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Panel of Penn Law alumni detailed the unique benefits of Delaware Chancery Court clerkships

October 24, 2018

By Jenna Wang

On October 23, five Penn Law alumni and former Delaware Court of Chancery clerks returned to the Law School for a panel discussion where they shared with students how their unique clerkship experience prepared them for careers in corporate litigation. The panelists spoke of the “fascinating” cases and high-quality work they encountered in the Chancery Court, which is one of the nation’s the most cited courts on major corporate law issues like shareholders’ rights and mergers and acquisitions. The panelists also lauded the tight-knit community at the Court, which they said left a lasting impact on their lives. 

The panel consisted of Jeff Gorris L’07, Mark Mixon L’15, Mary Toscano Reale L’17, Wade Houston L’15, and Charlotte Newell L’12. Penn Law’s Saul A. Fox Distinguished Professor of Business Law Professor Jill Fisch moderated. Also present at the panel were a group of Delaware-based corporate lawyers who were available for students to network and mingle with at a reception following the panel.

The Chancery Court is a non-jury trial court that is widely renowned for its special competence in business law matters. More than half of all publicly-traded companies are incorporated in Delaware thanks to the state’s unique and favorable business environment, making the Chancery Court a prime clerkship opportunity for those seeking a career in corporate law. 

Several of the panelists said they knew they were interested in corporate law during law school, having taken classes or had professors that influenced their decision to take a Chancery Court clerkship. Each of the five panelists highlighted the long-term benefits of their clerking for the court early in their careers.

The Chancery Court clerkship offered a “wide breadth of knowledge,” according to Mixon. The panel also stressed the professional opportunities that the clerkship opened up to them, and the benefit of possessing a deeper understanding of Delaware corporate law, whether they ended up practicing in Delaware or out-of-state.

“Most of the other states look to Delaware on issues of corporate law,” Mixon said. “Even if you’re representing a client that’s not incorporated in Delaware [in your later career], your [clerkship] experience is still going to be relevant.”

Recalling her time as a clerk, Reale talked about the “really close quarters” in the Court’s Wilmington chambers, where she often ran into Vice Chancellors in the kitchen and, over time, developed personal relationships with several of them and with other clerks. Weekly “gables and coffee” learning events, recruitment opportunities, and clerk lunches with judges also helped define the clerkship experience for several panelists.

The former clerks also dispensed advice and information about the application process for Chancery Court clerkships. The panelists recommended studying up on corporate law, preparing for questions about personal opinions on cases, and being able to discuss specific areas of interest in corporate law.

Newell called the Chancery Court “the most valuable clerking experience in the country” and emphasized the specialized issues that the clerkship gave her access to, which helped set her apart in the world of corporate law later in her career.

“Because there are only 14 clerks, it is really truly a credential that makes you different from almost everyone else.”