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Best Week, Worst Week: Future looks bright for law school grads; state senator resigns amid fraud charges

best-worst-033118Students graduating from law schools in Maryland and attorneys looking to join large, established firms got some good news this week while a state senator from Baltimore exited the legislature amid a guilty plea to fraud charges.

Legal affairs writer Anamika Roy reported Thursday that attorneys at larger law firms in Maryland are more optimistic about hiring in the coming months compared to their peers at smaller firms, according to the latest Maryland Lawyers Confidence Index survey.

Among the survey’s 600-plus respondents who work at a firm with 41 or more lawyers, 75 percent agreed their firm plans on hiring additional attorneys in the next three months. By comparison, only 25 percent of respondents at firms with three to 15 attorneys agreed with that statement, while 53 percent shared that sentiment at firms with 16 to 40 lawyers.

Industry insiders say the sentiment toward hiring at the larger firms is reflective of the larger legal market, especially at the partner level. The first quarter is busy with hiring activity because attorneys, especially those at partner level, have received their bonuses and know what their compensation is going to be for 2018; they are thus in a position to decide whether to stay at their firm or take an offer at another shop that works better for their practice.

Meanwhile, Baltimore lost a state senator this week when Nathaniel T. Oaks pleaded guilty Thursday to wire fraud charges in a federal bribery case hours after formally resigning from the General Assembly.

Legal affairs writer Heather Cobun reported Oaks changed his plea to guilty on one count each of wire fraud and honest services wire fraud. U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett said other charges, including obstruction of justice, would be dismissed as part of a plea deal with prosecutors worked out earlier this week.

Prosecutors accused Oaks of taking $15,300 in bribes from an informant posing as a Texas investor. He will forfeit all assets obtained through the fraud as part of the plea agreement.

The 71-year-old Oaks submitted his legislative resignation Wednesday night to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and will be sentenced July 17. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for each count, but Bennett said the sentences will run concurrently.

Oaks’ departure from the Senate so close to the end of the General Assembly is a particular blow to Maryland Democrats. They lost what could be a much-needed vote should they need to override a veto from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who said he will not name a successor to Oaks before the end of the session April 9.

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