Born: Jan. 17, 1959 in Milwaukee, Wis. Smith is the oldest of three children. His father was an engineer and manager with Wisconsin Bell Telephone, and his mother was an elementary school teacher.
High school: A star student, Smith was active in extracurricular activities as well, such as the debate club, drama, student government, and the school newspaper. "My best experience working with journalists was when I was president of the student government and editor of the school newspaper. We always got along," Smith says.
University education: Smith earned scholarships and worked at odd jobs delivering The New York Times, working in the library, and serving food in the school cafeteria on his way toward receiving an AB in international affairs at Princeton in 1981 and a JD from Columbia in 1985.
Career: He spent four years in the London office of Covington & Burling, where he landed the Business Software Alliance as a major client. That brought him in contact with Microsoft (MSFT), which hired him in its Paris office in 1993. After three years there, he moved to Redmond, Wash., to serve as deputy general counsel for worldwide sales for five years before becoming general counsel in 2002.
The peacemaker: Smith sees an important part of his job as improving relations with regulators and tech-industry players wary of Microsoft. This philosophy is deep-seeded. His high school ambition was to be a lawyer, a politician, or a diplomat. "I couldn't decide, so I did all three," he says.
Legal hero: Chief Justice John Marshall, whose court rendered an unusually large percentage of unanimous opinions. "He is somebody who combined a great intellectual energy with an enormous focus on relationship skills."
Family: Married to Kathryn Surace-Smith, general counsel at SonoSite, a Bothell (Wash.) maker of medical diagnostic equipment. The couple met at Princeton and married while they attended Columbia Law. They have an 11-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter.
Hobbies: Smith skies in the winter and tools around waterways of the Pacific Northwest in the summer in his 50-foot motorboat, Vagabond.