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Schmidt takes helm at Richards, Layton & Finger

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WILMINGTON – Lisa Schmidt, a longtime corporate litigator, has taken over as president of Richards, Layton & Finger (RLF), the largest law firm in Delaware with more than 160 attorneys.

Lisa Schmidt | PHOTO COURTESY OF RLF

Headquartered in downtown Wilmington near Rodney Square, RLF is a sought-after firm that advises global companies, business partnerships, leading financial institutions, local businesses, and individuals across a wide range of practices, including corporate law, alternative entities, commercial law, bankruptcy and restructuring, and litigation.

The ascension of Schmidt was planned as part of the firm’s leadership succession plan that sees the incoming president serve the prior three years as executive vice president. Schmidt takes over for Doneene Damon, who broke a glass ceiling in Delaware’s legal community in becoming the first woman of color to command a major firm.

Schmidt, who became firm president Friday, will be succeeded by bankruptcy attorney Paul Heath, who was named executive vice president. She also appointed commercial and intellectual property lawyer Jeffrey Moyer as her senior vice president, working essentially in a top-ranking advisor role.

Joining RLF 31 years ago, Schmidt has grown an acclaimed practice before the Court of Chancery and other venues involving major companies like Walt Disney, General Motors, AbbVie, CVS, Nokia, ConAgra, and Expedia, among others. She is co-chair of the Federal Securities Institute and serves on the Leadership Advisory Council of the Ronald McDonald House of Delaware.

“I had the privilege really of working with Doneene for the last three years and she is just a phenomenal leader,” Schmidt told Delaware Business Times, noting that they got to work closely as the firm navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. “We were meeting daily to deal with all of the issues associated with running the firm remotely for two years and then bringing everyone back to the office.”

Today, the firm is operating in a hybrid environment, though its in-person meetings are beginning to fill its North King Street office again. Schmidt said that she intends to carry on the efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) at the firm that begun under Damon.

The Connecticut native said she never imagined taking the helm at the firm when she arrived three decades ago, but she credited the supportive environment she found here for that journey.

“I didn’t grow up in Delaware, but I had the opportunity to spend a summer here. Coming to a city where I didn’t know anyone or have any contacts, it was so important for me to really enjoy the people I was surrounded by at the firm,” she said. “That is what kept me here, and then I had a lot of tremendous mentors along the way, from Charlie Richards to Frank Balotti … Now I need to live up to the trust that my partners have placed in me to steer the ship for the next three years.”

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