Big Law’s Most Irish Chairman?

Is Michael Kelly of McCarter & English the most Irish chair in Big Law?

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day and to mark the occasion, we checked in with Kelly, who runs the 400-lawyer New Jersey-based law firm, knowing his deep Irish heritage.

“Yes, this is a very special day for me,” Kelly wrote, when asked if he’s doing anything to celebrate the day. “In my family, St. Patrick’s Day is a Holy Day of Obligation. My Irish dad used to say: ‘An Englishman invented the toilet seat. But 100 years later, an Irishman put a hole in the middle of it.'”

Mike Kelly

Mike Kelly.

Kelly offered a picture of his father, John D. Kelly III (below), who passed away in 2003. John Kelly was the County Sheriff and Registrar of the Court of Chancery, Kelly said, but better known for owning and operating a family pub, ‘Kelly’s Logan House.’


mccarter english

A photo of John D. Kelly III from 1975.


The Logan House was built in 1864 and remains in the family today, Kelly said, noting that his 92-year-old mother Loretta owns the building. He said it is the oldest continuously owned family pub in the United States and has been owned by Kelly’s family since 1889.

Feel free to write to Big Law Business if you dispute the accuracy of this claim, as we don’t have the resources to check the history of every family owned business in the country. But needless to say, 128-years-running seems like a considerable amount of time.

It is at least the oldest Irish bar in the state of Delaware, according to a story on the website “Only In Your State,” which publishes articles and information about towns and their businesses. Famous guests have included Al Capone and Buffalo Bill, the article said.

“So, after court this morning, I will be heading to my ‘Other Bar,'” Kelly continued.

“It will be packed,” he wrote. “Last year, a guy passed out at noon but didn’t hit the floor until midnight… Our local bishop gave us ‘Special Dispensation’ to eat Corned Beef and Cabbage on this ‘Meat Free Friday’ of Lent. And who gave up alcohol for Lent consider today a ‘free pass.'”

Clearly a joker, Kelly is also a serious trial lawyer: In 2014, he served as co-counsel in defense of Astrazeneca’s Hatch-Waxman Act settlements with generic drug manufacturers from multiple multi-district litigation antitrust class actions, and also brought suit on behalf of Cigna, a preferred Audax stockholder whose shares were extinguished by a merger that closed in February 2014, according to his firm biography.

He has brought more than 300 cases to trial — including many appeals — and argued more than 20 cases before the Delaware Supreme Court, his profile says.

Kelly has been chair of McCarter English since 2009 and is a fourth generation Delawarean. His great grandfather, John D. Kelly, also known as ‘Whiskers Kelly,’ emigrated from Ireland shortly after the potato famine, he said. He has visited Ireland seven times, taking his family to the house where his great grandfather was born.

Kelly’s drink of choice on Saint Patrick’s Day?

“I drastically cut back on my drinking 5 years ago for health reasons. My drink of choice on this High Holy Day always has been a pint of Guinness.”

Here at Big Law Business, we wish our readers a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. We should stress, however, that everyone stay safe and responsible.

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