RICHMOND — Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) has taken a job at the law firm Morrison & Foerster, continuing Virginia’s long tradition of moonlighting lieutenant governors, the firm announced Tuesday.
Fairfax joined Morrison & Foerster as a partner in its trials, commercial litigation and investigations and white-collar defense groups.
“I have maintained, and will continue to maintain, close contact with relevant ethics officials to ensure that my joining, and work with, the firm will not present any conflicts of interest with my role as Lt. Governor or with the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Fairfax said in a written statement. “I’m excited to enter this next phase of my legal career and to continue the tremendous work I’ve had the privilege of doing as Lt. Governor on behalf of the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Virginia’s lieutenant governorship is a part-time post that pays $36,321 a year. It comes with just one constitutionally mandated duty: presiding over the state Senate and breaking certain tie votes.
Unless they are retired or independently wealthy, lieutenant governors usually hold down another job.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) continued practicing medicine when he was lieutenant governor. His predecessor, Bill Bolling (R), worked in insurance on the side. Now-Rep. Don Beyer (D) kept his hand in his family’s car dealerships.
While they might need a second job, Virginia’s lieutenant governors can play a highly consequential role if the Senate is closely divided and there are lots of tie votes, as has been the case in recent years. For that reason, the position is often seen as a steppingstone to the governor’s mansion. Fairfax, a former federal prosecutor, is widely expected to run for governor in 2021.
Shortly before assuming office in January, Fairfax left his job as a litigator for Venable. His areas of practice there, which included representing corporations regulated or investigated by state attorneys general, posed potential conflicts of interest.
Fairfax said then that he would explore other career options after the 2018 legislative session wrapped up.