UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Zachary R. Brecheisen has been selected as the keynote speaker at the Penn State Law in University Park Class of 2023 Commencement. He is a graduate, cum laude, of the Penn State Law class of 2012 and is currently a partner at global law firm Jones Day.
Brecheisen said, “It’s an extreme honor to be asked to speak to the class of 2023 this year. I want to extend my thanks to the faculty, staff, and students for the invitation. This opportunity has particular resonance for me as I was the student speaker at my commencement in 2012. Coming back to Eisenhower Auditorium will feel like coming home.”
As a partner at Jones Day, Brecheisen focuses his practice on mergers and acquisitions, with experience in representing public and private companies, as well as private equity firms, in strategic transactions. He is ranked by Chambers USA and has advised clients who range from the Fortune 500 to local family-owned enterprises. As an M&A attorney, he brings a dedication to client service and an intensity of effort that he attributes to his training as a law student at Penn State Law.
“Corporate law is a 24/7 practice that requires not only a high level of competence (which is expected of all attorneys), but also a relentless commitment to achieving your client’s results,” he said. “Penn State Law graduates know how to work hard and put in the time required to succeed. It’s ingrained in our training at Penn State because we don’t have the luxury of resting on our laurels, we go out there and prove our value day-in and day-out.”
In addition to counseling clients, Brecheisen serves as a co-chair of the Jones Day’s LGBTQ+ Affinity Group, and serves on the firm’s Pittsburgh office recruiting committee, as well as the Diversity Inclusion & Advancement Committee.
“We’re honored to have Zach as our keynote speaker at the Penn State Law in University Park Class of 2023 Commencement,” said Victor Romero, interim dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs, Maureen B. Cavanaugh Distinguished Faculty Scholar, and professor of law. “It’s encouraging for our graduating students to see how alumni before them have forged paths to successful legal careers. Zach is a terrific example of someone who has not only thrived professionally, but has also given back to his community wherever his career has taken him.”
Brecheisen is a member of the board of directors of the Penn State Law Alumni Society and the Penn State Law Development Council. Since his graduation, he has dedicated significant time and resources to Penn State Law and its students, with a focus on helping students prepare to practice on day one of their legal careers. He has been recognized over the years by both the law school and the greater university for his efforts. He is the recipient of the 2017 Penn State Law Distinguished Alumni Award, the 2019 Penn State Law Diversity Award for Leadership in the Legal Profession, and the 2020 Penn State University Alumni Achievement Award.
In 2022, Brecheisen was proud to endow the Lavender Law and Career Support Fund to help more Penn State Law students connect with LGTBQ+ friendly employers who reflect the law school’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in the legal industry. “As alumni, I believe that it’s critically important for us to support current students by helping them successfully navigate the job search process. That means we should not only be offering guidance and mentorship, but also providing students with the tools and opportunities to succeed,” he said.
While at Penn State Law, Brecheisen served as the president of the Student Bar Association and served as a leader in numerous other organizations, including the Speaker's Trust Fund, Outlaw, Phi Delta Phi Legal Fraternity, and the American Constitution Society. He was also a member of the Woolsack Honor Society, which recognizes students who rank in the top 15% of the graduating class after five semesters.
Brecheisen also held positions on the Penn State Law Arbitration Law Review and Environmental Law Review. It did not take long for him to be heavily involved in the many organizations of Penn State Law. “I wanted to make the most out of being at law school…if you don’t take advantage of the opportunities that come with being a student and being surrounded by very diverse, awesome groups of people, then you’re missing out.”
While Brecheisen has had a successful legal career, his original career path started as a young engineer in his native North Carolina. He has a bachelor of science in construction engineering & management from North Carolina State University. Prior to attending Penn State Law, he worked as a project engineer at a Raleigh-based engineering consulting firm, where he focused on serving clients in the electrical utility industry.
Brecheisen found the transition to law school relatively seamless. “The problem-solving nature of being an engineer overlaps quite a bit with being a lawyer,” he said. “Clients come to you because they have a problem and they rely on you, as the trusted advisor, to help create solutions that achieve their goals.”
He credits prior work experience for helping tackle the demands of law school. “I always intended to go to law school. I also knew that coming from a nontraditional professional background would allow me to come in with different experiences and a different perspective. I hoped that a more diverse background and set of skills would make me a better all-around lawyer as a result.”
His interest in staying involved with Penn State Law, post-graduation, stems from wanting to continue Penn State Law’s success. “The stronger we can make the school, the more we grow our reputation and then we all win. We can point to the law school and be proud to say that we went to Penn State Law,” said Brecheisen.
Brecheisen continued with his hopes for the class of 2023 graduates. “I want every class to be better than the one before it. Go out and be successful attorneys who are prepared to start practicing on day one. I want their employers and senior attorneys to say, ‘They’re from Penn State Law, that person’s a great lawyer.’ I know this class will continue what their predecessors have done and make us all proud.”
Brecheisen also hopes the class of 2023 stays in touch with each other. “I think we’re stronger when we all work together and maintain those bonds beyond the great experience we had in school. I hope everyone sticks with it, remains connected, and supports one another after graduation. That’s critical, it’s how we operate as Penn Staters, and it’s how we succeed as a whole.”
The Penn State Law in University Park Class of 2023 Commencement Ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 13, at 10:30 a.m., in Eisenhower Auditorium.