The View from Delaware

The article below, just published in the Delaware Law Weekly, came to us from its author Elizabeth Bennett. This post is part of the Delaware law series, which is cosponsored by the Forum and Corporation Service Company; links to other posts in the series are available here.

The First State’s unique position as the corporate capital of the United States means that cutting-edge developments in corporate governance often come in the form of opinions from the Delaware Supreme Court and the Court of Chancery.

Of course, Delaware’s federal courts also decide giant cases in bankruptcy and intellectual property litigation, sometimes involving billions of dollars.

Given this, it’s no surprise that the number of blogs started by Delaware practitioners, or that address Delaware law, has grown since this publication first reported on the development in 2005.

Francis G.X. Pileggi, a partner in the Wilmington office of Fox Rothschild, was a pioneer. He started his ‘‘Delaware Corporate and Commercial Litigation Blog’’ in April 2005, and reports that traffic is seven or eight times more than when he started.

Wilmington firm Morris James now has three blogs: the “Delaware Business Litigation Report,’’ the “Delaware Patent Litigation Report’’ and the “Delaware Business Bankruptcy Report.’’

Edward M. McNally, a partner who edits the blogs, said they are up to about 4,000 hits per month.

Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor also fields a blog called the “Delaware IP Law Blog.’’ Karen Keller, an associate with the firm, who writes some of the entries, reported that as of the end of 2007, the blog got an average of about 41 visitors per day from 69 different countries.

But the regent by far of all the blogs with a Delaware connection is the ‘‘Harvard Law School Corporate Governance Blog,’’ which has been hit nearly two million times in its roughly two years of existence. This is in part a testament to the importance of Delaware corporate law.

Lucian A. Bebchuk, Harvard Law School professor and director of the Program on Corporate Governance that runs the blog, said that a significant element of its entries “is following Delaware cases and presenting different normative viewpoints about them as well as thoughts about what they mean going forward.”

The blog was conceived about two years ago by Bebchuk and Vice Chancellor Leo E. Strine Jr. of the Court of Chancery, who has been teaching at Harvard Law for five years or so and is a fellow of the Program on Corporate Governance.

The vice chancellor “has been helping us a great deal in making the connection between academia and practice,” Bebchuk said.

The idea for the blog came when Strine and Bebchuk were brainstorming about making the scholarship produced by the academics of the program more available to practitioners.

Strine said he was also seeking ways to bring together the commentary of practitioners involved with the program, who write on corporate governance issues and who are scattered all over the country.

“We had some electronic newsletters that sent out the research products of the program,” Bebchuk said. “Leo [Strine] thought it would be good to have something that is more dynamic and something [that] would have some kind [of] back and forth and give and take of different ideas.”

Bebchuk said traffic on the blog has been growing exponentially. It is now visited by about 200,000 people per month.

“It’s a very open community,” Strine said “It’s not dominated by any one view. There are people who represent stockholder plaintiffs and people who represent managers, and professors from all kinds of law schools.”

“I don’t think anybody would have expected as much content or as much readership interest,” Strine said, adding that the Program on Corporate Governance has invited outside academics and practitioners to participate in order to create an open forum that can serve as a resource.

“As a result there is a lot of content people find provocative,” he said. There have been some pretty interesting dust ups among the contributors.”

Local contributors to the Harvard blog include an array of experienced Delaware practitioners such as A. Gilchrist Sparks III of Morris Nichols Arsht & Tunnell, Mark A. Morton of Potter Anderson & Corroon, Robert S. Saunders of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, Jay Eisenhofer of Grant & Eisenhofer and Pileggi of Fox Rothschild, who also has his own blog, as noted above.

Lawrence A. Hamermesh, a professor at the Widener University School of Law and director of its Institute on Delaware Corporate and Business Law, is a frequent contributor and Andrea Unterberger has contributed as well.

Unterberger is assistant general counsel and director of CSC Media for the Corporation Service Company in Wilmington, which also sponsors the blog. She and the blog’s managing editor did a lot of hard work in the early days on the design and to build the community, Strine said.

“It sort of took off so they don’t need as much of our help as this point,” Unterberger said.

Rodman Ward Jr., of counsel in Skadden’s Wilmington office, sits on the board of CSC and is the grandson of its founder. He said Strine asked him if the company would consider sponsoring the blog. When he brought the idea to the leadership of the company, they went for it.

Ward said it is important that the blog not discriminate on the basis of ideology.

“We wanted the only criteria on which the posts would be chosen to be the academic quality,” Ward said. “They’ve been very good about it.”

While some core subjects for the blog are Delaware law and the Securities and Exchange Commission, Unterberger said, “there are opinions all over the country and all over the world that use Delaware law and that impact corporate governance and principles. There are academics now from all over the country that are posting. … It’s a must-read blog at this point.”

The range and breadth of the guest contributors has grown, Bebchuk said.

“We have the problems that come with success,” he said. “We have a lot of people who want to contribute but at the same time we don’t want to overwhelm readers.”

The goal is to try and maintain a balance to keep the site valuable for both academics and practitioners. Bebchuk said the success has been gratifying.

“We see how our materials are picked up by The Economist, The Wall Street Journal and by the mainstream media,” he said. “We feel there is a world out there that is paying attention to what we post on our blog.”

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