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Wade M. Smith

Criminal defense Attorney at Raleigh, NC

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About Wade

Learn Wade’s areas of practice.

Wade Smith has been one of North Carolina's best known and most acclaimed lawyers for nearly 50 years. His trials are recounted in books, magazines and journals. A renowned storyteller, Wade insists that within each case there is a compelling story waiting to be told. In seminars and bar meetings Wade has shared the art of storytelling. His cases offer a fine collection of North Carolina Courtroom lore. In 1979, Wade served as counsel to Dr. Jeffrey McDonald in the much studied and discussed Green Beret Murder case. Most recently he was lead counsel for Collin Finnerty, one of three young men accused in the Duke Lacrosse Case.

 

To commemorate the body of work Wade has completed, the North Carolina Bar Association established in the spring of 2008 the annual Wade M. Smith award "for a Criminal Defense Attorney Who Exemplifies the Highest Ideals of the Profession." In summer, 2008, the North Carolina Bar Association presented Wade with the H. Brent McKnight Renaissance Lawyer Award which annually goes to "an attorney whose trustworthiness, respectful and courteous treatment of all people, enthusiasm for intellectual achievement and commitment to excellence in work and service to the profession and community, inspires others."

 

In Summer, 2009, Wade will be honored along with other lawyers from across America by Best Lawyers in America. This honor recognizes him for being chosen 25 years in succession for inclusion in the publication, Best Lawyers in America.

 

In 2004 Wade was named by Business North Carolina Magazine as North Carolina's number one criminal lawyer. This selection was based on a vote by his fellow lawyers. He is now a member of Business North Carolina's "Legal Elite" Hall of Fame. In 2009 Wade was named by Charlotte Magazine's Super Lawyers Section as one of North Carolina's Top Ten Lawyers.

 

Wade was born in 1937 in Albemarle, North Carolina. His mother and father were textile workers, having barely survived the Great Depression. Wade and his brother, Roger, were raised in a mill village called New Town. The family attended North Albemarle Baptist Church. Wade recalls that they went to church "every single time the doors opened." In high school Wade was an All American football player with many opportunities to play on college football scholarships. But he chose, instead, an academic scholarship, The Morehead, at the University of North Carolina.

 

At UNC he excelled in academics and athletics, serving as one of the captains of the football team and winning many honors as an athlete. He was also awarded membership in the University's highest honorary, The Golden Fleece. Wade has maintained his connection with the University, serving as President of the Alumni Association in 1985. In 1989 the University awarded him its Distinguished Service Medal.

 

After completing his undergraduate work and earning an A.B. in English, Wade attended the University of North Carolina School of Law, graduating in 1963. From 1963 to 1964 he was clerk to North Carolina Supreme Court Justice, Carlisle W. Higgins. After his year as a clerk, Wade joined friend and fellow law clerk, J. Harold Tharrington, to found the law firm Tharrington Smith. Justice Higgins was a mentor to Wade throughout his formative years as a lawyer and, after finishing his years on the North Carolina Supreme Court, Justice Higgins joined Tharrington Smith, remaining with the firm until his death in 1980. Wade counts among his most important mentors acclaimed defense lawyers, Robert L. McMillan, Jr., Carl Churchill and Joseph Cheshire V. But Wade says he has learned the most from his brother, Roger W. Smith, a renowned lawyer in his own right.

 

From 1964 to 1966 Wade was a prosecutor in Wake County Superior Court. He then began his work as a trial lawyer. During the ensuing years Wade has tried dozens of cases before juries in federal and state courts across North Carolina and other states.

 

In 1973 Wade was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives and was reelected in 1975. In 1977 he retired from politics to devote full time to the practice of law. In 1985 he was elected to a one year term as chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party.

 

Wade has been chosen for membership in many associations recognizing excellence in trial work. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a Fellow of the American Board of Criminal Lawyers, and a Fellow of the International Society of Barristers. He served as President of the Wake County Bar Association in 1988. In 1998 he was presented the Joseph Branch Professionalism Award by the Wake County Bar Association. He has been listed in Best Lawyers in America since its inception. In 2014 he received the Chief Justice's Commission on Professionalism Award.

 

In 2006 the North Carolina General Assembly established The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission.  The purpose of the Commission is to evaluate actual innocence claims made by people convicted of criminal acts in North Carolina.  Wade was appointed by the North Carolina Chief Justice to serve as one of the eight commissioners serving on this new North Carolina Commission.

 

Wade's work crosses many spectra, both civil and criminal. He has represented people and businesses great and small. Wade insists that there are no small cases. All cases which concern people are important to them, and therefore to him. He often represents businesses and business people in crisis during federal and state criminal investigations and trials. He has represented people from every walk of life and every kind of employment. He has worked in the areas of tax fraud, Medicaid and Medicare Fraud, health care fraud, environmental crimes and financial crimes.


Wade and Ann have two children, Karen Linehan and Robyn Yigit Smith. They have four grandchildren, two girls, Kelsey Linehan and Dylan Linehan, and two boys, Kenan Wade Yigit and Aslan Asa Byrum Yigit.

Tharrington Smith LLP is a North Carolina law firm regulated by the Rules of Professional Conduct, as promulgated by the North Carolina State Bar. As such, our lawyers do not and cannot ethically participate in many of Avvo's programs, including its Legal Topics, Legal Forms, or its fixed-price legal services. Tharrington Smith advises extreme caution when relying on Q&A's or use of legal forms without the guidance of a qualified lawyer.

Licensed for 59 years
State NC
Status Active
Acquired 1963
Updated 12/27/2022

We have not found any instances of professional misconduct for this lawyer.

Contact Wade

Tharrington Smith
150 Fayetteville Street
Suite 1800
Raleigh, NC, 27601

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Resume

AVVO RATING 10.0 (Superb)

Work Experience

  • Founder
  • Tharrington Smith, LLP
  • 1964 - Present
  • Prosecutor
  • Wake County Superior Court
  • 1964 - 1966
  • Clerk
  • North Carolina Supreme Court Justice, Carlisle W. Higgins
  • 1963 - 1964

Education

  • University of North Carolina School of Law
  • JD
  • 1963
  • University of North Carolina
  • AB
  • N/A

Associations

  • North Carolina State Bar
  • Member
  • 1963 - Present
  • North Carolina Bar Association
  • Member
  • N/A
  • American College of Trial Lawyers
  • Fellow
  • N/A
  • American Board of Criminal Lawyers
  • Fellow
  • N/A
  • International Society of Barristers
  • Fellow
  • N/A
View all associations

Languages Spoken

  • English

Honors and Awards

  • Best Lawyers, Criminal Defense Section
  • Best Lawyers in America
  • 2020
  • Best Lawyers, Bet the Company Litigation
  • Best Lawyers in America
  • 2020
  • Best Lawyers, Criminal Defense: White Collar & Criminal Defense
  • Best Lawyers in America
  • 2019
  • Best Law Firms
  • U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®
  • 2018
  • Best Lawyers, Criminal Defense: White Collar & Criminal Defense
  • Best Lawyers in America
  • 2018
  • Best Law Firms
  • U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®
  • 2017
  • Best Lawyers, Criminal Defense: White Collar & Criminal Defense
  • Best Lawyers in America
  • 2017
  • Best Law Firms
  • U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®
  • 2016
  • Judge John J. Parker Memorial Award
  • North Carolina Bar Association’s
  • 2015
  • Best Law Firms
  • U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®
  • 2015
  • Top 100 Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2015
  • Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2015
  • Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism Award
  • Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism
  • 2014
  • Best Law Firms
  • U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®
  • 2014
  • Top 100 Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2014
  • Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2014
  • Top 100 Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2013
  • Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2013
  • Best Law Firms
  • U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®
  • 2013
  • Top 100 Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2012
  • Top 100 Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2012
  • Best Law Firms
  • U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®
  • 2012
  • Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2012
  • Top 100 Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2011
  • Best Law Firms
  • U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®
  • 2011
  • Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2011
  • Top 100 Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2010
  • Best Law Firms
  • U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®
  • 2010
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • Top 100 Super Lawyers
  • 2010
  • Top 10 North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2010
  • Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2010
  • Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2009
  • 25 years in Best Lawyers in America
  • Best Lawyers in America
  • 2009
  • Top 10 North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2009
  • Top 100 Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2009
  • H. Brent McKnight Renaissance Lawyer Award
  • North Carolina Bar Association
  • 2008
  • Establishment of the Wade M. Smith Award
  • North Carolina Bar Association
  • 2008
  • Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2008
  • Top 10 North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2008
  • Top 100 Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2008
  • Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2007
  • Top 10 North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2007
  • Top 100 Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2007
  • Top 10 North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2006
  • Top 100 Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2006
  • Super Lawyers
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers
  • 2006
View all awards

Attorney endorsements

Received (1)
Given (0)
Endorse Wade
Criminal defense Attorney | Feb 23
Relationship: Worked together on matter
"The lawyer by whom all other criminal defense lawyers in North Carolina are measured. An amazing storyteller and innovative thinker. Simply the best."
This attorney hasn't created any attorney endorsements recently on Avvo.

Avvo Contributions

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Raleigh Criminal defense Lawyer Wade M. Smith
Wade M. Smith
Criminal defense Attorney
Raleigh, NC
Licensed for 59 years