Smith is only the fourth Virginia lawyer to hold the position of president.
Smith most recently served as treasurer of ACTL. He was inducted into the organization in 1989 and given the charge to serve by former U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell, a past ACTL president.
The mission of the ACTL is to maintain and improve the state of trial practice, the administration of justice and the ethics of the profession, Smith said in a recent interview.
Smith said the group’s activities in Virginia include a planned educational seminar for public interest lawyers in Charlottesville. On the national front, the ACTL is pushing the Veteran’s Administration to make sure veterans have access to their appeal rights when benefits are denied.
“That’s a tough job, but we’re not going to spit the bit until we get it done,” Smith said. He acknowledged his fondness for expressions learned as a native South Carolinian.
Internationally, the ACTL is helping to train lawyers and judges in the small island nation of Palau, which only recently adopted jury trials as part of its governance.
The ACTL has about 125 members in Virginia. The group’s exclusivity is a point of pride.
“It’s by invitation only. You can’t apply for it; you can’t campaign for it,” Smith said. Invitees are chosen for their excellence and civility, he said.
Smith said it’s the only organization he knows for which every justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and its Canadian counterpoint accepted honorary membership.
Smith’s duties as president will put him on the road frequently, and he will host an ACTL executive committee meeting in Virginia during his term.
Smith was installed as president last fall at the group’s Annual Meeting in Chicago.
Smith is chairman of the Christian & Barton LLP firm and a past president of the Virginia State Bar.