After eight years as a deputy attorney general under former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, John B. “J.B.” Howard Jr. returned to private practice Wednesday as a partner at Saul Ewing LLP in the firm’s Baltimore office.
Howard said his practice at Saul Ewing will likely concentrate on corporate and securities litigation, although his experience overseeing the hundreds of attorneys who work for the attorney general’s office could also lead him to counsel clients on matters involving state government.
“As a deputy attorney general, you have oversight of all the lawyers who represent all of Maryland state government across 60 units,” he said. “I think I can be helpful to clients in navigating regulatory issues with the state and considering public-private partnerships with the state, which is increasingly a developing area.”
Howard, a “lifelong Baltimorean,” said his decision to join Saul Ewing was heavily influenced by the firm’s pattern of growth in the city. Although the firm was founded in Philadelphia, it has continued to grow its Baltimore office rather than allowing it to serve as an outpost, he said.
“It’s really sort of taken off in the Baltimore market and become a presence and a name firm in Baltimore over the last decade,” he said.
Charles Monk, managing partner of Saul Ewing’s Baltimore office, worked with Howard on and off during his time as deputy attorney general, and was impressed by his breadth of experience.
“J.B. is a highly respected commercial litigator with just an enormous amount of experience, having had a major leadership role in the attorney general’s office in the last eight years,” Monk said. “We’re really delighted to have someone with that background join us.”
Howard continued to work as a transition adviser for newly elected state attorney general Brian E. Frosh for about a month after Gansler’s departure before joining Saul Ewing, he said.
“The culture was a really good fit coming from a place like the attorney general’s office, where the culture is the reason why people come and the reason why people stay,” Howard said. “It’s a very comfortable transition in that respect.”
Before Gansler — a law school friend and roommate of Howard’s — asked him to serve as a deputy in his office, Howard spent seven years working at Venable LLP. Before that, he was an assistant attorney general, first in the securities division and then in civil litigation.
“My biggest undertaking there was the tobacco litigation, which was just getting going in the mid-’90s, and Maryland was at the forefront,” he said. “It was a really exciting opportunity as a young lawyer to be part of that effort. We were one of the handful of states that got it going, and it swept the nation eventually.”
Later, while serving as deputy attorney general in 2012, he had the opportunity to argue a case related to the Family and Medical Leave Act before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Aside from the experience of trying high-profile cases, Howard said the highlights of his time in the office were the relationships he formed with colleagues, which he expects will also be the case at Saul Ewing.
“It was a very comfortable fit for me as a Baltimore person and someone who wants to spend the rest of my career as a lawyer here,” he said.