We are delighted to congratulate David Smith on his 50th year of practicing law. David, who founded the firm with his law school classmate Paul Smith in 1966, continues to lead our team through steady growth and success in providing high-quality legal services to area residents and businesses as well as supporting our local community.
John Valeriote, a close friend of almost 50 years and firm partner of 16, believes the secret to David’s success as a lawyer is, above all, his integrity both within the profession and amongst his clients. David is always considered by whomever he is dealing with, as a steady, calm and very competent lawyer. All who know David consider him a very thoughtful and caring person, blessed with an underlying competitive spirit that serves him well. He is a good friend.”
In his own words, David reflects on his journey over the past five decades:
Q: How does it feel to have reached 50 years of practicing law?
David Smith: I’ve enjoyed it immensely and continue to enjoy it. I never ever imagined having a job where I would enjoy coming into work each day – it’s been a real pleasure. We have a great staff here and I really like working with my clients. I feel very blessed because 50 is a big number but it just doesn’t seem like that many years.
Q: How did you decide to start a law firm in Guelph? And what led you to practice litigation?
DS: I went to public school and high school in Guelph and I liked growing up here. I was keen to come back to hang up my shingle and see what kind of firm my partner and I could start here. We located our first office in the Gummer Building on Douglas Street. At the time, there weren’t many law firms in Guelph. One of the larger firms had lost a litigator so they sent a number of litigation files over to our office, which I took and that’s how I got the bug so to speak. Primarily, I liked to litigate – it’s my first love if you want to call it that – but I also did estate planning and residential real estate because there wasn’t enough work to be a full-time litigator.
As well, the Crown Attorney at the time asked if I would like to do part-time prosecution work. I was certainly anxious to do whatever kind of work we could when we first started because at that time, we couldn’t advertise according to Law Society rules.
Initially, I practiced civil and criminal litigation but after a number of years as we grew, I focused more on the criminal aspect. I really thoroughly enjoyed it. I worked with people who were charged with many serious offences such as murder, break and enter, sexual assault and so on. I was also a special prosecutor for the federal government for 11 years, dealing with all of the drug prosecutions in Wellington County and worked closely with the Guelph police service and the RCMP.
Q: What do you think makes a good lawyer?
DS: Law is a great occupation if you enjoy people. You have to have a good listening ear for your clients. In criminal law, people get themselves into terrible situations and you’re like a counselor, mediator, social worker, and lawyer all rolled up into one. You have to draw on different skills to be able to relate to your client and come up with the best solution or conclusion for them.
Q: Why is community involvement such an important part of the firm’s culture?
DS: One thing that I’ve always encouraged our lawyers to do is get involved. That is so critical in my opinion because when you take income out of the community, you should be putting it back in the form of public service. Myself, I have belonged to a number of organizations such as the Ontario Psychiatric Review Board (Past Chairman), the Community Mental Health Board (Past Director), Ontario Bar Association, Wellington Law Association (Former President), Hospice Wellington (Past Board Member and Member of the Planning Committee for the Residential Hospice), and Victorian Order of Nurses (Past President and Ontario Past President).
I’ve always felt that’s an important part of our growth. And the community has been very kind to us.
Q: What advice would you give to lawyers joining the profession today?
DS: I would tell young lawyers to take whatever comes in the door because you don’t know where that case will take you. Don’t turn somebody away because you don’t like the kind of problem they have.