Adjunct Professor David C. Smith (JD ’84) named co-recipient of Laura N. Rinaldi Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award by D.C. Bar

Photo of Adjunct Professor David Smith (JD '94) in his office at Kilpatrick Townsend

Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP partner and Adjunct Professor David Coventry Smith (JD ’84) has been honored as a co-recipient of the Laura N. Rinaldi Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award by the D.C. Bar, according to its website. The award was presented at the D.C. Bar’s Celebration of Leadership on June 14 at the Mayflower Hotel. Smith was honored alongside Daniele Schiffman of Skadden Arps LLP.

The award recognizes the exceptional commitment of a lawyer serving low-income clients in the District of Columbia.

Throughout his 17-year career with Kilpatrick Townsend, Smith has demonstrated a strong dedication to pro bono service. Aside from his pro bono work in the District, Smith is known for his expertise in representing Native Americans in matters involving trust mismanagement, treaty rights, and protection of sacred sites, as well as specializing in commercial litigation and major class actions.

“I am deeply honored to be receiving this award,” Smith told Tracy Schorn. “As a young man growing up in the D.C. area I had great role models like Judge Jim Robertson, past president of the D.C. Bar and co-chair of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. [Those lawyers] exemplified the best of the legal profession. They served with professionalism and integrity, recognizing that as lawyers they had a responsibility to assist those who lacked the means to hire counsel. They used their skills to address pervasive discrimination and understood that assisting those in need was an integral part of practicing law.”

“Today, the need of legal advocates for the indigent has only increased both in the criminal and civil practice areas. I am privileged to work with friends at Kilpatrick Townsend who adhere to those high standards of the profession and address injustice where needed, whether advocating for children, fighting discrimination, assisting immigrants denied entry due to their religion, investigating cases of wrongful incarceration or protecting the rights of Native Americans,” Smith told Schorn.

Demonstrating his commitment to pro bono services, in 2016, Smith completed 538 hours of direct representation for low-income clients and community-based nonprofit groups. On top of representing the Kiowa Tribes of Oklahoma on a pro bono basis in a dispute with a natural gas company, Smith also provided pro bono representation to a transgender woman in a medical discrimination case referred to him from the Legal Services Program at Whitman-Walker Health. His efforts not only succeeded in securing a beneficial outcome for his client, but ultimately led to institutional improvements, greater awareness, and training sessions for medical providers and their staffs.

Tamara Serwer Caldas, national pro bono partner for Kilpatrick Townsend, lauded Smith for having a “profound impact” on the work place culture that supports pro bono work and commended him for being “an incredible role model and mentor for younger attorneys.”

Catherine Munson, managing partner at Kilpatrick Townsend’s Washington, D.C. office, offered these congratulations: “I have known David for more than 10 years and it was apparent early on that giving back to the community is vitally important to him. He is a dedicated advocate for assisting those in need, even with his busy travel schedule, counseling clients across the country in his Native American Affairs practice. Our firm shares David’s strong commitment and responsibility to helping others who cannot afford representation. We are proud to call David a friend and a colleague as he accepts the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award. Congratulations!”

Smith is one of the foremost litigators in matters concerning Native American rights. He serves as Class Counsel in the representation of approximately 500,000 Native Americans in Cobell v. Jewell, a class action against the United States arising out of the mismanagement of the individual Indian Trust, which resulted in the largest class action settlement against the federal government. He also served as lead counsel in the case of Alabama v. PCI Gaming Authority which successfully defended the Poarch Band of Creek Indians from efforts by the state to subject tribal lands to state authority. He speaks and writes frequently on federal Indian policy and has taught at Notre Dame University School of Law and Washington & Lee School of Law. He practices in the Washington, D.C. office of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP and lives in Easton, Maryland, with his wife Jana, a successful lawyer and musician.