he also earned a law degree from Yale Law School, where he became editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal.

Robert T. Haar

Robert T. Haar

After graduating in 1977, he clerked first for Judge Harold Leventhal of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and later for then-Associate Justice William H. Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Haar said the latter clerkship was particularly excellent training. He said Rehnquist divided the work of oral arguments and petitions for review among his three clerks, and they’d prepare by discussing cases.

“We’d walk around Capitol Hill talking about the cases I was responsible for,” he said. “He couldn’t stand to sit for long periods of time.”

On those walks, clerks couldn’t bring along notes or briefs, so they had to study the cases to be prepared, Haar said.

“[Rehnquist] became a friend to all of us. We liked him very much personally,” he said. “He was very different from his public persona. He had a great sense of humor, and there was no wasted motion.”

Haar stayed in Washington, D.C. for six months after his clerkship ended, working as an attorney-advisor in the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice. Ultimately, though, he wanted to return home.

He transitioned into the role of assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri in spring 1980. He served there for five years, working primarily on organized crime and public corruption cases.

From there, he jumped into private practice, working for Kohn, Shands, Elbert, Gianoulakas & Giljum in St. Louis. He spent about 10 years there before deciding to start his own firm with Pete Woods. The two founded Haar & Woods in 1997.

There, Haar’s practice includes business litigation, constitutional and appellate litigation, criminal defense and internal investigations, and professional liability.

He said an overarching philosophy he has applied to his work is the importance of building and maintaining a good reputation. He said a good reputation is hard to gain and easy to lose.

“I wanted our name to be associated with quality,” he said. “It’s important to take pride in what you do.”

In addition to his practice, Haar is proud of his four years of service on the St. Louis board of police commissioners, from 1994 to 1998.

During his tenure, the board worked to implement human resource reforms, including increasing officer training and educational requirements, he said.

“We spent a lot of work on that, and [I] think it improved a lot of the work on the police department,” he said.