Ballard Spahr expanding P3 arsenal with John Smolen hire

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Ballard Spahr LLP is bolstering its infrastructure project presence in the Mid-Atlantic region with the addition of an attorney who has helped advance some of the nation’s largest public-private partnership initiatives.

Philadelphia-based Ballard announced Monday that John P. Smolen has joined the law firm’s P3/Infrastructure Group in its national Finance Department. Smolen, who spent the last seven a half years in the infrastructure practice group at Nossaman LLP in Washington, D.C., has assumed an Of Counsel role in Ballard’s Baltimore office.

“Ballard has been in the P3 market and is looking to expand in this space so that made this a great opportunity,” Smolen said. “This was an opportunity to help shape the direction of the group.”

Steve T. Park, who leads Ballard Spahr’s P3/Infrastructure Group, said Smolen has a knack for delivering alternative transportation mega projects. He played a leading role with a legal team that advised on the procurement, negotiation and financing of Maryland’s $2 billion Purple Line Light Rail, which was the state’s first P3 transit project. His other recent work includes the Missouri River Terminal project, which is expected to be the first non-landlord/tenant inland port P3 in the country, and Nebraska’s Scribner-West Point Design-Build Project.

“Moving extremely large, multi-faceted public projects from concept to completion requires a combination of foresight, great lawyering, and a deep and nuanced understanding of government and the private sector,” Park said in a statement. “John has a record of success with the type of projects we handle.”

In addition to his vast experience with P3s, Smolen has also led efforts on behalf of infrastructure projects built with the design-build procurement practices. He has also worked extensively with renewable energy, industrial electronic power control contracting.

Before launching his legal career, Smolen spent more than a decade as an aviator and flight instructor in the U.S. Navy. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with an economics degree in 1995.

“My experience in the Navy taught me many things, but particularly as relates to practicing law, a work ethic, sincerity, and straightforwardness,” Smolen said. "I also think of projects like missions — let’s get it done. … It really drew me into being receptive to forming a practice that heavily involved advancing smart, necessary public projects.”

Smolen said he valued his time at Nossaman and is excited for a new challenge at Ballard, which has 50 public finance attorneys spread throughout the country. The P3/Infrastructure Group at Ballard Spahr has worked on a wide variety of projects across the country involving transportation systems and energy facilities as well military and student housing.

“My new colleagues in the P3/Infrastructure Group have a great reputation in the public-private partnerships space,” Smolen said. “I’m excited to join a national team with the breadth, depth, and stature to take on major projects that drive business and improve the quality of life for so many people.”

Ballard ranked 11th nationally in the first half of 2019 for lead bond counsel work, with Refinitiv crediting the firm with 48 issues valued at $3.1 billion.

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