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Former Chief Justice Strine joins N.Y. corporate law firm

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Former Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court Leo Strine Jr.

Former Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo Strine Jr. has joined Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and will advise the New York firm on mergers, litigation, and other corporate law matters.

Strine retired last fall, five years after being appointed to the Delaware Supreme Court in 2014 by Gov. Jack Markell. He succeeded Chief Justice Myron T. Steele as the eighth chief justice since the modern court was created in 1951. Prior to the high court, Strine served as chancellor of the Delaware Court of Chancery from 2011 to 2014 and vice chancellor from 1998 to 2011. He was first appointed to the Chancery Court at age 34.

Strine is known as one of the most influential legal figures in corporate America and is joining a firm that is known for its fierce defense of CEOs and its opposition to activist investors, hostile takeovers, and the temptations of short-term management. 

Wachtell operates out of a single office in New York. It was not clear whether Strine will move to New York or remain in Hockessin. He could not be immediately reached for comment by the Delaware Business Times.

William Allen, who authored numerous landmark rulings as a Delaware judge in the 1980s, had been a Wachtell lawyer after his retirement in 1997 until his death last year.

The 56-year-old Strine made his name for himself with his landmark rulings on corporate law and fiduciary duty, his caustic wit, and his views on corporate behavior and values. Strine mostly defended the rights of chief executives to manage and sell their companies without being second-guessed, although he was quick to scold (and fine) corporate boards that stepped out of bounds.

He is listed as “Of Counsel” in his new biography on the Wachtell website, which is a title normally used to describe a lawyer who is employed by a firm to do work but is not an associate or a partner.

Strine wrote hundreds of opinions in the areas of corporate law, contract law, trusts and estates, criminal law, administrative law, and constitutional law. Notably, he authored the lead decision in the Delaware Supreme Court case holding that Delaware’s death penalty statute was unconstitutional because it did not require the key findings necessary to impose a death sentence to be made by a unanimous jury.

Strine teaches at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, where he continues to teach diverse classes in corporate law addressing, mergers and acquisitions, the role of independent directors, valuation, and corporate law theories, among other topics. He is a member of the American Law Institute, and currently serves as an advisor on the project to create a restatement of corporate law.

Strine also serves as a senior fellow of the Harvard Program on Corporate Governance and as an advisor to Penn’s Institute for Law & Economics.  From 2006 to 2019, Strine served as the special judicial consultant to the American Bar Association’s Committee on Corporate Laws. He also was the special judicial consultant to the ABA’s Committee on Mergers & Acquisitions from 2014 to 2019.

By Peter Osborne

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