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Law firm manager's leadership shaped by his West Point, high school educations

Mike Smith calls on life leadership lessons to lead Oklahoma City offices of Hall Estill law firm.
by Paula Burkes Published: November 18, 2012

The blue sapphire college class ring Mike Smith wears next to his wedding band pretty much says it all. Whether it's as a soldier, senior oil and gas litigator, competitive long-distant cyclist or senior board member of the Hall Estill law offices in Oklahoma City, Smith, a proud graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, endeavors to win.

He is a self-described “adrenaline junkie” who delights in new and exciting challenges every day, “competing and striving to do the best for our clients,” he said.

Smith leads 35 counselors in the Oklahoma City offices of Hall Estill, which was founded in 1950 in Tulsa. The firm employs 80 there; four in Fayetteville, Ark.; and two in Washington, D.C.

“I've practiced long enough I'm not ashamed to say I've won some cases and I've lost some cases,” Smith said, “Fortunately, I haven't lost very many. I hate to lose, even at Tiddlywinks.”

From his offices on the 29th floor of the Chase Tower, Smith, 66, sat down recently with The Oklahoman to talk about his professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:

Q: Can you tell us about your roots?

A: I grew up in Hobart near Altus, or halfway between Lone Wolf and Gotebo, I like to tell people. My parents met and married before my father was deployed to serve in World War II. A disabled vet, my dad did some watch and clock repair from home and, though he wore a back, and sometimes neck, brace, we'd go on fishing, and limited hunting, trips together. My mother worked as a cashier for ONG. My paternal grandfather, who lived in Hobart until he died at 97, was my favorite person in the world. He worked hard all his life, lastly as a mail carrier, and put family above everything. I have one brother, two years younger, who lives in Massachusetts and plays piano for a living. Funny. My parents bought a piano when I was 6 for me to take lessons. But I struggled, and only lasted six months, while my brother — at age 4 and having never taken a single lesson — could climb up on the piano stool and play by ear. I wanted to be outside playing football.

Q: Were you a football player? What were the highlights of your school years?

A: Yes, I played all sports and was quarterback and co-captain of our football team, which was undefeated my senior year. Our coach, Mr. Battles, was strong on doing the right things the right way, and never cursed. My other big mentor in high school was my math teacher, Mr. Richardson, who among other things encouraged me to run for president of the state chapter of Future Teachers of America. I asked him if I, being from the small town of Hobart, shouldn't instead go for VP or reporter. If I settled, and didn't try, I'd never know if I'd be elected, he said. I ran, and won, addressing the largest audiences I'd ever seen in my life in the student union at OSU. Both Mr. Battles and Mr. Richardson still live in Hobart.

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by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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Michael G. “Mike” Smith

• Position: Hall Estill law firm in Oklahoma City, senior board member

• Birth date: June 30, 1946.

• Residence: SE Edmond.

• Family: Teresa (married 43 years; they grew up together in Hobart, started dating at winter break his sophomore year in college, and married three days after he graduated); three adult children, Heather Peck of Greenville, S.C., Jake Smith of San Antonio and Lindsay Smith of St. Louis; and four grandchildren, ages 2 to 11.

• Education: The U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

• Civic/professional contributions: Oklahoma Heritage Foundation, board member; Oklahoma Bar Association Professional Responsibility Commission, six years' service including two years as chair.

• Pastimes: Long-distance cycling (In the mid-90s, he switched from long-distancing running and marathons (he's run three) to cycling and has an annual tradition of biking the equivalent of his age in miles on the morning of his birthday), reading (including high suspense CIA stuff by Vince Flynn and Brad Thor and novels about trial lawyers) and sports (he and Teresa are big Thunder and OU football fans).


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