Jay Earl Smith, Esq.
On Jay Earl Smith passed away on February 6, 2012, after a courageous fourteen month battle with cancer. Jay was my friend for nearly twenty years, and my partner, along with Kent Larsen and later joined by Stewart Fitts, for the past sixteen years.Jay attended the University of Utah, where he received an Honors B.A., graduating magna cum laude, in 1977, and a J.D. in 1980. He came to Nevada in 1980, served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Thomas L. Steffen, Justice of the Nevada Supreme Court, and later was a partner at Jolley Urga Wirth & Woodbury for many years until we started our firm.Not long after we first met, Jay described himself to me as a “problem-solving” guy. In part, Jay was successful at solving problems because he had a first rate intellect. He kept on his desk a miniature of Rodin’s “The Thinker,” and that is how he viewed himself—always thinking. His methodical, careful, intellect brought order to chaos.
Somewhat ironically for our profession, Jay was also successful at problem solving because he avoided anger and contention. Jay was the first one to lower the volume in heated conversation, find humor in a situation, or take time to understand everyone else. In so doing, he cleared away the chaff and could focus on the real issues.
Jay’s success also stemmed from his own professionalism. He was a consummate gentleman in every way—always courteous and accommodating, to the fullest extent possible under law and procedure, and more than merely well-prepared—he was absolutely prepared.
Professionalism is difficult if not impossible to define. In my opinion, the most accurate description was made not by an attorney, but by the poet Robert Frost. In one of my favorite poems, Two Tramps in Mudtime, Frost wrote:
But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
For Jay, our profession was not to be separated as vocation or avocation. As his “two eyes [made] one in sight” Jay saw clearly his purpose in the practice as one in which he served his family, his clients, and his profession by being the very best he could be in every way.
Many have rightly told me that Jay would have been a stellar jurist. However, we needed Jay in private practice to show us all how we should practice our profession. We are grateful to have been his friend and his partner and we, along with all of our attorneys and staff, will miss him more than we can say.
Submitted by Michael B. Wixom. Mr. Wixom is a member of Smith Larsen & Wixom. His practice focuses on banking, corporate and commercial law matters.