Michael Smith, a Presbyterian College 1966 alumnus, will be installed as the 66th president of the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL), an organization of the top trial lawyers in the U.S. and Canada, during the organization’s annual meeting in Chicago this Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.
Smith currently is a partner of the broad-based civil practice law firm Christian & Barton, where he also serves as chairman of the firm and its Executive Committee. He also served as a past president of both the Bar Association of the City of Richmond and the Virginia State Bar, and as Regent for North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia from 2009 to 2013. He has served as chair of numerous legal committees.
Smith has been a Fellow of the ACTL since 1989. The ACTL was founded in 1950 and limits Fellowship to no more than one percent of the total lawyer population in any state or Canadian province. However, often that percentage is much less, especially with the current decline in trial numbers over the past few years.
Membership to this prestigious college is through invitation only, and those invited must have demonstrated, after an extensive investigation, the highest standards of trial work, ethics, and collegiality for more than 15 years.
The investigation process for becoming a fellow of the college involves multiple committees, nominations, and confidential discussions with judges and opposing counsel about their experience with the candidate up for nomination. The fellow’s nomination then goes through a voting process where those current fellows who know the candidate cannot vote and must leave the room when the voting takes place. Once a candidate is approved after this initial investigation and voting process, they are then invited to apply for the fellowship and may be elected to join.
In order to become a president of the college, a fellow must also have either served or continues to serve as regent. The president of the college often presides over semi-annual board meetings and more frequent executive committee meetings, and tries to attend what regional, state, and province meetings he/she can.
The college itself serves to “maintain and improve the standards of trial practice, the administration of justice, and the ethics of the profession,” as seen in a statement given by the current president of the ACTL, Francis Wikstrom.
For Smith, his presidency marks the fourth time that a Virginia lawyer has held the honorable position. The Virginians who precede him are the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr.; R. Harvey Chappell, Jr., who was also a partner at Christian & Barton; and James W. Morris III. Smith will serve as President for the year 2016.
Written by Allison Cooke, a junior English major, media studies, journalism track minor from Winnsboro, S.C.