Robert J. Gunther '81C, '84L Gives Back So Students Can Serve the Greater Good

St. John's Law alumnus Bob Gunther and two of his sons in the stands at a St. John's basketball game.

Bob Gunther, center, with two of his sons in the stands at a St. John's basketball game.

November 20, 2023

Spokes, wheels, chains, handlebars, and brakes were the tools of Bob Gunther’s trade growing up in Valley Stream on Long Island, where he worked in his father’s bicycle shop from a very young age. The assembly of parts also gave him an introduction to a career in the law.

“When I was a senior in high school, I was deposed in a personal injury case concerning a bicycle I had put together,” Gunther says. “I found the whole experience fascinating, and it set me on a path to becoming a trial lawyer.” After earning his undergraduate degree at St. John’s University, Gunther decided to attend St. John’s Law. “I loved the atmosphere on campus, so it was a natural choice for me,” he shares.

At the Law School, Gunther excelled academically and earned a spot on the St. John’s Law Review. After graduation, staying true to his chosen path, he launched his career as a trial lawyer with a focus on intellectual property matters. Rising to partner at WilmerHale, for over 35 years he has represented a broad range of life sciences, pharmaceutical, and technology clients in IP and related litigation at both the trial and appellate levels. Among other professional accolades, Gunther was named a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers in recognition of his exemplary courtroom achievements. 

Outside the office, Gunther contributes his time, talents, and treasure generously as an active St. John’s alumnus. Taking on a volunteer leadership role, he recently completed his term as President of the Law School Alumni Association. His dedication to alma mater is just as evident when he is cheering on the St. John’s Red Storm men’s basketball team from the stands at Carnesecca Arena, Madison Square Garden, and venues further afield, along with his wife, Pat, and their sons. 

Adding to his full and fulfilling life, Gunther has always made pro bono work a priority. “I’m proud to say that WilmerHale has an incredible and inspiring commitment to pro bono,” he says. “Some of the most satisfying matters I’ve been involved in have been pro bono representations.” Among other pro bono activities, Gunther serves on the Board of Directors at Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS), which was founded by his friend and St. John’s Law classmate, Lisa Schreibersdorf ’84. Over the past two decades, BDS has become one of New York City’s largest legal services providers. 

Gunther also experienced the impact of work in the public interest through his son, and fellow Law School alumnus, Kevin Gunther ’17. “Kevin spent five years as a public defender at BDS, and I saw firsthand the importance of providing criminal and civil representation for those less fortunate,” says Gunther. “From him, from Lisa, and from my own involvement with BDS, I’ve learned how committed public interest attorneys can, and do, change the lives of their clients and change their communities for the better.”


With that understanding, Gunther considers it a privilege to support the Law School’s Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program. Animated by St. John’s Vincentian mission of serving underrepresented and marginalized individuals and communities, the program provides funding to students who build practical knowledge and skills as they work in a range of public interest and public service settings. Last summer, thanks to Gunther and other generous alumni and friends, the Law School awarded 75 fellowships with a total of $431,000 in funding. 

Emily Trumble '24 was one of four 2023 Summer Public Interest Fellows who, with Gunther’s support, gained invaluable experience while serving the greater good. “I came to law school knowing I wanted to use my law degree to advocate for vulnerable communities as a public defender,” she says. “This past summer, I was honored to work in the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Practice. Thanks to Mr. Gunther, and because he prioritizes public defense work, I’ve been able to grow as an advocate and help those most in need during the process.”

Reflecting on the Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program, Gunther sees the foundation it sets for St. John’s Law students as they chart their legal careers. “I think there are many ways lawyers can contribute to social justice,” he says. “My particular path has involved participation on the BDS Board, a commitment to pro bono in my practice, and a financial commitment to public interest initiatives at St. John’s Law. Others may find more direct paths, like Lisa and Kevin. I think each of us has to find our own path, and that is just fine, so long as we all contribute in some significant way to help those less fortunate.”