Alumni Profile: Teresa (Tea) Carnell ’92

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Maryland Carey Law has an incredibly talented network of alumni throughout the world. The Business Law Program is excited to highlight Teresa (Tea) Carnell ’92 for her accomplishments and contributions to the school.

Since graduating from Maryland Carey Law, Tea has had a unique professional journey beginning with the Maryland General Assembly before working at law firms, and eventually working for the Office of the Attorney General in Maryland. Among other things, Tea has served as legislative counsel, advised major corporate boards, and represented both publicly-traded companies in proxy battles and securities issuances and the State of Maryland as an investor in companies ranging from venture start-ups to hedge funds. Her latest move was within the Office of the Attorney General from advising the Maryland Technology Development Corporation to the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System.

With her success in legal practice, Tea continues to contribute to the legal community through her own mentorship as coach of Maryland Carey Law’s team for the Duke Interscholastic Transactional Law Competition alongside fellow Carey Law alumnus Joe Ward ‘03. This year the team, consisting of students Nick Curtis ’23, Elizabeth Stamas ’24, and Abigail Allen ’24, earned first place in the buyer’s category of the overall competition! Tea and Joe provided the team with mergers and acquisitions negotiation strategies and invaluable expertise in preparation for the competition.

Tea will be teaching a course at Maryland Carey Law for the first time this Spring titled "Writing in Law Practice: Drafting Negotiated Agreements."

Despite her busy schedule, Tea took the time to talk with Maryland Carey Law about her career, her time in law school, and her advice for current students.

Legal Journey

Tea says that a theme of her legal journey is that she has had great mentors, who put their time and energy into helping her develop as a lawyer. After graduating, she worked, first as a judicial law clerk, and, then, at the Department of Legislative Services, a non-partisan staffing agency for the Maryland General Assembly. Initially hired as a “bill drafter,” she quickly moved to a legislative counsel position with the Commerce and Governance Matters Committee for one year and then to the House Economic Committee. During her time at the Maryland General Assembly, she learned the ins and outs of drafting legislation, communicating with stakeholders, and negotiation. Mike Busch, who later became the Speaker of the House, was the Chair of the House Economic Matters Committee during her tenure there.  Tea credits Speaker Busch with valuable lessons in leadership, the most important of which was to listen to all perspectives.  Also, Tea credits a great professional environment of senior lawyers at Legislative Services who were very active and generous in guiding new lawyers. 

She then joined Ballard Spahr LLP (and later Venable LLP) working in Jim Hank’s (James J. Hanks) practice group which primarily represented real estate investment trusts and investment companies. During her time in private practice, her primary mentor was Jim Hanks, whom Tea notes supported her work in the context of her growing family and taught her more than anyone else about the practice of law.  During her time in private practice, she was able to use her legislative experience to represent, as legislative counsel, a state-wide trade association.  She also served as the Chair of both the Committee on Corporate Laws and the Business Law Section of the Maryland State Bar Association.  After these posts, she served as legislative liaison for the Business Law Section and was a member of the Maryland State Bar Association’s Laws Committee.

Looking for new challenges in 2011, she accepted a position with the Office of the Attorney General as Advice Counsel to the Commissioner of Financial Regulation. Since this was at the tail end of the mortgage crisis, she advised on many matters to make the consumer credit environment more protective of consumers and advised the Commissioner on pending enforcement actions. She is especially proud of a ruling in one enforcement action against a predatory lender, which was upheld by the then-Maryland Court of Appeals.  As family needs grew more demanding, Tea temporarily retired to spend more time with her family and help her children navigate transitions into college and high school and, for her youngest, elementary school. In 2018, she rejoined the Office of the Attorney General, advising the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) and the Maryland Venture Fund and representing those State-entities in their investment activities. She credits her break from law to allowing her to remain enthusiastic about the law since re-entering her career. She now represents the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System in its pension and hedge fund investments.

Transition from Legislative Counsel to Transactional Lawyer

Tea believes that drafting, negotiating, and bringing stakeholders together in the legislative context translates well to transactional work. In both types of practices, it is important to learn how information needs to be communicated and how to memorialize the decision-making in the documents that will carry out the intent of the parties or stakeholders.

Coaching the Transactional Law Team

The students competing in the Duke National Transactional Law Competition impressed Tea. The competition involved a time-pressured, mark-up of a contract and negotiation of a complex fact pattern, mirroring real-life practice. She views the students on the team as bright, capable, and hard-working. She particularly noted that the students made efforts to learn how to best work with each other before they arrived at the competition. She highly recommends that other students participate in these competitions for hands-on learning.

What students should expect to learn in your ‘Drafting Negotiated Agreements’ course this Spring?

Tea’s goal for this course is to teach students not only drafting skills for transactional documents but also how to manage the interplay among those documents in a transaction and to develop other skills that support good drafting. Students will gain experience in drafting the types of documents that first-year associates are frequently asked to work on. The class will be very practice-oriented.

Thoughts about law school.

As she confesses that she is one of those lawyers who did not really like law school that much, she said that she was lucky enough to have Professor Boldt for her first-year small section, and later, she was one of his teaching assistants in her second year. He created an independent study for her and one of the other teaching assistants (Peter Holland). She was a political philosophy major in college and Peter had just gotten a Masters Degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis.  She was grateful (and relieved) for a course that spoke to her interests. She would advise any student who is lukewarm about law school to not lose faith that law is the right choice.  Practicing is completely different than being a student.  She thinks that much of law school, for her, focused on the mastery of areas of law. Practicing allows lawyers to leverage other aspects of themselves and there is a myriad of career directions that a law degree supports.

Advice for Students Today

Tea suggests that law students should be flexible in facing opportunities and not be locked into a single idea of what their individual career trajectories should look like. A lot of students think they need to follow one path in their legal career, but often the best opportunities are ones that present themselves in unexpected ways. Also, there is no better way to be noticed than through hard work and diligence.  By working hard and doing well, let those mentors discover you, learn from them, and stay in touch with them.  They can be great sounding boards, career advisers, and valued friends.