Alumni Spotlight: Gretchen Panchik ’17L Following a clerkship and working as a prosecutor, Gretchen Panchik now practices in the areas of commercial litigation and insurance recovery.
Gretchen Panchik ‘17L grew up in Worthington, PA. She graduated from Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA in 2014 with a B.A. in English. After graduating from W&L Law in 2017, she clerked for the Indiana County Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania, spent a year at the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh, and then joined Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC as an associate in 2019, where she currently practices in the areas of commercial litigation and insurance recovery.
Discuss your career path and how it led you to working at Eckert Seamans.
I began my career as a clerk for the Indiana County Court of Common Pleas in Indiana, PA, where I gained a lot of experience in research and drafting. I also gained valuable insight into how courts make decisions. I left my clerkship for the District Attorney’s Office in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) where I spent my time gathering information to draft formal charges, and then in the appellate unit where I drafted briefs and argued before the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. After about a year of working at the DA’s Office, a mentor from Saint Vincent College connected me with another one of his mentees, who worked at Eckert Seamans and was looking for another associate to join the Commercial Litigation group. I interviewed and took the job, and I have been with the firm since 2019.
What sort of legal issues do you handle on a day-to-day basis?
I am in the Commercial Litigation group at Eckert Seamans. My day-to-day is split between litigation and insurance recovery work and involves working on commercial litigation matters such as contract and business disputes, defending companies in wrongful death/personal injury lawsuits, and assisting clients in insurance recovery efforts.
What do you like about your current job?
I enjoy working with my colleagues at Eckert Seamans. I have been very fortunate to have found a great mentor at the firm, and I am surrounded by a great group of people at the firm. I also enjoy the substance of my work (not always, but most of the time!). I enjoy litigation, but I love that I have a balance between litigation and insurance recovery work because it introduces me to unique issues and allows me to broaden my experience.
Which W&L classes and/or experiences do you think were most helpful in preparing you for this career shift?
My most memorable class was Appellate Advocacy with former Chief Justice Lemons. The structure of the course was unique, and it was a once in a lifetime experience for me. Being taught by Justice Lemons was really incredible as he provided such great insight into the practice of law, and his willingness to mentor was really apparent. The class concluded with oral arguments before Justice Lemons and two other judges. I will never forget how nervous I was, but how great I felt afterward. Justice Lemons helped me to build confidence that I did not have prior to his class and improved my advocacy skills. I still have his written comments to my brief.
Another experience that sticks with me is Skills Immersion before 3L year. I participated in the litigation section, and I remember making it through the trial and feeling very accomplished. I did not have Professor Belmont for Evidence, but she judged my trial and helped me to realize that everyone has a different style, and just because your style is not the same as your counterpart does not mean that it is wrong or inferior – sometimes it is quite the opposite.
What advice do you have for prospective law students?
Maintain your connections. I am not the most successful lawyer, but I am definitely in a much better place in this profession because of the connections I have made and the people that have helped me get to where I am. I am certain that I would not be at Eckert Seamans if I did not stay in contact with my mentor from Saint Vincent College. The longer I am in this profession, the more I see the value in connections. Be genuine about maintaining your connections—don’t just check boxes.
Lastly, stay true to yourself. Do not force yourself to fit in with a type of lawyer that you think you should be. Trust your instincts and you will end up where you are supposed to be.
Outside of Work
Baking and Reading
The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Favorite Travel Location
Acadia National Park