TOP 30 WOMEN LITIGATORS

The Daily Journal

June 14, 2002

Stand-Up First-Chair

  Six years ago, Suzelle Smith won an automobile rollover case against an undefeated attorney, paving her way to the national ranks of litigators. 

 In 1985, Suzelle Smith and Don Howarth struck out on their own to form Howarth & Smith, a litigation boutique. Even though Smith was only a second-year associate, she was confident that she could handle her own practice.

  "I had shown that I could stand up in the courtroom," Smith says.

  At that point in her career, Smith worked on "bet the company" defense litigation. Suzuki was having some problems, and it hired Smith to change its strategy.

  "What they needed was a woman first-chair trial lawyer," Smith said.

  Smith, 48, also handles plaintiffs’ work. She’s working as lead counsel on the first class action against terrorists and terrorist groups for the Sept. 11 attacks. The case was filed May 9 on behalf of the victims and the decedents’ families. Havlish v. Bin Laden, CV 0035 (D. D.C., filed May 9, 2002).  "It’s about war on terrorism and seeing that it never happens again," Smith says.