Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is shifting his focus from the state to the nation’s capital.
Ehrlich has joined King & Spalding’s Washington, D.C., office as senior counsel in the firm’s government advocacy and policy practice, four years after founding the Baltimore branch of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice with several members of his gubernatorial team.
“We had a wonderful run in Maryland politics,” Ehrlich said Tuesday, referring to his time as state delegate, U.S. Representative and governor, a post he sought to reclaim last November. “That chapter is closed for us.”
David B. Hamilton, managing partner of Womble’s Baltimore office and Ehrlich’s personal lawyer, helped Ehrlich figure out his next steps after last year’s election.
“This is a much better platform for him,” Hamilton said of the new job. “It’s a good time to be a Republican in Washington, D.C.”
Both Ehrlich and Hamilton said the split from Womble was amicable, which Ehrlich said made his decision even harder.
“It was a difficult call,” he said. “More difficult than I thought it would be.”
Among the deciding factors was that, while Womble has a Washington office as well, it does not include a public policy group, Ehrlich said.
And Ehrlich is looking to reach a national audience. He is beginning to shop a manuscript for a book he describes as “a blueprint for national policy from a Libertarian perspective.”
He and his wife, Kendel, guest-hosted on a morning radio show Monday in Washington and are talking to different stations about having a weekend show similar to the one they had on WBAL-AM before last year’s gubernatorial campaign.
Ehrlich also has his sights set on more national television appearances.
“This firm wants me to be very visible politically,” he said.
Ehrlich said he talked to seven law firms in Washington that he narrowed down to three finalists.
He met last month with Wick Sollers, King & Spalding’s managing partner in Washington; the two have known each other since high school and were a year apart at Princeton University.
“He’s a perfect fit for our team,” Sollers said. “He wants to help us build a stronger government advocacy and policy practice.”
Ehrlich will offer clients strategic and legislative advice in their work with the federal government. He will also assist clients connected to congressional investigations, one of King & Spalding’s specialties, Sollers said.
“It’s similar to what I did at Womble, just in a different space,” Ehrlich said from his new office on his second day on the job.
As for Womble’s Baltimore office, Hamilton said it will “continue to seek qualified lawyers to join our happy band,” with core growth in litigation and corporate and health care law.
Joining Ehrlich at King & Spalding is communications consultant Greg Massoni, who served in the former governor’s press office and followed him to Womble along with Paul Schurick and Henry Fawell.
Neither Ehrlich nor Sollers would discuss whether Schurick or Fawell would be joining King & Spalding. Ehrlich would only say “further announcements” about hires may be coming. Fawell and Schurick, who has been of counsel at Capital Management Initiatives in Washington since January, could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
Ehrlich and his communications team never officially returned to Womble after taking leaves of absence last year when Ehrlich challenged Gov. Martin O’Malley, Hamilton said.
The firm is not actively seeking another politician to take Ehrlich’s place, but Hamilton did not rule out adding one in the future. Former North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. has been a partner in the firm’s Raleigh office for a decade.
“The model works for us,” Hamilton said. “If the opportunity comes, we’ll take a serious look at it.”