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Stepping Out and Stepping Up
Eric E. McLauchlin, Esq.

June 2012

Most busy professionals keep their lives mapped out on a calendar. Eric McLauchlin also uses a spreadsheet.

“My time and resources are not limitless,” he explains. “In order to make sure I was giving the appropriate attention to the organizations I chose to be involved with, I needed to validate that I was approaching things strategically. I laid everything out so that I could see if it all aligned with my goals of making connections and working toward a result.”

McLauchlin is a named partner in the law firm of Shaffer, McLauchlin & Stover, LLC. A University of Maryland School of Law graduate and Delaware native, McLauchlin passed the bar in 1995 and began working for the Honorable Stephen M. Waldron in the Circuit Court for Harford County. “I’ve seen a lot of changes since then in the diversity of law and politics in Harford County,” McLauchlin states. “There are more solo practitioners, more firms and more people getting involved. There’s a saying that all politics is local, and in some ways all justice is local. Being part of the local community can be beneficial in that you’re a known quantity. You have your own creditability – or not. But at the same time, you don’t want to be limited by only being perceived as part of the more traditional system.”

McLauchlin worked for 15 years at Gessner, Snee, Mahoney & Lutche, seven as partner. A resident of Fallston, he witnessed the rapid changes that Harford County endured through the housing boom of the late 1990s and the preparations and subsequent manifestations of BRAC from 2005 to the present. Seeing an opportunity to be more involved independently in making things happen, McLauchlin left the firm along with associate Bradley Stover to join attorneys Gina Shaffer and Tracey McLauchlin in forming their own practice.

“There’s so much more going on out here where you can make a difference,” he remarks. “Things are changing. It’s not the same group of people in Harford County doing the same thing. Some of the change is generational. 
Some is people stepping out from behind as we did forming our own firm. Some is new residents who are 
coming here and saying, ‘We don’t care who did what and when. We want to make things happen now.’ 
That’s what got me here.”

McLauchlin was first appointed to a position on the Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB) by then County Executive Jim Harkins; Harford County Executive David Craig subsequently appointed him as vice chair and then chair where McLauchlin has helped transform EDAB into a formidable advocate of initiatives that positively impact residents and businesses of Harford County.

“EDAB eventually implemented bylaws, attendance requirements and policies that allow it to be a true working board. Its membership has changed to reflect a changing economy,” McLauchlin adds.

Supporting the office of economic development and advising and assisting the county executive and council on policy matters and legislation for all things related to economic development, EDAB brings together representatives from business, government, public institutions and philanthropy to help steer initiatives with a collaborative and consensus building goal.

“The county benefits from having a group of well-connected, well-intentioned dedicated industry and subject matter experts sitting around the table asking, ‘How can we help you succeed?’”

According to McLauchlin, Harford County can be proud in boasting the economic development tri-fecta of supporting organizations that keep the county moving in the right direction – the Harford County Chamber of Commerce, the Office of Economic Development and EDAB. Together they have moved people out of traditional silos and onto the 
playing field.

“I like making the connections that help get things done – for my clients and for the organizations I assist. I don’t separate my business interests from my personal interests – they are strategically planned and budgeted. If the whole ecosystem for doing business benefits, than I’m in,” he says.

Although not meeting the desired result, McLauchlin can proudly point to a recent initiative that celebrated success on many fronts.

“I like making the connections that help get things done – for my clients and for the organizations I assist.” Eric McLauchlin

“The hotel tax is a perfect example of consensus through collaboration of the people and groups involved. Before last year, there was a lack of consensus from industry, from local government and state government. We solved two of the three.”

Through McLauchlin’s leadership at EDAB, he helped establish a clear consensus of support for the recently proposed hotel tax to help fund and sustain tourism efforts in Harford County. “We got all the necessary people together to say and hear the important things. We went around the room filled with representatives from the hotels, restaurants, inns, sports and tourist venues. We got people to state their position, explain their issue and find a solution. It was amazing,” he declares.

With industry signaling a clear and resounding “yes,” McLauchlin and EDAB then approached the local governments –the county executive, the town mayors, the county councils. He explains, “We said, ‘OK, here is what your constituents want. Will you support this collaboratively?’ They all agreed.”

The last step was Annapolis. “EDAB had become sort of the honest broker presenting the findings to our delegation in Annapolis and asking that they provide for us because it will benefit this segment of economic development. The only place we didn’t get consensus was in Annapolis.”

Disappointed but undeterred, McLauchlin may take up the charge again during the next legislative session. “It’s challenging. When I talk about influencing a result, making a positive impact, that is what advocacy is all about. So, I do that in the context of professional work, and I do that in my charitable work, but the one place where you can be absolutely shut down is raw politics. In that arena, logic doesn’t always win even when you’re right. Personally, I don’t want to hear, ‘It’s politics’ or ‘The votes aren’t there.’ I don’t need a lesson in basic democracy. I want people to say, ‘I’ll get you the votes.’”

Alluding to the reputation and portrayal of lawyers in the public and the media, McLauchlin stresses the need for changing perceptions and getting involved.

“So much of the law that people see is not collaborative. It’s not, ‘Hey we’re coming together to create a plan.’ It’s more like things are coming apart and they need someone there to be a bulldog. So much more can be accomplished without needing a bulldog. I’d much rather be an influencer.”

Part of McLauchlin’s adeptness in managing the result is in recognizing the strengths of other organizations that can take the lead.

“Two or three years ago, everyone was saying, ‘STEM is good. We should do it.’ Many players were saying, ‘We’re a traditional organization, so we can do it best.’ However, while saying they were a traditional organization and should be able to do it best, they were all marching lock step, not really accomplishing everything they could or maximizing their resources. We said, let’s look at NMTC and all the great work they are already doing. Let them have the STEM summit, and we will all support them. Just because you are a traditional organization doesn’t mean you need to own every project.”

McLauchlin succeeded with the same sort of leadership and focus for the Harford Metropolitan Area Network (HMAN) project. “HMAN has been around for several years,” he reveals. “There were many agencies involved in moving things forward in improving and expanding the digital connectivity of the county. One major omission from that conversation, however, was business and industry. Working with EDAB board member Glenn Gillis of SURVICE Engineering, we injected EDAB into the meetings of the HMAN committee to make sure that business was a stakeholder. Not only for the immediate benefit of accessibility and use of the network, but for the long-term sustainability of it as well.

“In addition to my law practice, I’m very active with Arrow Child and Family Ministries, AUSA, a board position with Slavie Federal Savings Bank and EDAB to mention just a few of my affiliations. I try to use those connections to enhance everything I do. Why would you ignore resources within business or government or philanthropy when everything needs to work together? People have to realize that being involved in community extends beyond their church or scout troop. They have to pay attention and get involved. That’s my outlook on it. I don’t want to speak to an issue. I want to accomplish a result.” I95