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For dad, there is pride in a son's achievement and new career turn

The Baltimore Sun

As the election night results became clear, Louis Jay Ulman turned to a friend sitting next to him at the Kahler Hall and commented, "There goes my retirement plans."

The remark was not a revelation of frustration or even disappointment, but a simple calculation as he watched a son, Ken, swept into office as the eighth county executive.

So the elder Ulman did the unthinkable: He walked away at the age of 60 from a partnership in a Towson-based law firm that included his name to join one based in Howard County.

"It is unusual," says Ulman, who switched last month to Columbia-based Offit Kurman. "I felt like I needed a lot more support in Howard County for my practice and my clients."

While his son Ken took some cases on a contract basis with Ulman's former firm, now Hodes, Pessin & Katz, the elder Ulman had envisioned more.

"I had hoped to turn my practice over to Ken," he says. "Had he not won the election, I think we would have done something to work together."

But his parental pride in the political achievements of his son is too great for any regrets. "It was something I would have enjoyed doing," he says. "But I am thrilled for him."

As he embarks on the latest, and presumably final, chapter of his law career, Louis Ulman is clear about his aspirations. He hopes to serve clients effectively and help the firm expand, of course, but as importantly, is the prospect of imparting more than three decades of experience to younger attorneys.

"It's an opportunity to mentor some of them, which is something I'm looking forward to," he says.

It is what his father, Irwin Ira Ulman, did for him when they practiced together during the latter half of the 1970s, and which he regards as an obligation to do for others. "Giving back to the profession is what it is all about," Ulman says.

His father "was a terrific mentor," Ulman says. "He taught me how to practice law. He required me to work very, very hard. He was a perfectionist, and I think he wanted me to be the best lawyer I could possibly be."

But that counseling transcended just working hard. Ethics and integrity were as important. "My dad told me on many occasions that the most important thing you have is your reputation," Ulman says.

In an era of Fox News conservatism, Ulman is a throwback, declaring, "I think the term liberal is a badge of honor.

"I have very strong social beliefs. ... I care very much."

Roger Caplan, founder of the public relations firm The Caplan Group and a friend of the Ulmans, says that "as an attorney, Lou is extremely well-respected in the field. He was a sought-after property. This is a tremendous coup for [Offit Kurman]. He brings to them instant credibility in Howard County."

Ulman was born on March 24, 1946 in Baltimore, where he was raised. He graduated from high school - Baltimore City College - in 1962, received a bachelor's degree in economics from Dickinson College five years later, and earned his degree in law from the Washington College of Law of the American University in 1970.

He was drawn naturally to the law, Ulman says, because of his father.

"I admired him and what he did," Ulman says. "He did a lot of good things to help people out."

He recalls one of his father's clients who was on the verge of losing his wholesale distributor business.

"My dad was able to work that out for him," Ulman says. "I saw the man many, many times over the years, and he'd always say, 'Your dad was responsible for saving my business, which saved my family life.'"

The father-son team formed a firm, Ulman & Ulman, in 1975, which lasted until 1981, when both were recruited by Baltimore-based Weinberg & Green. "Our practice was growing, and they made us an attractive offer," Ulman says. "My dad had been ill for a little bit, and it just made sense."

Louis Ulman established a Columbia office for the firm five years later. He left the firm in 1992 to join Hodes, although he continued to work in Columbia, where he has lived for 35 years.

Ulman concentrates on estate planning, as did his father, and elder law, particularly guarding assets in the event of long-term care. "People are living a lot longer today, and not always in a condition to make their own decisions and take care of themselves," he says.

Leaving Hodes after 15 years, he says, "was very difficult. I was a named partner. When I joined, we had seven lawyers and we grew" to about 40. But, he says, the decision was essentially inevitable after the election because the firm is based in Towson, which Ulman says restricted the assistance he could get.

"It wasn't an economic decision [to leave] - it was about having more support," Ulman says.

Offit Kurman, he says, "is the largest [law] firm headquartered in Howard County. It has lots of lawyers right here in the office, which makes it a lot easier than trying to use lawyers in Towson."

Ulman joined Offit Kurman in March as senior partner in the Howard County office.

There are no thoughts of retiring. "I still feel good. I still have a lot of energy," Ulman says. "At some point, I'll start thinking of scaling back, but not in the immediate future."

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