Committee Chair Spotlight- Ellen W. Smith


Company: Holt Ney Zatcoff & Wasserman

1.What motivated you to enter your career and do what you do?

I like to argue and am good at it. All kidding aside, I’m not sure what motivated me, but law school was a goal from early high school, if not before. I enjoy people and solving problems; practicing law allows me to interact with all kinds of people and participate in assisting clients with creative solutions.

2. How long have you been in your field?

I started practicing at Holt Ney the day after graduation from law school in May of 2000.  Although I initially focused much of my time in litigation and now am primarily involved in zoning or transactional matters, almost my entire career has revolved around real estate and the development and use of it.

3. What other professional organizations are you involved in?

Georgia Wireless Association (Co-Chair, Regulatory Committee; Board Member); Council for Quality Growth (Board Member); Georgia Bar Association (Real Property, Eminent Domain Sections).

4. Tell us something that not many people may know about you?

I am a sucker for good quality stationery and keep a stash of it always.

5. What was your first job? Craziest job?

First W-9 job was working at the Pro Shop at the Augusta National Golf Course during Masters Week. Hardest I’ve ever worked.  Craziest job…I worked for the Kuwait American Foundation (essentially a tax shelter for rich Kuwaitis) in Washington, DC for about a year.  The Foundation had 4 employees, including a full time driver (who was paid more than I was).  We ran an educational program called “Do the Write Thing” for underprivileged middle school aged children.

6. What is furthest place you have ever visited?

Kuwait (rode a camel, milked the camel, drank warm camel’s milk… character building and never to be repeated).

7. What is your favorite Hobby?


8. What is your business philosophy? Favorite quote?

Not sure I have a business philosophy – be ethical, be responsive and timely (I struggle with that one), be objective.  Favorite quote:  Tom Hanks from “A League of Their Own”:  “There’s no crying in baseball.”

9. What types of companies/individuals would be good leads for you?

Good leads for me include anyone who needs zoning or land use assistance (including zoning analysis or review), any non-residential Landlord or Tenant with lease negotiation or default issues, commercial real estate acquisitions, dispositions, financing or working capital financing (on the borrower’s side).

10. Have you read any good books or seen any good movies lately? What did you like about it?

I am a voracious reader.  My latest favorite is “I Am Pilgrim” by Terry Hayes.  But, I’ve also just serial read everything by Liane Moriarty (think “Husband’s Secret”) and Jodi Picoult (think “My Sister’s Keeper”).  “I Am Pilgram” was a spy thriller (Bond, James Bond-ish); Liane Moriarty is great beach reading (even if you’re not lucky enough to be at the beach); Jodi Picoult’s writing reinforces the main lesson from law school:  there’s no such thing as black and white, only shades of gray.   

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Author: Alaina Foster

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