Public Interest Law

Meet Michael Smyth, 'Social Conscience of the City Law Firms'

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Michael Smyth’s practice focus isn’t what most lawyers would expect of a partner at a London-based mega-firm.

But the 51-year-old Clifford Chance litigator is described by the London Times as “the social conscience of the city law firms” in a lengthy profile of Smyth and his entrepreneurial views about melding politics, public interest work and corporate law. He is known for his human rights work, as well as media law and “crisis management” expertise.

“What gives the job its edge is that he has a roving brief in the firm as a ‘partner at large,’ advising on public policy, pro bono and on political affairs that affect the firm,” the newspaper writes. Officially known as the partner in charge of the firm’s governmental affairs and public policy practice, Smyth says that pro bono departments have a place at major law firms, which should be thinking about providing a setting for public discourse, too. One big advantage of his chosen field, he notes, is that it can’t be “commoditized” into a high-volume practice.

He found his practice niche at least partly based on the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time, Smyth says: “I have been lucky in that I was early into the public law space … and it’s one I’ve been very happy to stay in.”

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