feed the family on politics.” And he told
me something that really stuck with me.
He said, “Never try to make your livelihood
dependent on the outcome of an election.”
So I went to law school at night. We had
a car pool that went from the legislature
in the state house in Annapolis to the law
school in Baltimore. We had a lot of fun.
In fact, we had what we used to call a
rolling study group. We studied in the car
on the way from the legislature. We had a
big experience, Valentine’s Day 1985. Our
study group skipped Judge Solomon Liss’
professional responsibility class and went
to dinner at a Chinese restaurant and two
armed robbers came in and forced us to lie
on the floor. Of course when Professor Liss
saw that, he had a field day.
Q: So it was nearly a Valentine’s Day
A: Yeah, lying on the floor with a gun
pointed at your head. But I graduated
in ’86 and clerked for Judge Howard S.
Chasanow. I left the legislature in ’94. Been
there 16 years, I felt I’d accomplished a lot.
The law practice had really grown.
Q: What firm were you with?
A: I was with a two-member firm. Fellow
by the name of Ned Camus. Great trial
lawyer. He was sort of the Matlock of Prince
George’s County. When he retired, I came
here. I’ve been at Joseph, Greenwald &
Laake since January 1, 1999. So that’s,
what, 13 years. We’re about 35, 40 lawyers.
Great group of litigators. Hopefully they’ll
carry me out.
Q: Did you ever run for higher office?
A: I was encouraged to a number of times
Some people, the minute they get into
one office they have their eye on the next.
And I always lived by this saying: “There’s
two types of people in public office: those
who want to be something and those who
want to do something.” I always tried to fit
into that second category.
Q: When you left, had you already begun
this niche practice of representing
A: You would never represent a politician
while you were one. But once I got out, I’ve
[taken] a lot of cases at the intersection
of litigation and public policy. I think
they come to us because I have a pretty
thorough understanding of the machinery
of government and how things work. We
have a huge civil rights practice here. We
have a very large commercial practice.
We do white-collar defense. And we do
a lot of very interesting cases involving
constitutional law. We also serve as the
Maryland counsel for a project called
National Harbor, where they are now trying
to build a destination resort casino. We
represent a lot of other developers. We
represent a lot of the major developers in
the county when they have litigation.
Q: Do they know about your early history
A: Oh, they do. And they know about my
dad. All with a smile on their face.
Q: In the recent trial of state Senator
Ulysses Currie, you were on the witness
stand. Was that new for you?
A: Pretty much. I’ve testified in minor
matters, like fee petitions and stuff like that.
Q: But this was the first time being
grilled by the prosecutor.
A: It wasn’t much of a grilling because I
think he knew what he wanted to know, but
he didn’t really know a lot about Senator
Currie or the way the legislature actually
worked. I was very happy Senator Currie
Q: Which legal organization has been
most helpful for you?
A: I like them all. One of the things I enjoy
most is, at the end of each legislative
session I will go around the state and
speak to about 10 organizations—bar
associations, inns of court, law clubs—on
new laws that lawyers have to know. I’ve
been doing that for 20 years now. I sort of
run a circuit around the state. It’s a lot of
fun, but it also forces me to engage in the
discipline of reading every bill that was
introduced or passed by the legislature. It’s
forced me to have a decent, chronological
sense of the development of statutory law
over the last two decades.
Q: What insights do you have about
A: That it takes years to pass a law. That
things you never thought would’ve passed
20 years ago now become law. Mandatory
seat belts were something that people
in the ‘70s couldn’t think of. The culture
changes, the law changes. I tell people
the most important changes are not in the
legislature but in the public themselves.
Public attitudes have to first change before
the law changes.
Q: Speaking of changes, what are the
biggest changes in the law you’ve seen
during your career?
A: The biggest positive change has been
the improvement in technology and the
biggest negative change has been the
decline in civility.
Technology has been fabulous. I was at
home last night at 11: 30 writing a brief for
the Court of Special Appeals. I had all the
appendix, the entire record extract, 2,000
pages on my iPad, and the brief on my
Apple Mac; otherwise a clean desk. When I
was doing the same thing 20 years ago, I’d
be sitting in an empty office building with
books piled up everywhere.
Civility, though, is just … disappointing.
I still think some of the best people
anywhere are lawyers: inspiring, decent,
courageous people. But there are a lot
of people out there that haven’t been
properly introduced into the real mission of
the profession or never really got it.
Q: Any stories that reflect either end of
this equation? Greater civility back then,
less so now?
A: My first deposition was in a car accident
case. It was a simple auto tort. And I spent
hours preparing for it. And I asked the most
convoluted, Rube Goldberg questions.
And the defense lawyer on the other side,
nice guy, now retired, named Bill Zifchak,
he took me aside in a very nice way and
he said, “Tim? Why don’t you just ask him
how the accident happened?” And it was
such a simple and gentle thing he did. I’ve
told that story to young lawyers a hundred
times: Just ask them what happened.