Boston University School of Law

November 9, 2011


BU Law Mourns the Passing of Robert Grondine

The BU Law community was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Robert Grondine (’80) in October. Grondine, a partner in White & Case LLP’s Tokyo office for almost two decades, was a generous supporter of the School, a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board, and an enthusiastic mentor of young lawyers interested in international legal practice.

Grondine began his career at Baker & McKenzie after graduating from BU Law, and in 1982 moved to Baker’s Tokyo office. He later left Baker to become a partner at White & Case, working first in Los Angeles and then returning in 1992 to Tokyo, where the firm’s office had just three lawyers at the time. Over the years, Grondine played a key role in building White & Case’s Tokyo office into the largest foreign law firm in Japan, now with nearly 90 legal professionals.

Grondine’s practice involved helping American and European companies to establish and reorganize their operations in Japan and assisting Japanese companies in acquiring plants and companies in various countries around the world. He was a leading lawyer in the fields of mergers and acquisitions, asset-based structured finance, bank finance, project finance and dispute resolution. Chambers Global 2010 described Grondine as “one of Asia’s most renowned figures” in the legal field.

Grondine made it a point to study the Japanese language and culture, earning a degree from Cornell University’s Japanese language program as a young man and pursuing East Asian Legal Studies at Harvard Law School. This training, and his cultural sensitivity, made him extremely successful in the legal and business communities in Japan. BU Law Dean Maureen O’Rourke, in presenting Grondine with a 2010 Silver Shingle Award for Service to the Legal Profession, called him “an ambassador of goodwill who has demonstrated the best that our legal system has to offer to his Japanese clients and colleagues.”

In addition to his legal work, Grondine was an active leader in the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, serving on its Board of Governors for almost a decade, including terms as president and chairman. He also taught at Keio University Law School in Tokyo for seven years and lectured at a number of universities in the U.S. and abroad.

Dean Maureen O'Rourke presenting Grondine with a Silver Shingle award in October 2010

In 2006, Grondine returned to BU Law to speak to J.D. and LL.M students about how to prepare for and achieve a career in international legal practice. He described how, as an undergraduate at Dartmouth, he had set his sights on Japan after his academic advisor encouraged him to find a niche in order to avoid the competition that was building in the legal profession.

“My advisor’s figures showed that, at the time, there were only maybe about 3,000 people in the United States who could speak Japanese,” Grondine recalled. “He said, ‘I don’t know how many of those people are lawyers, but probably not more than five or ten.’” After that conversation, Grondine committed himself to learning Japanese, spent a couple of years in Japan, and then enrolled at BU Law, already fluent in the language.

John Riccardi, assistant dean for graduate and international programs at BU Law, said that Grondine was always interested in helping young lawyers build international careers. “Bob was a great supporter of our LL.M. programs and was always available for help in recruiting Japanese candidates and also making connections for us with other White & Case offices throughout the world,” Riccardi said. “His practice experience in Tokyo and his involvement in the Chamber of Commerce and various professional organizations made him a very valuable resource—and he was always extremely generous and responsive whenever I had a question or was seeking advice. I never hesitated to contact him. He was a good friend of our program.”

Cornell Stinson, assistant dean for development and alumni relations, said that Grondine was equally generous when it came to supporting BU Law’s plans for strategic improvements. Stinson noted that Grondine was one of the Founding Benefactors who got involved very early in planning for the upcoming expansion and renovation of BU’s law campus and stepped forward with major gift commitments.

“Bob was a loyal and devoted alumnus, quick to provide very sound and balanced advice, and he made a point of flying back from Japan to attend Advisory Board meetings,” Stinson said. “His commitment and presence on the Board will be sorely missed.”

Grondine is survived by his wife Aiko and daughter Michelle.

Reported by Ben Carlisle

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