From Raider to Litigator
Bob Moore once caught passes from Kenny Stabler; now his wins take place in the courtroom
Published in 2018 Northern California Super Lawyers magazine on July 10, 2018
If he hadn’t clocked Alvin and/or Albert, Bob Moore might have wound up pitching for the New York Mets instead of catching footballs for the Raiders.
Pitching at Stanford his sophomore year, Moore, who had been drafted by the Mets out of high school, was known for a wicked fastball but errant control. In a game against Santa Clara, whose second baseman and shortstop were identical twins named Alvin and Albert, Moore struck out 10, walked 11, and beaned “either Alvin and Albert, Alvin twice, or Albert twice. I couldn’t tell the difference!” recounts Moore, now a business litigator at Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis in San Francisco, with a laugh.
As often happens, the beanings led to a brawl. As doesn’t often happen, it occurred in the stands. Both schools’ football squads, who had come to watch Moore play, began to throw down, while the baseball players looked on from the field.
The following day, the offensive line coach of Stanford’s football team met up with Moore, who also played football. Referring to the previous evening’s scuffle, the coach said, “I hear it didn’t go very well,” then guaranteed Moore a starting spot at tight end in the fall if he would come to spring practice. This would mean giving up baseball. Moore agreed.
In his senior year, his Cardinal team won the Rose Bowl, beating heavily favored Ohio State, with Moore making a pivotal catch. He went on to be inducted into the Stanford Sports Hall of Fame.
After graduation, Moore (at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds) played tight end for the Raiders from 1971 to 1975, a storied period during which John Madden coached; Daryle Lamonica, then Ken Stabler played quarterback; and the Raiders regularly appeared in the postseason.
“John was very bright,” Moore says, “perhaps the hardest-working coach I’ve ever seen, and somewhat difficult to get along with. He was very demanding of the team, and very demanding of himself.”
It was during those years that the Raiders built a reputation as a waystation for misfits and reprobates. Conduct codes were routinely overlooked so long as players showed up to deliver on owner Al Davis’ bottom-line mantra: “Just win, baby.”
“At training camp each season, the NFL would send around a couple guys warning players which establishments to avoid—because they were gambling dens or frequented by ‘women of ill-repute,’” Moore recalls. “As soon as those meetings ended, the guys would get into their cars and whoosh—that’s where you’d find us.”
The most serious head injury Moore suffered during his career occurred the night before the 1972 AFC divisional playoff against the Pittsburgh Steelers, immortalized by Franco Harris’ “Immaculate Reception.”
Moore and a friend had returned late at night to the Hilton where the Raiders were stationed, only to find that the Pittsburgh Police Department’s riot squad had cordoned it off to discourage roughly 500 Steelers fans camped outside from becoming too rambunctious. When Moore tried to gain entry, he was met with a sharp nightstick, prompting him to curse the officer, which incited the officer to split Moore’s head with said baton. This was quickly followed by more pummeling on the ground and a trip to the ER.
The next day, stitched up, woozy and outfitted with an oversized helmet—hollowed out to house his bandaged skull—Moore sat sidelined for all but a few plays.
In 1976, after three straight appearances in AFC championship games, Moore was the No. 1 draft pick by the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which went on to amass an 0-14 record that season.
That top-to-bottom descent taught him that “coaches and management were more important than I thought,” says Moore, who now frequently defends businesses against civil lawsuits.
In Tampa, Moore served as vice president of the NFL Players’ Association and co-chairman of the NFL Health and Safety Committee, then sustained a knee injury in his second year with the team. The following season, Moore played backup with the Denver Broncos. He had a guaranteed contract for one more year, but before it began, he says, “My father, who was a bricklayer who always believed in doing the right thing, asked me, ‘Do you think you can play?’” When Moore admitted doubts, his father glared at him. “And they’re going to pay you?”
“The way he looked at me,” Moore relates, “I thought, ‘Oh, shit.’”
Abashed, Moore called the team and announced his retirement. Moore tells the tale as though his father had imbued him with profound moral clarity; then he bursts into laughter. “The Broncos had a lot more money than I did,” he says. “In retrospect, I think it was a stupid thing to do.”
There’s another reason he regrets that his football career was cut short: “It’s the one thing in my life I didn’t finish.”
At 29, Moore was left wondering what to do next. He took his cue from his time on the players’ association. “It was always the lawyers who were having the most fun. They were fighting and battling different things in court. I wanted to do what those guys did.”
A couple of “dry” labor law classes at Stanford Law School disabused Moore of his notion to focus on pro-union labor law, and he pivoted to criminal law. After graduation, he worked as an assistant prosecutor with the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, then switched to a civil defense firm, later handling a combination of criminal defense and civil work on both sides of the aisle. He founded his own firm, Moore & Associates, in the late ’80s, then about a decade later joined Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis, where he heads the large litigation department.
“Litigating is like being a football player,” says Moore, who lives in Orinda with Paulette, his wife of 35 years. “It’s a battle, and—at the end of the day—there’s a winner and a loser. I would not have chosen any other area of law.”
In recent years, the link between concussions and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) has been front-page news. The NFL has taken some steps to make the game safer, including banning helmet-to-helmet hits and removing players immediately when a concussion is suspected, then requiring a multi-step process after a diagnosis. But as far as Moore is concerned, the NFL’s response has been too little too late.
“In my years, it was almost like a social contract: You knew you were at risk of being injured—that later in life you might have a limp or have difficulty going up and down stairs. And everyone sort of accepted it,” he says. “But no one considered the fact that you might not be able to recognize your children. That was not part of the contract.”