WILMINGTON – Top corporate litigator Peter Walsh Jr. has been elected by the partners of Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP to be the next chair of the oldest law firm in Delaware.
[caption id="attachment_231683" align="alignright" width="200"] Peter Walsh Jr. | PHOTO COURTESY OF POTTER ANDERSON[/caption]
He will serve a three-year term, succeeding current chair Kathleen Furey McDonough, effective Jan. 1, 2024. McDonough, who was the first woman to lead the firm founded in 1826 and the first woman to lead a major firm overall in Delaware, will have served for six years at the helm of the third largest law firm in the First State.“Pete will be an exceptional leader at a transitional time,” McDonough said in a May 22 statement announcing the results of the firm’s election. “His service as practice group leader of the firm’s Corporate Litigation Group and as member of the Executive Committee, provides the experience essential to building on the firm’s historical success.”For Walsh, the chance to lead the firm of 90 lawyers in downtown Wilmington was a chance to give back to a practice that has supported him for decades. He joined Potter Anderson in 1987 and has never left due to its strong workforce and supportive environment, he said.“Some people at my age go off to do service or go on the bench, and I view this as an opportunity to kind of give back to the firm,” he said, noting that he plans to continue practicing full-time while adding the administrative and financial duties of chair to his plate. “[Being chair] is not something that I have had on the top of a bucket list, but I'm honored to have the support of my partners.”He will come to the top role well-prepared, having served on the Executive Committee as the leader of the Corporate Litigation Group, the largest section of the firm.“I'm looking forward to it. I feel like the firm is in a great place. We've had a lot of successes and we've got a great group of lawyers,” he said.
[caption id="attachment_231687" align="alignleft" width="300"] Potter Anderson, based out of 1313 North Market in Wilmington, is still contending with a hybrid work schedule. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
The biggest challenge for Walsh will perhaps be navigating the post-COVID future of how and when to allow remote work. Potter Anderson currently expects associate attorneys to be in the office three days a week, with first-time summer associates coming in for all five. While he recognizes the advantages of remote work, Walsh, who returned to his office in June 2021, is a proponent of the office environment.“I think there's too much observational learning that goes on in the office,” he said. “I’m keeping an open mind, and we’ll have to strike the right balance.”Potter Anderson isn’t alone in trying to draw attorneys back to the office, as big law firms like Davis Polk, Simpson Thacher, Sidley Austin and even local rival Skadden Arps are requiring office attendance. Some are even tying annual bonuses to attendance mandates to ensure compliance.Regardless, the nearly 200-year-old law firm continues to be among the most in-demand corporate law firms in Wilmington at a time when Walsh said the Court of Chancery was “stronger than ever.”In recent years, the unique business-focused court has been home to major cases involving Tesla and Twitter, the latter of which Walsh represented Twitter to compel its sale to billionaire Elon Musk.“The credit really goes to the judges who work super hard to stay on top of the cases,” he said, noting that judges on top cases are often reading daily filings and responding in kind to keep cases moving. “If you come to Delaware, you're going to get a very good, hands-on judge, especially in Chancery. You might not like the result at the end of the day, but you're going to get a fair shake from somebody who really knows the corporate law.”Walsh, who will lead Potter Anderson through its bicentennial anniversary, will also face a Wilmington market that is increasingly seeing national and regional firms open new offices in recent years, furthering threatening the market share of the local firms like Potter Anderson; Richards, Layton & Finger; Young Conaway and Morris Nichols.“I think we're going to see another big litigation firm or two come into Wilmington. The challenge for them is that they have to find someone here with credibility with a court, who already has a name and who is willing to leave,” he said. “I think what sets us apart is that we have the expertise, we know the judges, and we’re capable of going toe-to-toe in trials and cases with even the biggest national firms.”