Returning to the law firm where he practiced before his election as governor in 2002, former Gov. Ed Rendell has announced that he will join the Center City law firm of Ballard Spahr.

Rendell will focus on advising clients on public-private partnerships, infrastructure, health care, enviromental law and other practice areas.

In joining Ballard Spahr, Rendell returns to a law firm that served as his home after he left office as mayor of Philadelphia in December 1999 and before he took office as governor. The firm has deep Democratic Party connections, and performed substantial legal work for the state during Rendell's two terms as governor.

Among its most prominent partners is John Estey, Rendell's former chief of staff in Harrisburg. A former managing partner of the firm is David Cohen, who served as chief of staff to Rendell while he was mayor of the city.

Ballard, a 475-lawyer firm, has 13 offices nationally and represents a wide range of public and private sector clients.

The annoucement comes as Politico (http://www.politico.com/blogs/davidcatanese/) reports that the former governor is close to signing a deal with MSNBC to become a "regular political contributor for the 2012 campaign cycle."

Contact staff writer Chris Mondics at 215-854-5957 or cmondics@phillynews.com.

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