WASHINGTON — Faced with the choice of running for a third term as Prince George’s County state's attorney or returning to a law firm job and the cushy salary that comes with it, Glenn Ivey knew what he had to do.
“The college tuition mountain is certainly something we want to make sure we can handle, and retirement is getting closer and closer,” said Ivey, 52, who has two adult children, two children in high school and a middle-school-age child with his wife, Prince George’s County Delegate Jolene Ivey.
Ivey is enjoying a "six-figure increase in compensation," compared to his state's attorney pay, in his new position at Leftwich & Ludaway, a boutique, predominantly African-American firm, he said. The state's attorney makes about $150,000.
Ivey's path is a typical one for a lawyer-politician. Corporate law firms provide a safe, well-compensated landing pad for many outgoing Maryland politicians looking for a new gig.
Ivey has shifted between public service and private practice for most of his career. After working for the Justice Department, on Capitol Hill as counsel for the Senate Whitewater Committee and former Sen. Tom Daschle, and as chairman of the Maryland Public Service Commission for two years, Ivey joined what is now K&L Gates in 2000. He left the Washington law firm when elected state’s attorney in 2002. Ivey served for eight years, leaving office in 2010, and worked at another firm, Venable, before landing at Leftwich & Ludaway.
“This is the first time I’ve really kind of hit the point where I’m not going to go back into running for office or working full-time in a government position,” Ivey said in a conference room on Washington’s high-powered K Street corridor. “At this point, it makes more sense for me and my family to stay in the private sector.”
When former U.S. Sen. Joseph Tydings lost his bid for re-election in 1970, after serving just one term, he started practicing law again and hasn’t looked back.
“Being a lawyer, you knew that if you were defeated, you could go out and take care of your family,” said Tydings, 84, who served as a U.S. attorney in Maryland before running for Congress. “In my case, my first year in the practice of law after I left the Senate I made almost as twice as much as my Senate salary.”
Tydings, who comes from a long line of lawyers, has worked on counseling and government representation issues for Dickstein Shapiro, a downtown Washington firm, since 1996.
He has more time to do pro bono work and lobby for causes he cares about, like the Chesapeake Bay, as a senior counselor, he said.
Tydings isn't the only former Maryland politician at Dickstein Shapiro. He's joined by former Rep. Al Wynn, who signed on in 2008 after losing his bid for a ninth term representing the Fourth District. Wynn could not be reached for comment.
Public officials are extremely valuable assets to law firms, which prize them for their understanding of government processes and access to decision-makers.
That’s one of the reasons why King & Spalding, an Atlanta-based firm, hired former Maryland Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich after he lost his bid to retake the governor’s mansion in Annapolis in 2010.
“He knows a lot of people,” said Michael Cain, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. “He can pick up the phone and someone will answer at the other end.”
Ehrlich, in his role as senior counsel in the firm’s government advocacy and public policy practice group, spends most of his time pitching to potential clients, giving speeches and explaining how Congress works.
The former governor knows what he’s talking about. Ehrlich served four terms in the House of Representatives before becoming governor in 2002. He also served in Maryland’s House of Delegates for eight years.
“Bob Ehrlich brings to King & Spalding incomparable insight and connections at the busy intersection of business and politics,” said Wick Sollers, the office’s managing partner in a March 2011 press release announcing the hiring.
Ehrlich spends one day writing each week — he’s penning his second book, a follow-up to “Turn This Car Around: The Roadmap to Restoring America,” in addition to a weekly column for The Baltimore Sun — and is also a familiar face on cable television, where he often rails against the Obama administration.
“I think there’s a real cultural battle going on with regard to American values,” Ehrlich, 55, said by phone, adding that Obama has the “wrong values, wrong policies.”
Asked whether his meshing of politics and legal work is problematic, Ehrlich said it’s just the opposite.
“The firm encourages it,” he said. “(It) has a deep, rich tradition of politicians. I love the firm. It’s been wonderful.”
Ehrlich has been able to create a “mini version” of his political team at King & Spalding, bringing along his former communications director, Greg Massoni.
While Ivey enjoys working at Leftwich & Ludaway, he misses the good will that comes with being a public servant.
“I loved that being my job — to get up in the morning and try to help folks out who were having trouble,” Ivey said. “Sometimes it doesn’t take a lot to make a really big difference in peoples’ lives.”
To that end, Ivey launched an abortive campaign to take on Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, in November 2011. He dropped out of the race after just two months, citing fundraising difficulties.
Ehrlich, on the other hand, seems resigned to the fact that the state he once ran no longer aligns with his political ideology, making a future run improbable.
“The direction of Maryland is really clear,” he said. “It’s not the direction I wanted. There is little I could do about it.”