News - April 1, 2019

Get to Know Litigation Shareholder Grasford W. Smith

Grasford Smith is a member of the Firm’s Litigation & Dispute Resolution team and concentrates his practice in the areas of complex commercial litigation, intellectual property litigation, cybersecurity and transactional matters.

We sat down with Grasford to get a little more information about his background and his practice here at Jones Foster.

Q: What led you to your litigation practice area?

I actually started my undergrad as a pre-med student on a full academic scholarship at Florida State University with the intention to become a medical doctor. Although I did well in my studies, it didn’t ignite a spark in me. I decided to shift focus and enroll in business school, majoring in Management Information Systems. During a course on business law, my professor encouraged me to apply to law school because of my ability to communicate and to grasp complex legal concepts, and for that, I will always be grateful.

I applied to, and was accepted by, several top schools in the country. I chose New York University’s School of Law because it was ranked 4th in the country and because of its culture of inclusiveness and its reputation for public service, values that continue to resonate with me today. During law school, I worked for a global investment bank and for a trial court judge in New York City, where I was introduced to the litigation practice and the inner workings of a Fortune 500 company. That’s where I discovered my passion – advocating for my clients.

The road I took to Litigation & Dispute Resolution was not direct, but I ended up exactly where I am meant to be.

Q: How do you describe your practice to non-attorneys?

I handle corporate and contractual disputes for businesses and individuals. My role is to help clients minimize their risks and maximize their benefits so that their commercial interests can thrive.

The scope of my litigation service spans many industries, including, real estate, hospitality, financial, maritime, sports, entertainment, and non-profit organizations. The rights and obligations, customs and norms pertaining to a contract vary by industry. Examples of contract disputes I have handled include trade secrets and non-competes, construction defects, and shareholder buyouts. Additional aspects of my litigation practice include intellectual property (copyrights and trademarks).

Q: What is your client approach?

I take a holistic approach with my clients. I want to understand what drives them and their business – the market, the industry, the company, the individual. My business school background is valuable because it helps me to assess their conflict from both a legal and a business perspective. If I can solve a matter early on in the process, I will pursue that option vigorously for the benefit of the client.

Q: What emerging trends do you see in your field of law?

One trend that is affecting many industries, including the legal profession, is the rapid development of technology. Advances such as artificial intelligence may supplant the need for some basic professional services, so we must add value into our services and relationships through those elements that are uniquely human such as experience, intuition, emotional intelligence, and empathy.

Q: What do you consider your key differentiators?

I have a client centric approach and believe that one size does not fit all. I listen first, strive to understand their needs, and then develop a strategy that will work towards the desired outcome. I look to create long-term relationships, not short-term gains. A willingness to understand the inner workings of a company is also a differentiating factor. Following law school, I built upon my earlier business school education and completed a business strategy program at Cornell University. That gave me more depth and insight into what drives businesses, and gives me greater insight when developing a legal strategy.

Q: What are some of your most impactful roles within the community?

Renowned civil rights activist and attorney, Charles Hamilton Houston said, “A lawyer is either a social engineer or he is a parasite on society.” This quote is always top of mind and helps to keep me focused on the type of lawyer I want to be.

My proudest moments are when I see the difference that my actions or counsel have made to an organization or individual. For example, I serve as general counsel for the Urban League of Palm Beach County, an organization that strives to empower some of the most marginalized members of our community, and a Board Member and General Counsel for the Anquan Boldin Foundation, a charitable organization established to increase opportunities for underprivileged children. I am also a Board Member for the Legal Aid Society, an organization that provides much needed services to a wide range of recipients in the community. 

Q: You have a long history of industry involvement and leadership; what are some of your current affiliations?

My participation in industry organizations energizes me, and I take on these roles with as much enthusiasm and long term commitment as I do for my own practice. I am currently Vice Chair of The Florida Bar 15th Circuit Grievance Committee, and a Palm Beach County Bar Association Board Member. I am President-Elect for the Black Chamber of Commerce of Palm Beach County and the Virgil Hawkins Florida Chapter of the National Bar Association.