Posted: May 5, 2011


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There have been harder landings than Mike Castle's. He started Monday as a partner at DLA Piper, the largest law firm in the world with offices in places like Sarajevo, Hong Kong, Paris, Kuwait City and Moscow.

The location that mattered most to Castle, though, was the one in Wilmington, 919 N. Market Street, cornering on Rodney Square.

Once the voters in the Republican primary for the Senate gave him a mandate to practice law again, he wanted it to be based at home.

In his reincarnation as an attorney at 71, Castle is part of the firm's Government Affairs practice, which will require regular trips to the Washington office, not exactly an unfamiliar commute. He expects to be involved in recruiting and counseling clients.

His office in Wilmington is standard-issue, situated in a row with other lawyers, nothing special, with blond furnishings and a window facing another building.

He answers his own phone and tells people to call him "Mike," although it seems to be striking many of them as a little too familiar for someone who was their governor for eight years from 1985 to 1993 and their congressman, the longest serving in state history, for 18 years from 1993 to 2011.

People mostly have reverted to calling him "Governor," regarded as the highest form of address for any Delawarean. Not counting "Mr. Vice President," of course.

It has been a long time since Castle practiced law, not since he became the governor, back in the days when research was done in books and telephone messages were taken on those little pink message pads reading, "While You Were Out."

"I had a technology lesson on Monday, and it was nearly the end of my stay here," Castle said.

In the years Castle spent in politics, he was partial to poking fun at his own lawyering. He once credited his decision to go into politics to a particularly bad day, when he lost a case and a judge asked him what should be done with the evidence. Castle muttered exactly what he thought the judge should do with it, not thinking the judge could overhear him, but alas, the judge did.

"That's when I decided to run for the state House of Representatives," Castle said.

Castle's legal shortcomings may have been greatly exaggerated, however.

"He's a good lawyer," said Carl Schnee, who was Castle's last law partner.

Their firm was Schnee & Castle. Schnee, a Democrat who capped a respected legal career as a U.S. attorney appointed by President Clinton, did criminal defense and workers' compensation. Castle did real estate and business law.

"DLA Piper is a contrast with the old firm of Schnee & Castle, which was one of the smaller law firms in the world, to this law firm, which I believe is the largest law firm in the world," Castle said.

As huge as DLA Piper is, the firm did not have a presence in Delaware, the premier jurisdiction for corporate law, until mid-March when it opened an office with 10 lawyers.

It is hard to think the firm could announce its arrival with any bigger splash than bringing in Castle. Not to mention the firm could use a Republican. Its most prominent members are Tom Daschle, a Democrat who was the Senate majority leader, and Jim Blanchard, the Government Affairs practice co-chair who was the Democratic governor of Michigan while Castle was the governor here.

As for politics, Castle is ready for senior statesman status, even if it was thrust upon him earlier than anticipated when he ran for the remainder of Joe Biden's Senate term as a valedictory.

"I will not be running for office," Castle said. "I never expected to serve for more than four years."

Now about those legal skills? Castle is still at himself about it. "They've made it pretty clear they don't want me writing a lot of briefs."