Cashing in on 28 years of public service and political contacts, Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg has decided to become a lobbyist and lawyer with the firm of his longtime aide and protege, Alan M. Rifkin.
"I'm too young to hang up my boots, and I have a lot of experience to put to good use," said Mr. Steinberg, who plans to join the newly constituted law firm of Rifkin, Livingston & Silver when he leaves office Jan. 18.
The move will reunite a team that began working together when Mr. Steinberg, now 61, was a state senator and Mr. Rifkin, now 37, was a college-age legislative intern.
Mr. Rifkin later became legal counsel and top administrative assistant to Mr. Steinberg during his years as Senate president.
The relationship turned into almost a partnership as the two subsequently combined as the lead legislative strategists for Gov. William Donald Schaefer during Mr. Schaefer's vigorous first term in office.
"Alan and I had great synergism," said Mr. Steinberg, sounding like a father who has decided late in life to go to work with his son. "We go way back together. We just work together very well."
Mr. Steinberg becomes the latest in a growing crop of current or former elected officials and staff to head through the revolving door from government service to legislative lobbyist.
Other recent converts to the potentially lucrative field include former Speaker Pro Tem Gary Alexander of Prince George's County; John R. Stierhoff, for years the top aide to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.; former House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr.; and former Gov. Marvin Mandel.
Mr. Steinberg served 20 years in the Senate, eight of them as president, while simultaneously practicing law in his Pikesville district. He gave up both his legislative seat and his law practice to become Mr. Schaefer's lieutenant governor.
This year, he waged an unsuccessful fight for the Democratic nomination for governor -- a campaign in which he strongly criticized the party's nominee, Gov.-elect Parris N. Glendening.
Mr. Steinberg said he decided to join the Rifkin firm because it will allow him to use the expertise he gained as an elected official and to practice law and to maintain a schedule flexible enough that he can spend time with his family and travel.
Mr. Steinberg will be "of counsel" to the firm, a legal designation that means he is neither a partner nor an employee, but will share in the fees from the business he brings in.
Another principal of the firm, retired Baltimore Circuit Judge Edgar P. Silver, also is of counsel.
"I don't see me down there more than one day a week, maybe two days a week," Mr. Steinberg said of his role as an Annapolis lobbyist. "I may like to do it just for some of my personal enjoyment -- to have dinner with some of the guys. But I don't want to be a day-to-day lobbyist."
Mr. Rifkin said he expected Mr. Steinberg to function more as "a consultant" to the firm's corporate clients, although Mr. Steinberg said he may testify on bills if they are on issues about which he is especially knowledgeable.
Mr. Rifkin yesterday also announced two new partners with the firm: Michael V. Johansen and Scott Livingston.
Mr. Johansen, 31, had been an associate and lobbyist for the predecessor firms, known as Rifkin, Evans, Silver and Rozner and later as Rifkin & Silver. He is a former staff counsel to the Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee.
Mr. Livingston, who has specialized in contract and procurement law, moves from the Washington firm of Bastianelli, Brown & Touhey. He and Mr. Rifkin worked together briefly several years ago for Control Data.
Mr. Rifkin's client list currently includes the Cable Television Association of Maryland, Delaware and D.C.; the Automotive Trade Association of the National Capital Area, a trade group of car dealers; the Ryland Group, a Columbia homebuilder; Lockheed; Suburban Hospital in Bethesda; Sinai Hospital in Baltimore; Manor Care, the Montgomery County-based nursing home and hotel firm; and the Maryland Jockey Club, owner of the Laurel and Pimlico race courses.
"We are thrilled," Mr. Rifkin said of the revamped firm.
In recent months, Mr. Rifkin has taken his lumps. Two of his partners and fellow legislative lobbyists, Gerard E. Evans and Joel D. Rozner, left to form a new firm with Mr. Stierhoff and two other lawyers. It is expected to be an immediate force in State House politics as well as a rival of Mr. Rifkin's firm.
Almost immediately, the new Evans/Rozner firm lured away one of Mr. Rifkin's highest-profile clients, Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke.
Mr. Rifkin said the makeup of the new office will be "more well-rounded" than his previous firm, providing legal services to the corporate community "whether they are legislative or nonlegislative."