After he completes his final term as mayor in December, Kurt L. Schmoke will become a partner in the high-powered corporate law office of Wilmer, Cutler and Pickering, a Washington-based firm with a satellite office in Baltimore.
Schmoke, who decided three months ago not to seek re-election, is expected to announce the plans this morning at his weekly news conference.
The new job appears to be a perfect fit for a law firm handling complex government regulatory affairs for corporations and the Rhodes Scholar mayor who proudly wears the label of "policy wonk."
Schmoke has strong personal ties to the firm. Three years ago, senior partner George P. Stamas -- who worked with Schmoke as an associate two decades ago at Piper & Marbury -- opened the Baltimore office, which includes former Democratic Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs.
The 49-year-old mayor was recently elected chairman of the Yale Corporation board of trustees and has a personal friendship with founding partner Lloyd N. Cutler, a Yale graduate and a former law professor at the university in New Haven, Conn.
The announcement ends speculation that Schmoke might join the Clinton administration or be employed by New York philanthropist George Soros. Wilmer, Cutler and Pickering is considered one of the top firms in the nation's capital, and its partners have served as counsel to President Clinton and former President Jimmy Carter.
During his 12 years as mayor, Schmoke oversaw city budgets totaling billions of dollars for everything from housing to transportation, making him a likely candidate to help steer corporate clients through murky government waters, lawyers for the firm said yesterday.
"Kurt Schmoke has been called a policy wonk more than once, and I take that as a compliment," said Sachs, who served also as U.S. attorney.
"I think he'll be a very effective advocate and be able to translate to clients the government concerns," Sachs said.
Schmoke, a former Baltimore state's attorney, also is drawn to the firm because of its increasing international clientele.
The firm has 300 lawyers with offices in Berlin, Brussels, Belgium, and London.
Schmoke, who has considered running for the U.S. Senate, has increased his international visibility since announcing his departure by serving on the Trilateral Commission in New York and working on city government coalition projects from London to the Mediterranean.
Schmoke also was instrumental in organizing the baseball exhibition game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban national team in Havana on March 28.
The mayor declined to comment yesterday on his new job, saying he would address the matter today.
The position will be the first outside of the government for Schmoke in more than two decades.
Schmoke, who earns $95,000 a year as mayor, has received mixed reviews for his service, drawing accolades for improving housing and Inner Harbor development but criticism for an inability to improve the city's standings in education, taxes, unemployment and rate of homicides.
Yet Schmoke has been praised by supporters and opponents for securing outside funding for the city, which gets 40 percent of its $1.8 billion budget from the state and federal governments.
"He is a genuine, nice guy who has warm relationships with people in government and business throughout the world, many who have great confidence in him," Stamas said. "And that's what lawyering is all about."
Schmoke will counsel corporations on law and relations with the public and the media, challenges that Schmoke faced while mayor, Cutler said.
"He always has been an outstanding lawyer, and he has good judgment," Cutler said.
Baltimore business and civic leaders will welcome Schmoke's decision because it will keep him in Baltimore, said John Morton III, president of NationsBank Corp.'s Mid-Atlantic Banking Group.
"I'm sure that he had many offers that would have taken him away from Baltimore," Morton said. "He will continue to have the ability to do good things for the city and the people who live here."
Schmoke's decision also pleased supporters who are disappointed that he is stepping down.
"He is a very talented person," said Elizabeth Griffith, who directs the Mayor's Coordinating Council of Criminal Justice. "And I'm sure that whatever he does, he will do well."
Pub Date: 3/11/99