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Former House Chief Finnigan lands at McCarter

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WILMINGTON – Sean Finnigan, the longtime former chief of staff to Delaware House Speaker Peter Schwartzkopf, has landed at McCarter & English’s government affairs practice in Wilmington after leaving the legislature.

Sean Finnigan | DBT PHOTO BY LUIGI CIUFFETELLI

Finnigan’s 15 years of recent experience from Legislative Hall is a boon for McCarter’s practice, led locally by Brian McGlinchey, a longtime staffer and adviser to Joe Biden, and featuring more than a dozen other advisers along the East Coast. Notably, he chose the AmLaw 200 firm over other potential Wilmington firms with government affairs practices, like established Morris James or growing Barnes & Thornburg, among others.

“We are delighted to add Sean to our expanding practice,” said Guillermo Artiles, chair of McCarter’s government affairs practice, in a statement. “Drawing on his considerable experience and prominent reputation, Sean is well-positioned to help our clients navigate the legislative and regulatory landscape both at the state and federal levels.”

Finnigan said his long friendship with McGlinchey helped him to make the jump to private practice after many years working in politics.

“It sounded like a great opportunity and McCarter & English has an impeccable reputation, so I thought now it’s the right time to do this in my life,” he told Delaware Business Times.

After graduating from Virginia Polytechnic Institute with a bachelor’s degree in marketing management, Finnigan began working at the statehouse in 2004 as a State Senate legislative aide. He became deputy chief of staff for the Delaware House of Representatives in 2010, under then-Speaker Robert Gilligan. A year later, Gilligan would retire and Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach), then House majority leader, took over the gavel.

“He didn’t have to keep me. He could have said he wanted his own chief, but to his credit he gave me the chance to work with him,” Finnigan said.

It turned into a more than decade-long partnership as Finnigan was promoted to chief of staff in 2011, displaying a rare bout of longevity for the top legislative support position.

“Pete has had such a positive impact on my life, as a friend and a mentor,” he said. “I really learned how to deal with people, empower people to do their jobs and try not to micromanage them.”

Together they helped shepherd through large legislative accomplishments from same-sex marriage to renewable energy mandates, minimum wage increases to response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Finnigan said he was particularly proud of their work last fall to complete the decennial redistricting.

“I’m really proud of what I was able to do to help professionalize some of the staff with the support of the Speaker, Majority Leader and House leadership. We’ve added policy analyst positions and communications positions that have really tried to tell the story of what’s happening in Dover,” he said.

Finnigan’s role in Dover has also led to opportunities at the national level, as he was elected to serve as a liaison between the Delaware Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee. That role comes at the historic time of a Delawarean in the White House.

“It’s really given us an opportunity to shine a light on all the great things that Delaware has to offer,” he said.

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