RLF Litigator Lisa Schmidt is Proud to Practice the Principles that ‘Make Delaware Special’
August 23, 2021 –
Lisa Schmidt smiles as she recalls her introduction to Delaware 30 years ago when she relocated from New England so she could take a job as an associate at the Richards, Layton & Finger (RLF) law firm.
“I remember being stuck in traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike. The gentleman in the car next to me saw my Dickinson Law School sticker and rolled down his window to tell me that he also went to Dickinson and was an attorney in Wilmington,” she says, speaking of Dallas Winslow, current chairman of the Delaware Public Service Commission. “I felt welcomed before I even crossed the state line. I also had a tire blow out on Interstate 95 as a young associate and a gentleman pulled over and changed the tire for me. I later learned that he was the owner of a prominent Wilmington family business [Congo Funeral Home].”
The Connecticut native says she “grew up and went to school in small towns, and Wilmington has everything a big city has to offer while living in a community with a small-town feel where people new to the community are warmly welcomed.”
Schmidt, an executive vice president and a well-respected Chancery Court litigator at RLF, will start a three-year term as president of the firm next year. She says she loves Delaware parks, dating back to running in Rockford Park and visiting a shared beach house in Dewey Beach when she needed a break from studying for her 1991 bar exam. That affection continues to this day with frequent visits to Rockford Park, Brandywine Creek State Park and Alapocas Run State Park.
“I also love Hagley Museum – it’s where I take family when they come visit because it’s such a great introduction to Delaware’s history,” says Schmidt, who has a 20-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter. “We were also thrilled when Winterthur reopened this spring.”
Schmidt, who has made Thomson Reuters’ Super Lawyers list every year since 2013, says that what makes Delaware special within the legal profession is its combination of the bench, corporation law and bar, all working together in a way that adapts to the changing needs of the national business community that it serves.
“As practitioners, we have benefitted for decades by the thoughtful appointment of the most qualified jurists who are dedicated to applying and developing the law in a well-reasoned manner,” she says. “We also benefit from a small collegial bar. The names of every attorney ever admitted in Delaware are memorialized on plaques outside of the Delaware Supreme Court. Whenever I am in Dover and see my name on that plaque, I feel grateful to be part of that group.”
For Schmidt, attorneys equate the oft-repeated phrase “the Delaware Way” to “our commitment to practice in a manner that would make those who came before us proud. The Delaware Principles of Professionalism were drafted the year I started practicing by senior Delaware lawyers who wanted to ensure that as the bar grew, we retained the principles that make Delaware special.”
Working in the Court of Chancery gives Schmidt the opportunity to litigate the most high-profile and significant corporate cases in the country.
“I am happiest professionally working on a team helping to achieve a good result for our clients. I think that is what drew me to litigation,” she says. “I was a [lacrosse player at Drew University] and have always been energized by working with others to achieve a goal.”
As the state – like the rest of the nation – emerges from the pandemic, Schmidt says she’s inspired by being part of the Richards, Layton and Finger “family.”
“The practice of law is great because of the people you get to work with,” she says. “What’s been hardest is making sure we stay connected as a firm. We are there for each other celebrating joyous occasions together and picking each other up during sad times. We’ve lost some people this past year and had to do a memorial service via Zoom, and we recently elected a new partner and had to celebrate remotely. I am grateful to be able to work with such an amazing group of people.”
Schmidt says that while she has found every volunteer opportunity gratifying, she was particularly inspired this past year by the opportunity to be a judge in the Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year competition.
“There were nine finalists from throughout the state, and when I first saw their applications, I asked myself how we would ever pick just one,” she says. “In the midst of all the bad news, these young people reminded me the future is bright.”
Asked what question she wishes more people would ask themselves, Schmidt responds with an answer that harkens back to advice she received from her father.
“Am I being kind? I believe you can be a zealous advocate for your client and still be kind,” she says. “My father always told me that I should treat others the way I would want to be treated. But more than the words he spoke was the example he set. I never heard my father speak an unkind work to or about anyone. I have always tried to live by that example – although admittedly not as successfully sometimes as he did. But I didn’t realize that those words would help prepare me to live by ‘the Delaware Way’ in my professional career years later.”