Top Delaware judge joins LinkedIn's law firm

WILMINGTON, Del. Thu May 19, 2011 3:06pm EDT

WILMINGTON, Del. May 19 (Reuters) - William Chandler, the retiring chief judge on one of the top U.S. business courts, revealed on Thursday he is joining the West Coast firm that advised LinkedIn Corp (LNKD.N) on its high-flying initial public offering.

The powerful judge best known for his rulings involving Walt Disney Co (DIS.N), Airgas Inc (ARG.N) and eBay Inc (EBAY.O) said he will be joining Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati next month to advise clients on governance and structuring transactions.

The decision likely leaves numerous disappointed suitors, particularly the large law firms that would have been able to trot out Chandler's expertise when pitching for corporate clients.

Chandler presided over Delaware's Chancery Court as the chief judge since 1997, based in the historic red-brick town of Georgetown in the quiet southern part of the state, a stark contrast to Wilson Sonsini's base in Silicon Valley.

"I think the opportunity to work in new and young companies that are just getting started, and there a lot in Silicon Valley and on the East Coast, that was one of the strongest reason why I was interested in this opportunity," he said.

He said he was thrilled that LinkedIn went public on the day he announced he was joining the firm. "It's one of the things that makes this attractive."

Chandler is credited with embracing technology as Chancellor, his official title, and bringing the court into the age of electronic document filing.

Chandler follows a well-trodden path from Delaware's Chancery Court to private practice with a national firm. Stephen Lamb left the Chancery Court to establish a Delaware office of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.

Former vice chancellors William Allen joined Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz in New York and William Quillen now practices law with Drinker Biddle.

Chandler said joining a big firm was not so much a matter of money but having more opportunities for bigger challenges.

"I wanted to do something really different and challenging and this offered this platform to do that."

He said he did consider returning to his most cherished job, lifeguarding on Fenwick Island, Delaware.

"It's hard for someone my age to do that. It doesn't pay very well," said Chandler, who is 60.

That said, Wilson Sonsini did something a New York couldn't match.

"I will admit to you that I did think about the opportunity to body board and surf on the West Coast when I joined Wilson Sonsini." (Reporting by Tom Hals, editing by Bernard Orr)

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