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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
/articleid/3729358/1/pictures/1886231">Photo - Mike Smith, managing partner of Hall Estill law firm, at the Hall Estill law firm in Oklahoma City Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. Photo by Paul B. Southerland, The Oklahoman
Mike Smith, managing partner of Hall Estill law firm, at the Hall Estill law firm in Oklahoma City Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012. Photo by Paul B. Southerland, The Oklahoman

Q: And college?

A: Thanks perhaps in part to the state FTA presidency on my resume, I was awarded a full ride to West Point, where I, until I injured my shoulder as a sophomore, played running and defensive back on the junior varsity football team. Then, all students earned degrees in civil engineering; a law career wasn't even on my radar screen, though I took classes in military law and constitutional law.

We all were gung-ho to be military/infantry officers, though I remember having tomatoes and eggs thrown at us when we marched as a corps of cadets in the Armed Forces Day Parade in New York City in '68 during the Vietnam War.

Q: How long did you serve after your graduation from West Point?

A: Twelve years, starting with 12 months in Germany, followed by 10 months with the 101st Airborne in Vietnam where I lost good friends and had others seriously injured, then three years at the OU College of Law as one of 25 Army officers worldwide selected for a special program that paid for officers to attend law school, three years with the JAG (Judge Advocate General's Corps) in Hawaii, one year with the JAG in Charlottesville, Va.; and two years supervising prosecution at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Q: Can you tell us about your decision to separate from the Army?

A: We, in 1981, decided to move from military to civilian life, primarily to put down roots for our kids.

My older daughter was in the fifth grade, and my parents and mother-in-law were still residing in Oklahoma.

I joined a firm in Enid, McKnight and Gasaway, where a law school classmate worked. I came on as a senior oil and gas litigator, moved to partner within a few years and stayed 15 years altogether.

Q: What prompted you to move from Enid to Oklahoma City?

A: It was '99, and a senior oil and gas litigator here had just retired. By that time, our kids were in college, and I knew many of the lawyers here; I'd worked with them on a big case in western Oklahoma.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your leadership philosophy?

A: I lead by example, and set high expectations for myself and all those around me.

Like my high school mentors, I aspire to give people the resources and encouragement to achieve expectations they didn't think possible.

And I hold people accountable if they fail to meet those expectations.

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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