110 Years of Excellence: Smith Anderson Celebrates Milestone Anniversary

Press Release

While reporting on Raleigh’s booming legal industry, the city’s newspaper of record, the News & Observer, in 1983 called Smith Anderson "one of the most respected" law firms in North Carolina’s capital – and shared the news that Smith Anderson, having just hired its 28th attorney, broke the record for the number of attorneys working for a single Raleigh law firm.

As the firm celebrates its 110th anniversary in 2022 and the number of attorneys, paralegals and staff working at the firm now approaches 280, we attribute the firm’s longevity to our outstanding clients who entrust Smith Anderson with the most critical and sensitive matters that their businesses face. Being headquartered in the cost-effective and growing Triangle region has enabled the firm to attract top-flight talent and expand our capabilities as our clients’ needs and marketplace have grown.

What began as a small law firm in 1912 has expanded as our clients’ needs have expanded, growing into a full-service business and litigation law firm that offers expertise in corporate and transactional; banking and finance; intellectual property; litigation; real estate development; regulatory and public policy; employment; and private client areas, with a specialized concentration in industries such as life sciences; Agtech; information technology and software; data privacy; health care and energy.

Smith Anderson remains the largest law firm headquartered in the Research Triangle, the seventh largest law firm in North Carolina and the 272nd largest law firm in the United States. The firm’s reach now extends far beyond North Carolina, with our breadth of experience now crossing national and international markets. With clients in 26 countries and 45 U.S. states and the firm’s affiliation with an international legal network, Smith Anderson is positioned to handle matters for clients wherever they have operations.

Though much has changed at Smith Anderson over the past 110 years, our proud legacy of guiding clients toward success, our forward-thinking culture and our steadfast commitment to professional and community service have not. We are grateful to have talented and team-oriented staff and attorneys, who have led Smith Anderson to be named as one of the Triangle’s "best places to work" for three years in a row.

"The practice of law is about the journey, not the destination," said John Jernigan, Smith Anderson’s Chairman Emeritus. "The joy of the practice of law is in the relationships we build with each other and with our clients, and we enjoy that journey of serving our clients. It is not about ‘I.’ It is about ‘Us.’ Teamwork is central to our culture, essential to our environment and a fundamental reason for our success."

A Culture of Service and Leadership

On August 19, 1912, Smith Anderson was founded in downtown Raleigh, and many of the attorneys who joined Smith Anderson over the years have stayed for the duration of their careers, a testament to the firm’s culture of service and leadership that attracts and retains great people.

Pride in and service to the legal profession remain key values of the firm, with attorneys holding significant leadership positions within the industry. Five Smith Anderson attorneys have served as presidents of the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA), including current firm attorneys John Jernigan (1999-2000), Martin Brinkley (2011-2012) and Caryn Coppedge McNeill (2017-2018). Jim Dorsett served as president of the North Carolina State Bar (2002-2003) as well as the American Counsel Association (2005-2006). Martin Brinkley currently serves as the 14th dean of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law, the only member of the practicing bar in the modern history of the law school to be appointed to the dean’s post.  

Our attorneys and practice areas are consistently rated at the top of their field by leading national legal industry publications based on metrics, transactional and litigation successes and feedback from clients, peers and the business community. Almost 25 years ago, Chambers USA named four of our attorneys as "leaders in their field" and Best Lawyers in America named six among the best in their practices. By 2022, those numbers rocketed to 32 and 77 attorneys, respectively. U.S. News and World Report and Best Lawyers recently named 45 of our practices as among the best in the legal industry, and Chambers USA honored Smith Anderson with its highest rating in Raleigh, Greensboro and surrounding regions for Corporate/M&A – a distinction solely held by our firm in North Carolina.

Also in 2022, Benchmark Litigation named Smith Anderson’s litigation practice "N.C. Firm of the Year" for the third consecutive year and honored a pair of our attorneys as two of the Top 250 Women in Litigation in the U.S. and Canada. Additionally, our firm’s AgTech practice is one of just seven law firms in the world to be recognized in the 2022 Chambers Global Guide.

"Every day, I’m fortunate to witness the dedication our attorneys and staff have to their work and our clients," said Byron Kirkland, Smith Anderson’s Managing Partner. "They are amazing, resourceful and laser focused on client service."

As a law firm that stands at the intersection of law and business, Smith Anderson attorneys have long been woven into the fabric of the state’s business community through various influential roles. Among them: the Chief Justice’s Commission on the Future of the North Carolina Business Court and Rules Advisory commissions, the N.C. Administration of Law and Justice Commission, North Carolina Chamber Legal Institute, North Carolina Rules Review Commission, North Carolina Business Court Rules Committee, North Carolina General Statutes Commission, NCBA’s Administration of Justice Committee and North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys.

Our attorneys work with business groups and government officials on initiatives to improve the quality and efficiency of the administration of justice in North Carolina and on policy and legislative matters affecting the business legal climate in the state. Smith Anderson has played a key role in the drafting of business legislation that modernized North Carolina corporate law and enhanced the state’s ability to attract and retain corporate headquarters, making it a more competitive and a more business-friendly state.

Businesses thrive in a community that is dedicated to service, which has long been a hallmark of Smith Anderson. Each year, the firm sponsors more than 100 charitable and industry events dedicated to furthering the mission of civic, service, business and charitable organizations. Attorneys and staff at the firm also hold leadership positions in a wide range of civic, charitable and philanthropic organizations and our attorneys have served on the boards of major North Carolina colleges and universities. In addition, through the firm’s charitable arm, the Smith Anderson Community Fund, the firm gives financial support to a number of organizations that provide members of our community with food, housing and shelter.

In honor of the firm’s anniversary, Smith Anderson acquires a piece of artwork each year from a North Carolina artist that joins the firm’s collection of paintings, pottery and textiles displayed throughout our offices, a tradition that began more than two decades ago to celebrate another year of success.

A 30-Storied History of Transformational Representation

Smith Anderson maintained a steady presence in the heart of downtown Raleigh on Fayetteville Street since its inception before moving to St. Mary’s Street and Wade Avenue in 1981. In a case of "here we grow again," by 1991, the firm’s roster of attorneys topped 50, and the firm moved back to Fayetteville Street into a new skyscraper standing 30 stories tall, now known as Wells Fargo Capitol Center. For years, it was the tallest building in the Triangle.

A landmark in Raleigh’s skyline, Smith Anderson attorneys continue to practice on five floors at the top of the high-rise, as they serve a client base that is among the nation’s most esteemed businesses and advise them on their most significant business transactions and litigation matters.

The Research Triangle of North Carolina is known across the globe as a hub for innovation, and Smith Anderson has a long history of assisting entrepreneurs who have become major success stories, such as longtime client Quintiles. Dennis Gillings, a University of North Carolina professor, launched the biopharmaceutical services company in a campus trailer. Now known as IQVIA, the company is the largest pharmaceutical research corporation in the world. Smith Anderson represented the company both times it went public, most recently in 2013 – the 10th largest IPO in the nation that year. In 2022, Smith Anderson continues to represent startups in deals totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.

Esse Quam Videri – "To be rather than to seem" – is North Carolina’s motto, and even after 110 years, Smith Anderson strives to maintain its status as one of the state’s most senior and respected law firms. At the same time, we continue to keep our clients’ needs and interests at the forefront of all our endeavors, while building an internal culture of respect, inclusion and collegiality.

"When I think of Smith Anderson, I’m proud to be a client and I’m proud to recommend them because they have earned my trust," said Robert A. Ingram, chairman emeritus of GlaxoSmithKline, chair of the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation and general partner of Hatteras Venture Partners. "They have a unique culture, and of all the assets any organization has, culture is Smith Anderson’s most valuable asset."

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