The Business of Law: Meet the New Leader of the Court of Chancery

New Court of Chancery head Andre Bouchard understands the human side of the nation’s most important court for business.

A tour of Andre Bouchard’s chambers is not complete without showing off photos of his wife and two children. Bouchard, the newest leader of the Delaware Court of Chancery, wears an immense smile as he recounts the latest accomplishments of his daughter, a New York University student, and son, an ensign in the Navy.

This family connection helps Bouchard, confirmed as chancellor in May, deal with the real-world problems the court faces every day. Though Chancery Court is viewed as the best and most important court in the country for business affairs, it also adjudicates life- and-death issues for Delaware residents. The problems—guardianships of incapacitated individuals or minor children, do-not-resuscitate orders, and interpretation of wills—will never make the Wall Street Journal or New York Times, yet Bouchard understands the cases are as important as the court’s headline-grabbing corporate cases.

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“For a long time I wanted to pursue public service, and I view this position as very much one of public service,” Bouchard says. “This is a very effective way to serve the citizens of Delaware. There is the larger corporate community as well, but my primary focus is what you think of when you think of a judicial position in the state court system.”

Even away from the bench, the chancellor focuses on family. He enjoys tennis leagues with his wife and chatting with his children. “I’m constantly talking to both of them about where their lives are going and what they are doing,” he says. “What they like is usually what I end up liking.”

Born just north of Montreal, Canada, Bouchard, his four brothers and their sister moved to Vancouver before finally settling in Wilmington in 1969, when he was 8. A precocious child, Bouchard was so talkative, he would visit his parents’ friends daily to chat while they sipped their coffee. He would tell the couple, along with everyone else, he wanted to be an avocate, which is French for “attorney.”

While attending Salesianum School in the mid-1970s, Bouchard held part-time jobs bagging groceries at two Wilmington-area supermarkets. The jobs exposed him to the struggles of his neighbors.

“Those jobs gave me a real connection with how people deal with things every day,” Bouchard recalls. “It was a real eye-opener on how people live and make ends meet. There was still a lot of hangover from the recession of the early 1970s, so you dealt with people on food stamps.”

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Bouchard attended Boston College, then Harvard Law School. While at Harvard, his studies were largely influenced by his desire to return home. “I was pretty determined to return to Delaware,” he says. “When I started to understand Delaware’s absolutely special relationship in corporate litigation, I realized, if I’m going to come back here, I’m going to do the stuff that really gives a name to Delaware in the legal world.”

Bouchard launched his legal career in 1986. He started as an associate at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, where he shared an office with his current boss, Chief Justice Leo E. Strine Jr.

The Skadden years launched Bouchard’s reputation in Delaware’s corporate law community. However, he is most proud of his efforts in a trial that resulted in lifting a desegregation order for the northern New Castle County school districts in 1995. Bouchard, who spent a year on the case, represented the Delaware Board of Education’s campaign for unitary status.

“That case was very gratifying for me because I like policy and it was about real things happening in the community,” Bouchard says. “I could see the impact of the court’s decision.”

In 1996, Bouchard left Skadden to join Steven Lamb in forming a new firm, Lamb & Bouchard. The firm rebranded itself as Bouchard & Friedlander and, later, Bouchard Margules & Friedlander. At the time, Bouchard became known as one of the best cross-examination attorneys in the country. He once led a cross-examination so tough, his partner heard an opposing attorney mutter under his breath, “Good cross.”

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“Cross examination was my biggest thrill in private practice,” Bouchard says. “It’s enormous preparation. There is no way to cross examine without preparing really hard, but you also need instinct on how to engage a witness.”

After 18 years at his own firm, Bouchard applied to become chancellor after Strine, the court’s former leader, moved up to chief justice. Bouchard is now the 21st chancellor of a court that has served Delaware since 1792. Bouchard says he thinks a great deal about the court’s history.

“Frankly, I’m in awe of the people who have preceded me in this position,” Bouchard says. “I read an opinion by [former chancellor William] Allen or our current chief justice, and I am incredibly impressed with the depth of their scholarship and thoughtfulness.”

For now, Bouchard has no plans to implement any administrative changes to how the Chancery Court operates. He notes that Strine left him an efficiently run court. “I can tell you that I have no ambitious goals for changing how the court works,” he says. “My focus right now is to do my job correctly, decide cases fairly and administrate justice.”

Photograph by Carlos Alejandro

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