Carrie Bradshaw of the Tundra

Billie Jean Smith travels far and wide for adventure … or a good pair of shoes

Published in 2005 Wisconsin Super Lawyers magazine

By Kristine Hansen on October 12, 2005


“I really have no fear of the cold,” says Billie Jean Smith, 39, an intellectual property lawyer and partner at Michael Best & Friedrich. Many Milwaukeeans could say the same — fearing the cold and living in Wisconsin usually don’t go together — but Smith isn’t referring to Wisconsin winters.

Hanging on her office wall is a photo she took of the dogs who pulled her and her husband, David Smith, another IP lawyer at Michael Best, while they were dog-sledding for a week in Ely, Minn., last February. Next winter she plans to learn ice climbing — which will complement the rock climbing she’s done for eight years at places like Devil’s Lake State Park. Her 4-year-old son, Trevor, often accompanies his parents on trips, and when he strapped on skis for the first time last year in Vail, Colo., Billie Jean decided to strap them on for the first time too. “I thought, ‘Well, heck, if he’s going to ski …’”

Smith doesn’t ignore the nonwinter sports either. In July, on a team with two women from her book club, she completed the running leg of a triathlon in Adams County, Wis. For an “Indian Summer” trip, she’ll hike around Lake Tahoe with friends.

So what does this outdoorswoman talk about when she gets together with some of the other female lawyers at Michael Best? Shoes.

On this particular day Smith has snakeskin heels on her feet. “I have to wear business suits during the day so I kind of personalize my wardrobe with my shoes. The snake for me is kind of tame,” she says. She also owns bright red shoes, Burberry plaid and ones featuring mock newsprint. The female lawyers at the firm sometimes take shoebuying trips to Chicago, or huddle over a computer screen to ponder online footwear purchases. At a recent International Trademark Association’s annual meeting in San Diego, Smith hosted a private reception at Saks Fifth Avenue, where personal shoppers greeted the women, and the wine was flowing, along with gourmet cheeses.

Smith works long hours in handling patents, trademarks and technologies, and she counsels clients on the protection of their cutting-edge technology. Then there’s the whole working-mom thing. Taped to her office wall, along with Trevor’s paintings, is a cartoon detailing in humorous fashion what it requires to be a super mom: “able to leap from ‘work mind’ to ‘mom mind’ in a single bound”; “upper-arm strength: can heft child, laptop and diaper bag”; “powerful calf muscles can stride long hallways with small child attached …”

Her next big shoe adventure is the semi-annual sale at Nordstrom at the Mall of America in November.

And her next big outdoor adventure? In December she and David will escape the harsh Wisconsin winter by hopping aboard a 50-passenger Russian science vessel and traveling to Antarctica to see penguins and other wildlife up close. “A family friend has taken a trip there and said it’s the trip of a lifetime,” she says. She’ll leave the Manolo Blahniks at home.

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