Monthly Feature: Get to Know... Andrew Bobrek
July 1, 2020
By: Andrew D. Bobrek
Looking back, Andy Bobrek unofficially began his law career as a congressional aide to U.S. Rep. James Walsh, although this was more of a fortunate coincidence than an intentional strategy.
As a staffer, Andy Bobrek’s job was to directly assist constituents who needed help with matters involving the federal government. Andy’s constituent work focused on veterans affairs, as well as issues involving Social Security, Medicare and federal labor and employment issues.
From those experiences, Andy honed his problem-solving and client service skills. Reflecting on these experiences, he recalls three important lessons he learned from Walsh and Art Jutton, the congressman’s chief of staff and Andy’s mentor: First, always fairly and accurately assess a given problem and convey your assessment in a straightforward manner. Second, effective problem solving will often require creative and unconventional thinking. And third, it is absolutely essential to be as prompt and responsive as possible with the person looking for guidance.
“Even when I could not obtain a desired result due to uncontrollable circumstances, constituents were still profoundly grateful for our help, and these positive feelings were a direct result of maintaining regular and prompt communications,” Andy said.
Andy loved the congressional work (he studied government as an undergraduate at St. Lawrence University), but his career was leading to Washington, and he had different professional and personal goals.
“Ultimately, I wanted to stay here in Central New York,” he said. “I grew up here. My wife is from the area, too, and her family is here. And we wanted to raise our family here. So I needed to transition to a new line of work in a stable field.”
Attending law school, therefore, was a practical decision.
At the time Andy started law school, he and his wife, Heather, had two small mouths to feed: 3-month-old Sam and 2-year-old Emily. And to help make ends meet, Andy worked part-time at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs (where he also concurrently pursued and received a master’s degree in public administration).
“The kids and our circumstances at the time were good motivators to study hard,” he said, with a laugh.
After his second year in law school, Andy worked as a summer associate at Bond and knew he had found a second home in his hometown.
“I really fell in love with the labor and employment practice,” Andy said. “It just felt like a great fit. So much of the work in that area is hands-on with clients and is government-regulated, dynamic and politically influenced. My prior career experiences, including my constituent work, really helped me to adapt quickly and comfortably to the practice of law.”
Part of Bond’s labor department since 2007, Andy works with a diverse group of employers, including small family businesses, large public companies, governments, entrepreneurs, not-for-profit service organizations and institutions of higher education.
“Andy has been a tremendous resource for ECR, he has never steered us wrong in the three years I have worked with him,” said Michael Aceto, director of administration for ECR, a Utica-based manufacturer of heating and cooling products. “In the world of labor relations, the company has a lot of exposure … and Andy has helped to minimize the risk. I can always count on him for a quick turnaround. I even had him working on Father’s Day this year! I know when I get his guidance, it’s right and I can go to the bank with it.”
Many of Andy’s clients also are organizations he says he feels a personal connection to.
“I work with the hospital system where I was born. I work with my college. I love the Adirondacks, and Paul Smith’s College (located in the New York park), is a client of mine,” he said. “By design or inertia, many of my clients have this personal connection to me. And I think that makes my practice more personal to them.”
When he’s not working with clients, Andy has helped coach his children’s lacrosse and soccer teams. The toddler who kept him on his toes during law school, daughter Emily, just reported for duty at the U.S. Naval Academy. And his son, Sam, is a high school sophomore. He also likes to hike the high peaks in the Adirondacks and escape to some of the region’s trout-rich streams and creeks for a bit of fly-fishing.
Asked about his experience living and working through the coronavirus, Andy said what’s impressed him most is his clients’ resilience.
“It’s been a difficult time for our clients, and it’s been personally rewarding to be there to help them in this time,” he said. “I’ve been beyond impressed with their creativity and dedication in dealing with an environment that was changing literally on an hourly basis.”
Some clients, he said, have reached out even when they didn’t have a specific question to ask or problem to solve. More than once during the pandemic, a client has called just to touch base and talk. Andy recalls an exchange with one client in particular.
“My client said, ‘We just wanted to call because we were concerned and always feel better after talking to you,’” Andy said. “Sometimes clients looking for help will say, ‘I hate to bother you.’ And I tell them, ‘It’s never a bother, that’s why I’m here. It’s what we do.’ This is the best part of my job, being there and supporting people.”