Attorney Daniel William Smith
Daniel William Smith, a former Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, joined the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin in 2022.
“It’s not wanting to win that makes you a winner, it’s refusing to fail.”
Daniel learned Peyton Manning’s lesson about resilience the hard way in high school. A promising student-athlete, he was recruited by several colleges before he committed to play football for the University of Hawaii. This commitment, and the scholarship that accompanied it, disappeared when the head coach and several of his staff left the university to coach at another school one month before the national letter of intent signing day.
Daniel refused to accept the new staff’s refusal to honor the agreement and fought his claim in court for two-and-a-half years before accepting a settlement from the university. The legal battle stoked a fire for seeking justice within Daniel and gave him a first-hand appreciation of the law in action. His attorney throughout the legal process, Mark Valencia, became a mentor, role model, and important presence in his life, attending his college and law school graduations and wedding. Daniel recognized a kindred spirit in Valencia — a person of service who refused to fail — and he also witnessed how a civil litigator can positively impact the lives of others.
“Don’t do your best, do whatever it takes.”
Daniel graduated from Whittier College in California and then enrolled in the Charlotte School of Law, eager to embark on his legal career. After graduating in 2015, he acquired knowledge of various practices of law by clerking for the Supreme Court of North Carolina, serving as Assistant General Counsel for the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, and working in private practice. He then accepted an appointment from the United States Department of Justice to serve as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina where he was responsible for prosecuting federal violent crimes, narcotics offenses, and appeals before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Daniel was a United States Department of Justice hire with no criminal prosecution experience, and he knew he had to prove himself from day one. As an athlete, Daniel saw that a commitment to practice ahead of time paid off in strong performance during the games. He leaned hard into his habits of devoting time and effort to preparation and taught himself the ins-and-outs of the federal criminal law system. And he also took advantage of the experience and wisdom of the professionals around him, including seasoned federal prosecutors, and agents from the FBI, ATF, and DEA. A firm believer that “asking questions shows maturity,” he knew that there was a real difference between reading about legal procedures and hearing from those who practice law in the real world. So he asked questions, listened, and learned. And it paid off. Daniel led the Eastern District of North Carolina in criminal case volume for three straight years.
“I wanted to show people that the justice system really works.”
Daniel is driven by a desire to fight for people who don’t have a voice, and he points to two special cases that he prosecuted as an Assistant United States Attorney that strengthened this passion.
In the first case, United States of America v. Cedric Kearney, he prosecuted a defendant who shot and seriously wounded Raleigh Police Department Officer Charles Ainsworth. Seeing the senseless drama and painful aftermath of the defendant’s actions made Daniel determined to bring him to justice.1
The second case, United States of America v. Charles Anthony Walker, involved the prosecution of five co-defendants who violently robbed two Kay Jewelry stores in eastern North Carolina. The prosecution extended two years and was one of the first federal criminal trials to occur nationally during the COVID-19 pandemic, which complicated the process by adding many procedural restrictions that Daniel had to overcome. Justice prevailed in the end, and he was proud to be able to show the crime victims how the legal system can work to protect them and provide closure.1 These cases helped Daniel comprehend the importance, power, and responsibility that accompanies a career in litigation.
“The journey has been long, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Daniel and his wife, also an attorney, had their first child in August of 2021. As with most major life events, it was an ideal time to reflect on priorities and realities, and they decided that the type of work required of an Assistant United States Attorney was not conducive to the life they wanted for their newly extended family. Daniel was ready for a new challenge, but still committed to being the voice for those who need it most. So he followed in the footsteps of his longtime mentor and chose to represent personal injury victims in their times of need.
For legal reasons and client confidentiality, reviews have been slightly edited to remove identifying information and correct typos.