Liz (Johnston ) Smith ’00 in Five Minutes

by Heath Hignight

The Basics:

  • Hometown: Palo Alto, California
  • Currently residing in: Juneau, Alaska
  • Education: BA, Economics, Earlham College; J.D. Vermont Law School

You recently launched a new legal practice in Estate Planning. What draws you to this field?

I went to Vermont Law School because I was interested in environmental law, and Vermont is always one of the strongest programs. But after graduation I chose to return to Alaska to work in the Public Defender’s office. I worked as an attorney for 10 years for the state, but I wanted to find something different. I hadn’t even thought about private practice. I became a health coach in 2017 as a side business, and realized how much I liked working with people to help them grow into a better version of themselves. Eventually my interest in starting a business full-time overcame me, I overcame my fear of private practice, and have found a field that I love. Estate planning allows me to engage in helping people by stepping into a true counselor-at-law role—while using my law degree.

What other interests do you have? 

I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition out of a personal desire to learn more about health and caring for myself. While we’re growing up, we don’t always learn good healthy habits along the way, and it was after attending the Institute that my interest in coaching grew. Come to think of it, that’s one of the things that’s great about the CRMS boarding experience, because you learn some of those habits before you head off to college. While I enjoy my work in helping people develop estate plans that can protect them in the future, I still enjoy the process of running a business, and eventually the practice might include a business coaching endeavor.

When did you last visit CRMS?

Gosh, it might have been 2007, when Quinn and I were married on campus…I am not sure we have been back since! We had the reception in the barn and everything. 

A favorite memory of CRMS faculty?

Oooh, the trips, so many amazing trips! In terms of the meaning to me, while I was in school there was a formal dinner every now and then where you would draw a number and a few people would get a very fancy meal sitting at formal tables, while most ate beans and rice on the floor. I think there was a middle area as well. The numbers were proportionate to those worldwide living in poverty vs. wealth. It helped you realize how lucky you are, no matter where you come from, if you’re at CRMS. I also loved AO Forbes’ Geopolitical Studies class—it was one of the most transformative of my life. 

You can learn more about Liz’s estate planning practice at her website:

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