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Robert H. Young, 97, led Morgan Lewis law firm to national prominence

Mr. Young's legal skills were rock-solid, but he didn't intimidate colleagues. He once demolished a younger associate's legal argument, but did it in a friendly manner.

Robert H. Young
Robert H. YoungRead moreCourtesy Young Family

Robert H. Young, 97, formerly of Villanova, an executive who led the transition of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP from a regional law firm to one with a national presence, died of complications from an earlier fall on Monday, Oct. 15, at an independent-living facility in Durham, N.C.

During a four-decade career starting in 1948, he represented clients in all types of regulatory proceedings, making many appearances before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the state courts.

His clients included American Water, Peco Energy, Buckeye Pipe Line Co., General Battery Corp., and Independence Blue Cross.

Morgan Lewis & Bockius had 125 lawyers and offices in Philadelphia, Washington, and Harrisburg in the 1970s when Mr. Young became a managing partner and chairman. Under his tenure, it began hiring lawyers in various cities, and then acquiring practices. Although Mr. Young retired in 1991, the expansion continued. The firm now has 1,900 lawyers in 30 offices across the nation as well as abroad, a spokeswoman said.

"He was part of a gang of four that led the charge," said his son, Bob, also a lawyer. "It was a huge change."

In 1987, Mr. Young announced that 46 lawyers from Hahn Cazier & Smaltz, with offices in Los Angeles and San Diego, would be joining Morgan Lewis, as it is now called, on Feb. 1. That brought the number of lawyers with offices in Philadelphia, Washington, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, San Diego, Harrisburg, and London to 530, said a PR Newswire release that carried the acquisition announcement.

"We expect that their addition will complement and enhance our West Coast litigation and business and finance practice, as well as enable us to offer all of our clients a broader range of services substantively and geographically," Mr. Young said in the release.

While Mr. Young's legal skills were rock-solid, he balanced them with a friendly demeanor. A young associate told his family that in one exchange, Mr. Young demolished the colleague's legal argument, but was not intimidating.

Mr. Young retired from Morgan Lewis as chairman of the firm's management and executive committees. Almost immediately, he was named chairman of Independence Blue Cross and served until 2005. He had been a member of the health-care insurer's board since 1987.

"Mr. Young provided outstanding stewardship as a member of our board for nearly two decades, including serving as our chairman from 1991 to 2005," said Daniel J. Hilferty, president and CEO of Independence Blue Cross. "He was well-respected within Independence – and throughout the region – for his intelligence, hard work, and strategic leadership."

Born in Pittsburgh, he graduated from Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts in 1938 and the Princeton University School of Public and International Affairs in 1942. He earned a degree from Harvard Law School in 1948.

Between 1943 and 1946, he served in the Army, seeing action during World War II. He was deployed to London and the Philippines.

Mr. Young was married to Jeanne L. Young, with whom he had five children. She died in 1995. He married Frances Young, who died in 2001. His third wife, Mary Lou Young, survives.

He served on the board of directors of Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, the Metropolitan Board of the Philadelphia YMCA, and the Franklin Institute.  He played tennis at the Merion Cricket Club and golfed at the Gulph Mills Golf Club. He enjoyed singing with Philadelphia's Orpheus Club for 20 years ending in the 1960s.

In 1999, Mr. Young moved to Florida, where he became volunteer chairman of the Mental Health Association of Indian River County. He played golf in Vero Beach into his mid-90s and golfed in Durham as recently as two months ago.

In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by children Susie Davis, Cindy Mardis, Judy Neer, and Stacey Ladda; nine grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and a brother. Two brothers died earlier.

A life celebration will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28, at the Merion Cricket Club, 325 Montgomery Ave., Haverford. Burial is private.