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Jax Daily Record Monday, May 21, 201805:20 AM EST

Simplifying and focusing: Attorney A. Russell Smith finds convenience by moving his practice

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After 35 years at 519 N. Newnan St., law firm moves to Executive Suite Professionals on the 14th floor at TIAA Bank Center.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

When situations change, sometimes the best business strategy is to go back to what worked in the beginning.

That’s what led attorney A. Russell Smith to, after 35 years at 519 N. Newnan St., move his criminal defense, family law and mediation practice into an office at Executive Suite Professionals on the 14th floor at TIAA Bank Center.

He began his private practice in a small office near the Duval County Courthouse and that’s how he plans to retire from his practice.

“It has simplified my life tremendously,” Smith said. “I’ve gone from writing 40 checks a month and being a landlord to writing six checks a month.”

 After being admitted to The Florida Bar in 1980, Smith joined the Public Defender’s Office. Three years later, he rented a small office in the Blackstone Building and hung out his shingle across Bay Street from the courthouse.

Then he relocated to Newnan Street and rented an office on the second floor of the wood-frame structure that was built in 1904.

When the owner of the building decided in 1985 to move to Washington state, Smith bought the building.

It was renovated shortly before the purchase and Smith made substantial improvements in 2002.

That was in addition to the usual ongoing air-conditioning, roofing, plumbing and electrical maintenance involved with a century-old building.

Several months ago, while contemplating the need for another major renovation, Smith, 64, decided there would be inadequate return on the investment.

“It didn’t make good sense to renovate it again when I’m not planning to be practicing for another 20 years,” he said.

He said selling the building and downsizing has proved to be a good decision.

Going from being a landlord to a tenant has simplified his business and being able to walk to the county and federal courthouses has advantages over having to drive several blocks and then look for a parking place whenever he was appearing in court.

“It’s more convenient for me and for my clients. And I’m still going through that pile of quarters on my dresser,” Smith said.

Working in Class A shared space in a Downtown office tower has its advantages, he added.

“It is beautifully appointed and well-maintained.”

He has access to the full range of business services, including having his telephone answered, his clients and guests greeted in the reception area and all sizes of conference rooms are available for client meetings, including a boardroom with a view of the Downtown skyline and the St. Johns River.

“It has simplified my criminal defense and family law practice and I plan to ramp up my family mediation practice,” said Smith.

Possibly the greatest difference between being a building owner and a solo practitioner who’s renting space monthly is the freedom Smith will have when he eventually decides it’s time to retire.

“I can drop the keys on the desk and walk out the door,” he said.

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