Brian D. Smith - In Memoriam


Brian D. Smith, a renowned real estate lawyer who led the London office of law firm Goodwin Procter LLP, died suddenly in London after suffering a brain hemorrhage on March 2, 2011.  He was 60 years old.  He is survived by his partner and soul mate, Josefina Jimenez, and their rescue dog from California, Stella, who lived with the couple in the Primrose Hill area of London.

  Brian approached his life and career with an open mind, a giving heart and an adventuresome spirit.  Brian, who practiced law for 25 years, focused on the hospitality industry, advising many of the world’s leading hotel brands in complex cross-border transactions around the globe.  He was passionate about his work and cared deeply about his clients.  He was more than a lawyer to his clients; he was a trusted advisor and good friend.

Repeatedly recognized as one of the real estate industry’s premier legal practitioners, Brian published and lectured extensively and taught real estate transactions at Stanford Law School.  He was also, at his death, co-chair of Goodwin Procter’s hotel and hospitality practice.

Prior to becoming a partner at Goodwin Procter, Brian was a shareholder of Heller Ehrman LLP, the 118-year-old San Francisco law firm that closed its doors in 2008, and served as leader of its London office.  He was affiliated with Heller Ehrman for 17 years, previously practicing in its San Francisco office, where he helped build the firm’s real estate practice and served as its chair for many years.  Brian began his legal career at Pettit & Martin in San Francisco.

Combining a passion for pro bono work with his love of the outdoors, Brian also devoted many hours providing counsel to nonprofit organizations dedicated to preserving open space and natural resources, including the Bay Area Ridge Trail, the Nature Conservancy and International Rivers.  He was, at his passing, serving on International Rivers’ U.S. advisory board, after having served on its board of trustees for 20 years.

“With his unflappable demeanor, high ethical standards and business savvy, Brian exemplified the best of the legal profession,” said Goodwin Procter Chair Regina M. Pisa.  “His time with us was all too brief, but in that span he touched many and inspired us in ways that will have a lasting impact.”

Born to Fran and Ed Smith in Hartford, Connecticut in 1950, Brian attended junior high school in Daytona Beach, Florida, where he spent his afternoons at the beach surfing.  He returned to Connecticut to attend the Kent School, graduating from the college preparatory school in 1968 and spending summers in Key Biscayne, Florida, where his parents had relocated.  He received his undergraduate degree from Brown University in 1972 and his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1977, earning Order of the Coif honors.  Brian completed his education at Cambridge University in London, earning a Ph.D. in international environmental law in 1986. His doctoral thesis, “State Responsibility and the Marine Environment: The Rules of Decision,” was published as a hardcover book by Oxford University Press in 1988.

Brian was, according to his many friends and colleagues, a true Renaissance man – a devoted scholar, an avid reader and an enthusiastic outdoorsman.  He was a serious runner, rower and hiker, as well as a passionate baseball fan who rooted for both Bay Area major league teams – the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants.  A self-described “frustrated musician,” Brian, early in his career, earned a living playing guitar in a rock ’n roll band.

His last entry on the partner facebook at the firm, Ms. Pisa said, reflected his optimism, his vitality and his zest for living:  “Follow your heart,” Brian wrote, “for career or otherwise.”  That, she said, he did to the fullest.

A memorial service has been planned for June 3, 2011 in San Francisco. In lieu of flowers, donations in Brian’s memory may be made to The Brian and Josie Charitable Gift Fund, Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, PO Box 770001, Cincinnati, OH 45277-0053.

Editor's Note:  Mr. Smith and his partner, Ms. Jimenez, spent many happy hours with friends at Mr. Smith's home just north of Marshall.