Catalyst Magazine

Play Ball: Carey Law Alum Thompson Leads Maryland Stadium Authority

Craig Thompson, JD ’95
“The law school experience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore really enhanced my discipline in a way that has stayed with me even to today,” says Craig Thompson, JD ’95, Maryland Stadium Authority chairman.

Craig Thompson, JD ’95, is an author, mentor, public speaker, civic activist, father, and husband. And we haven’t even gotten to his two primary professional jobs: a partner at the prestigious law firm Venable LLP and, since March 2023, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA). 

With all of this on his plate, perhaps it’s not surprising that when Thompson, 55, is asked what was the most important lesson he learned as a student at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, he responds with a one-word answer: discipline. 

“The law school experience at the University of Maryland, Baltimore [UMB] really enhanced my discipline in a way that has stayed with me even to today,” Thompson says. “Being exposed to other students who were extremely focused, dedicated, and more importantly disciplined, having a strong routine that they stuck with. That has helped me to develop the skills I need for my job, candidly for my role as a husband and father, and also for some of the work outside of the law firm that I do.” 

An experienced trial attorney who has represented clients in state and federal courts across the country, Thompson’s recent work “outside the firm” has included negotiating a new deal to keep the Orioles baseball team in Baltimore. Thompson acknowledged that the process of securing a lease extension started as soon as he took the position as MSA chair. 

“Monday, March 6, 2023, was when the state Senate approved my nomination; Tuesday, I chaired my first board meeting; and on Wednesday, I left for Atlanta with Gov. Wes Moore and [Orioles then-chairman and CEO] John Angelos,” Thompson recalls. They visited The Battery, a mixed-use development near Truist Park in Atlanta, and discussed options for development surrounding the Camden Yards complex. 

Thompson says the area around UMB could benefit from such development as well.  

“I think that there is potential for many of the stakeholders in the downtown Baltimore area to come together,” he says. “Just knowing that people could be drawn to a wonderful show at the Hippodrome [Theatre] or a concert at CFG Bank Arena or sporting events at M&T Bank [Stadium] or Oriole Park. These are economic drivers that bring people to the city, but then they eat and shop and socialize. It’s an amazing ecosystem that can be developed focusing on sports, entertainment, and hospitality.” 

He’s also quick to point out that MSA is about much more than improving stadiums for major league teams like the Orioles and Ravens. It helps demolish old and blighted homes and has a project called 21st Century Schools in which MSA has renovated and replaced over 20 schools in Baltimore during the last 10 years. A new offshoot called Built to Learn has authorized MSA to take the lead on the construction of public schools across the state. Plus, it handles renovations for minor league parks, convention centers, the new Department of Legislative Services building, and more.  

“There are a number of things the Stadium Authority does as sort of a construction agency for the state of Maryland that are just amazing, and it’s great to see,” Thompson says.  

The Orioles agreement also is a source of satisfaction, and Thompson says he is excited to work with the leadership of both the Orioles and Ravens for years to come.  

Power of Relationships 

The son of a single mother from East Baltimore, Thompson was asked to take on MSA duties by Governor Moore. The two of them go back a long way, having met when Moore was 19 and interning with then-Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. Schmoke wanted Moore to meet some young professionals who might serve as mentors, and Thompson, who is 10 years older than Moore, was one of them.  

“I was practicing law at the time,” Thompson recalls. “Wes and I hit it off immediately. He became a very good friend and like my little brother.” 

That brings us to the second big lesson Thompson learned at Maryland Carey Law: relationships.  

“The power of relationships was really strengthened at UMB. I’ve always been a social person, but UMB taught me the importance of being social with a professional objective,” he says. When asked if those relationships are just with clients, Thompson adds, “It’s with clients, it’s with colleagues, it’s with judges, it’s with juries and witnesses. You’ve got to learn what makes them tick. You know, relationships aren’t cookie cutter by any stretch.” 

Among the relationships Thompson values is the one with Taunya Lovell Banks, JD, Jacob A. France Professor Emeritus of Equality Jurisprudence at Maryland Carey Law. She remembers Thompson fondly. 

“He is one of the students in my 44-year teaching career who really stands out,” she says. “I remember him as intensely engaged, intellectually curious, and genuinely sincere. As a student leader, Craig focused on social justice issues. He spent a lot of time in my office arguing about the latest issues. So, I initially thought he might run for political office after graduation. I knew he would do well no matter the direction of his career.” 

Giving Back to Carey Law 

Because of such relationships, Thompson and his wife, Deborah St. Lawrence Thompson, JD ’97, also an attorney and graduate of Maryland Carey Law, have been proud to provide regular and generous funding for the law school’s Diversity Scholars Program, a collaborative effort between area law firms and Maryland Carey Law to support a shared vision of increasing diversity in the legal profession. Four cohorts of students have graduated from the program and a seventh cohort started in the fall.  

“It’s absolutely important to give back, and we are proud to do so,” Craig Thompson says.  

Service is an essential part of Thompson’s life. A 1992 alumnus of the University of Maryland, College Park, he now chairs the board of trustees of its foundation. He also has served on boards of the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital, McDonogh School, and the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women.  

How does he do it all? “I have great assistants,” he says of Gail Murr (at Venable) and Kristy Taylor (at MSA). “I couldn’t do this without them.” 

And while he won’t give the number of hours he works at each job, Thompson says each get “100 percent.” He also proudly says he finds time for his wife and three children (ages 13 to 19), attending school events and more. “The family is absolutely a priority.” 

In his rare downtime, the Reisterstown resident likes to read and binge-watch documentaries — “though it’s not binge-watching if you only have an hour or two.” He also works out five times a week, early in the morning or late at night. 

Only one thing has escaped his grasp. “I really wanted to be a baseball player,” says Thompson, who played baseball and basketball at Franklin High School. “Then I did not have a good senior year.”  

Now he just has to settle for enjoying baseball (and all sports) from the stands and helping to enhance the fan experience for the teams in Baltimore. 

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Chris Zang

Chris Zang is a freelance writer and editor who formerly was director of editorial services at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

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