Environmental law has been a practice in North Carolina since only the 1980s, and the early practitioners in North Carolina are now approaching the end of their careers if not already retired. In the past for the section newsletter, and later the section blog, I have profiled “senior” environmental attorneys Amos Dawson, Charles Case, and Billy Clarke and “mid-career” environmental attorneys Mary Katherine Stukes, Emily Sherlock, and Amy Wang, thinking that profiles of veteran environmental attorneys may be of interest to those relatively new to the members of the Environment, Energy & Natural Resources Law Section. Recently, I asked past section chair Amy Wang of Ward & Smith for a recommendation of a younger attorney to profile, and she suggested Cordon, who is entering his second year on the section council.
Cordon Smart is an Associate in the Greensboro office of Brooks Pierce and has been with the firm for over three years. Cordon is a family name that goes back three generations. He was born and raised in Charlotte and went to high school at a boarding school in Virginia. On the recommendation of one of his high school teachers, he attended Middlebury College in Vermont and graduated magna cum laude in 2011 with degrees in political science and French after spending a year abroad as an exchange student in Bordeaux, France. Another highlight of his undergraduate coursework was a class in ice fishing on Lake Dunmore, 10 miles down the road from Middlebury. After graduation from Middlebury, he spent a year teaching English in Strasbourg, France.
Philip Ehrlich is one of Cordon’s best friends. He attended Middlebury with Cordon and spent the same year with him in Bordeaux. While they were studying abroad, Cordon invited Philip to a birthday party for a woman who turned out to be Philip’s future wife. Philip recalls the French theater class Cordon took while at Middlebury. This class required exercises as part of learning how to act. During one such exercise, Cordon’s role was to pretend to jump out of a tree. Cordon succeeded in the jump, but not the landing, breaking a kneecap and tearing tendons. Nonetheless, Philip said the injury was unable to slow Cordon down – he was able to attend the usual classes, functions, and events while on crutches, and fittingly, the teacher cast Cordon in the lead role of the play, who was an old man with a cane. Philip describes Cordon as a genuine person in every interaction and said he can’t think of any reason someone could dislike him. Philip says the running joke among friends is that Cordon is the most likely of their cohort to go into politics.
Elizabeth, Cordon, and their daughter, Bennett.
Cordon wanted to work in the public sector, and after graduation, he took a job with the government relations firm Van Heuvelen Strategies in Washington, D.C, where he worked for two years. He said he worked with the owner of the company, Bob Van Heuvelen, who was a great mentor and who encouraged Cordon to go to law school. Cordon met his future wife, Elizabeth, while she was also working in Washington.
Cordon entered the University of North Carolina School of Law in 2014. After his first year of law school, he worked as a summer law clerk in the Environmental Enforcement Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. After his second year of law school, he worked for the summer at the law firm Sidley Austin in their Washington, D.C. office. During the fall of 2016, Cordon externed for Judge Allyson Duncan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Upon graduating from UNC with high honors in May 2017, he served one year as a clerk to the Honorable Thomas Schroeder of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. Cordon received a job offer from Sidley Austin after his clerkship but decided he wanted to stay in North Carolina, joining Brooks Pierce in 2018. Cordon focuses his practice on environmental law and complex business litigation.
Cordon, Maxine, and Elizabeth.
Cordon and his wife Elizabeth have a daughter, Bennett, who turned a year old in March. Elizabeth is a Nurse Practitioner and is currently studying to become a lactation consultant. She is also from Charlotte, and Cordon found they had once lived a mile apart, never meeting until they were both working in Washington, D.C. They now live on the eastern side of Greensboro. Cordon’s father, Skip Smart, is a Partner at Parker Poe in Charlotte, where he chairs the Business Law Department. Cordon’s older brother Louis is a Director at Cushman & Wakefield in Charlotte, and his sister Mary Stuart lives in Chapel Hill and works as a marketing consultant.
Cordon is a lifelong runner, having run track and cross country in high school. He now enjoys running with his golden retriever, Maxine, hiking, and, after being introduced into it by his dad, fly fishing. Cordon has fly fished in North Carolina and several states across the country.