Brad Smith and his wife Kathryn Surace-Smith studied law at Columbia Law School. They married in 1983, and spent the school year of 1983-1984 studying international law at the Geneva Graduate Institute in Switzerland, before returning to Columbia to graduate in 1985. In 1986, Smith joined the law firm Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C. He was the first in the firm to ask for his own personal computer, it ran Microsoft Word version 1.0. After running Covington's software practice in London, he became a partner.
Smith joined Microsoft in 1993. When he interviewed for the general counsel job in 2001 with Bill Gates and other senior leaders of the company, Microsoft was facing a litany of penalties in its antitrust battle with the US Justice Department, narrowly avoiding a government-ordered breakup of the company. During his interview, Smith showed the executives a single slide declaring that Microsoft needed to make peace with its foes.
Brad Smith was named the company’s general counsel in 2002, and oversaw negotiations alongside then CEO Steve Ballmer on a number of legal battles on antitrust. He spent three years leading Microsoft’s Legal and Corporate Affairs (LCA) team in Europe and five years as deputy general counsel. His tenure at Microsoft is marked by major competition law and intellectual property decisions that have shifted the trajectory of the technology industry, intellectual property acquisitions that still pay dividends for the company, and battles over software piracy and other cybersecurity concerns that continue unabated. His latest project is establishing the legal foundations for “the cloud”, also known as cloud computing, in which a person or company’s data is stored in a distributed manner on Microsoft-operated servers.
On 11 September 2015, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella promoted Brad Smith to President of Microsoft. Smith is also responsible for “privacy, security, accessibility, environmental sustainability and digital inclusion”. He “leads a team of business, legal and corporate affairs professionals spanning 55 countries. These teams are responsible for the company’s legal work, its intellectual property portfolio, patent licensing business, and the company’s government affairs, public policy, corporate citizenship and social responsibility work”. Brad Smith was named by the National Law Journal as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the United States and has been Vice Chairman of Microsoft since 2021.