Tess Congo

/ Austin/San Antonio's Best Lawyers 2017

As the U.S. head of the real estate department at Norton Rose Fulbright, Jane Snoddy Smith works closely with litigators to successfully resolve real estate-related disputes. Luckily for clients, Smith, who has a psychology degree and is a keen people-reader, knows how to smooth disagreements between parties and help projects stay on track.

“A lot of times I think people want to just have a big hammer and hit somebody on the head,” says Smith. “What I try to do is take the hammer off the table.”

Smith is adept at removing the hammer. With her team at Norton Rose Fulbright, she has kept hospitals at risk of being shut down running, continued manufacturing during disputes about the legality of being in those facilities, and sold property with construction defects that were fixed.

 

“We have been successful in every transaction we’ve had,” states Smith. “But success looks different in each field. It might be that you’re able to articulate the issues, so somebody who wants to sue you never sues you because they’re persuaded they don’t have a case. It could also be that you come to mediation, and you both would like one thing, but you’re able to settle on something else that works or gives you enough planning time to change course without damaging the business too much.”

Recognizing the potential damage of a case that is not swiftly or peacefully resolved, Smith is especially concerned about the effects of unresolved fraud cases. “I’m always feeling like I’m fighting for somebody’s pension.”

During her career, Smith has learned the importance of the role she plays in helping people achieve peaceful resolutions. “If I fuel the fire and stoke the anger, they won’t get where they need to go,” says Smith. “I have to be very neutral. I have to listen. I have to come back to the facts: what happened, what does this mean, what are our damages, how can we be whole or as near to being whole as possible.”

When Smith isn’t rescuing projects and pensions, she enjoys contributing her time and negotiating prowess to pro bono work. One of her favorite cases was helping a devastated clown whose photo had been taken and used as a book cover without his permission. “Sometimes it’s just finding out what the person wants. What [the clown] really wanted was to be given credit in the book,” says Smith. “That’s all he wanted, and I was able to give that to him with a letter and a phone call.” 

 

With the education to match her tact, Smith earned a B.S. with major in biology and minors in English and psychology from the College of William and Mary, an M.S. in special education from Vanderbilt University, and a J.D. from Emory University School of Law. She has been recognized by Best Lawyers® since 2008 and was first designated a “Lawyer of the Year” in 2015 for her work in real estate litigation.