Six Team Members Recognized as “Leaders in Law”

Nov 15, 2019 | News, Business, Smith + Malek

BOISE — On November 14, the Idaho Business Review recognized five Smith + Malek attorneys and a paralegal as industry leaders at an awards ceremony held at Zions Bank in Downtown Boise.

According to the Idaho Business Review, the Leaders in Law award recognizes individuals whose leadership, both in the legal profession and in the community, has had a positive impact on Idaho. Winners are selected by a committee of their peers.

Founding attorney and co-owner Peter J. Smith and co-owner and chief litigator Tara Malek were honored in the “Partner” category.

“Starting a business with a close friend is not always suggested as a wise course of action, but Peter’s integrity, discipline, vision, and thoughtfulness gave me confidence we’d succeed,” said founding attorney Luke Malek, noting that Smith contributes to the community through board service with Kootenai County Boys & Girls Club and “countless hours” of pro bono work for North Idaho CASA.

Coeur d’Alene-based attorneys Cora J. Whitney and Caitlin E. O’Brien received nods in the “Up & Coming” award category. Whitney served as a legal expert at an Idaho Business Review forum on buying and selling businesses earlier this fall, and O’Brien is the leader of the firm’s growing health care practice.

Mindy Benedetti, the CEO of Pocatello-based Health West, said O’Brien has consistently demonstrated exceptional commitment and skill.

“She shows remarkable initiative, persistence, ability to follow-through, enthusiasm, innovation, and reliability in her contributions, and provides valuable, thoughtful insight and suggestions that help to shape Health West strategies,” Bennedetti wrote in a letter to the award selection committee. “Even with Mrs. O’Brien’s busy schedule, she has taken time to be readily accessible for her expertise, advice, or reassurance whenever needed. We don’t just view Mrs. O’Brien as legal counsel, but instead as one of our own team members.”

Whitney heads up the firm’s contract and real estate law practice and volunteers with the Inland Northwest YMCA, Junior League, and Washington Women Lawyers. She also makes time to mentor Smith + Malek’s new attorney based in Sandpoint, Lisa Moline.

“Her mentorship is not limited to her legal knowledge; it goes beyond that,” Moline said. “She mentors me on how to be a good attorney and community leader. This includes navigating the balance of family obligations and work commitments, as well as the balance of a law practice and community involvement.”

Jillian H. Caires, also based in Coeur d’Alene, was recognized in the “Associate” category.

“Jillian is one of the best attorneys in the state, and she is the reason the Coeur d’Alene Tribe was successful in our recent case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals,” said Tyrel Stevenson, director of legislative affairs for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. “The ruling followed years of struggle to convince the federal government uphold tribal court decisions. Because of this case, Indian tribes in nine Western states can enforce tribal court decisions involving non-Natives, which is key to our tribal sovereignty and the rule of law.”

Non-attorneys are crucial to the success and growth at Smith + Malek. Paralegal Briana Stockdale took home the “Unsung Hero” award for her dedication to the firm and its clients.

“Briana is a tireless advocate and teammate in the firm and is always focused on setting both attorneys and staff up for success,” said Smith + Malek’s co-owners in a joint letter of support for the award. “She routinely goes above and beyond, staying late, coming in early and making sure each person in the firm has what they need to best and most successfully represent our clients.”

For a complete list of 2019 Leaders in Law honorees, click here.