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Oklahoma Legal Oral History

Interviews with Oklahoma Legal Professionals


Carolyn Smith is a retired attorney from Ponca City, Oklahoma. She received her law degree in her 40's from the University of Oklahoma in 1990. She was a solo practitioner with a focus on bankruptcies. As a student, she had an article published in Consumer Law Quarterly and interned for Justice Marian Opala of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. She retired in 2008.

If a researcher wishes to use the information gathered in this interview for uses other than educational or scholarly uses, they may do so without further permission from the interview subject. 


Below is a short selection of the interview with Carolyn Smith. You can listen to the full interview by visiting the Chickasaw Nation Law Library at Oklahoma City University School of Law.


Below is an excerpt from Ms. Smith's interview and a link to download the full transcript.

CS: I have not been able to determine whether there is anyone else in the history of the Kay County Bar Association that practiced for their entire career totally alone. There may have been someone back there, but I haven’t found them. I rented my office in April before I graduated in May. The landlord tells me later that he was snickering under his breath because this woman is so sure of herself and he assumed that I would fail. I studied for the bar exam right at the same spot where I ended my career. I never moved. The office is in an older building looking onto the main street of town. I wanted that specifically because my great-uncle was a lawyer whose office looked onto the main street of his little country town back home, so that’s what I wanted. I lost my train of thought.

KEK: That’s okay.

CS: Oh, this is the old ten foot ceiling and all this kind of stuff and I decorated it very simply. But I did have some flowers and the valance over the window and I put a rocking chair for the client to sit in. Some of the other attorneys in town who saw my office, “You know this just doesn’t cut it. It’s too frilly, too girly. It’s not sophisticated enough to be a law office.” Well, a few months into my practice, Justice Opala came to Ponca City for some other purpose and I invited him to come by and see my office. He sat down in my rocking chair and he rocked and he put his head back and he closed his eyes and he said “Oh I like this” and I told him about what the other attorneys had said. He gave me a piece of advice that I have kept with me always. He said “Carolyn, decorate your office for yourself; make it a place in which you are comfortable. The people who are comfortable with you will like it here and the others don’t matter.”

Catalog Record

800 N. Harvey Oklahoma City, OK 73102 405.208.5271