Former Lt. Gov. Steele to continue law career at international firm in D.C.

April 13, 2007|By Jennifer Skalka | Jennifer Skalka,Sun reporter

Four months after losing Maryland's U.S. Senate contest by a wide margin, former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele remains in professional demand, landing a job this week with an international law firm.

The firm - LaBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLP - issued a statement announcing that Steele is joining the Washington office as partner. He will specialize in corporate securities, government relations and international affairs with a focus on Africa, according to the statement.

"As the issuance of Congressional subpoenas continues to surge, Michael will also play a lead role in providing counsel to elected officials and executives brought before Congress," the statement says.

Steele, 48, did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

A graduate of the Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University Law Center, Steele was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in June 1992 but let his law license expire during his four-year term as lieutenant governor. He renewed March 1, paying a $375 fee, according to the Pennsylvania's Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court.

Washington has reciprocity with Pennsylvania, so Steele can practice in the nation's capital. But he is not yet a member of the D.C. bar, according to Leah Gurowitz, director of public affairs for the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Steele is able to practice in Washington temporarily under the supervision of another attorney. The D.C. bar makes other exceptions - for U.S. government employees or those providing legal services solely "before a special court, department or agency of the United States."

The Washington Post has reported that Steele sat for the Maryland bar exam but failed.

Steele, a former head of the Maryland Republican Party, has not practiced law in more than a decade. He worked for six years after law school in the Washington office of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP. He told The Sun in 2002 that he left the firm when he realized he would not make partner.

A Republican who stressed his personal qualities more than his conservative views in a series of television advertisements, Steele was defeated in November by Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes. Cardin, a former speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates and 20-year member of Congress, won by 11 points, but the loss hasn't affected the national media interest in Steele.

A resident of Prince George's County, Steele has also taken a job as chairman of GOPAC, the political action committee that seeds Republican campaigns for state and local offices. He has appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, a free-wheeling roundtable show on HBO, and as a commentator on CNN and FOX, among other networks.

Jennifer E. Duffy, senior editor of The Cook Political Report, said Steele's political future remains uncertain - despite his new high-profile jobs. She also noted that he signed on with a Washington firm not known to be a powerhouse in the political arena.

"I think right now this is a guy trying to pay his mortgage," Duffy said. "And I'm not sure what it beholds for his future. I think Maryland's a tough state, and he knows it. He's learned it firsthand."

The LaBoeuf Lamb PAC gave to Democrats and Republicans during the 2006 cycle - 66 percent of their donations were to candidates for the GOP, 34 percent went to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Steele, however, was not a recipient.

LaBoeuf Lamb bills itself as a global law firm with more than 700 lawyers practicing in 18 offices worldwide. The Web site indicates that a focus of the practice is in providing legal services to the energy, utilities and insurance industries.

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