Dawn Smith is a partner at Smith & Lake, LLC where she practices family and education law. She has represented children and families for over 30 years. Immediately prior to establishing a new partnership, Dawn was a partner at one of Atlanta’s most prestigious family law firms. She also served as Deputy Director of Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation where she was responsible for administration of the city’s largest pro bono family law program. In this role, Dawn worked in partnership with the Judges of the Fulton County Family Court to provide trained Guardian ad Litems in contested custody matters. She has trained Guardian ad Litems throughout the state and has lectured on their role nationally. Dawn is frequently appointed by Courts to serve as Guardian ad Litem in family law cases. She also is a certified arbitrator and mediates family law cases. Dawn is one of 40 fellows of the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a highly respected organization comprised of the top family law practitioners in the State. In 2017, 2018 and 2019 she was named to the Super Lawyers® list of Top 50 Women in Georgia, in addition to being named Top 100 Super Lawyers in Georgia.
In addition to her expertise in family law, Dawn is recognized as one of the leading advocates for the civil and educational rights of children with disabilities. She is the past President of the Board of Directors of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, the national membership organization for special education attorneys and advocates. She has pursued actions on behalf of children in state and federal trial courts as well as in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. Dawn is a frequent lecturer both nationally and locally on the rights of children. At the firm, Dawn provides quality legal services on behalf of children and lends her expertise in this area to all of our family law endeavors.
Dawn began her career as Law Clerk to United States District Court Judge Marvin H. Shoob and subsequently was appointed Special Administrative Master for the Court. Dawn was also a partner in the firm Zimring & Smith LLC and was later appointed Administrative Law Judge for the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings. She is a 1985 graduate of North Carolina State University and a 1989 cum laud graduate of Georgia State University College of Law where she served as Style Editor on Georgia State Law Review.
Dawn is a member of the Atlanta, Cobb, DeKalb County and Sandy Springs Bar Associations; the Family Law Section of the Georgia Bar, the American Bar Association Family Law Section, Lawyers Club of Atlanta and a barrister of the Charles Weltner Inn of Court. She is a member of the Ethics & Professionalism Subcommittee of the Executive Committee of the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia. She is a graduate of Leadership Atlanta, Founder of Cool Girls, Inc., served on the Board of the Greater Georgia Chapter of the Autism Society of America and was on the Advisory Board of Emmaus House. In 2016 she was named Atlanta Legal Aid Volunteer of the Year. Dawn currently serves on the Board of DeKalb Volunteer Lawyers Foundation and the Board of the Atlanta Bar Family Law Section. She is a current member of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church. Dawn is married to Robin Griffith, has two sons and resides in Decatur.
Georgia Superior Court Judges Summer Conference & Educational Sessions "Substance Abuse and Custody" July 27-30, 2015, King & Prince Resort, St. Simon’s Island
Tropical Seminar "Impact of Cheating and Drinking in Family Law, Does it Really Matter?" February 12-14, 2015, Westin's Royal Beach Club, Cancun
ICLE Special Needs Trust "Special Education Law Basics" February 11, 2015, State Bar of Georgia Conference Center, Atlanta
Council of Superior Court Judges 2015 Winter Conference “Special Needs, Special Education in Custody and Support” January 21, 2015, Athens, GA
Georgia Bar Association, Family Law Section – Family Law Institute – Special Needs/Special Education in Custody and Support Cases – Lecturer 2014
Atlanta Bar Association – Pro Bono March Madness – Volunteer Guardians ad Litems – Lecturer 2014
Georgia Bar Association, Family Law Section – Family Law Institute – Fertile Ground: Cross Examination and Direct of Custody Evaluators – Lecturer 2013
Cobb County Bar Association – Guardian ad Litem Training – Ethics and the GAL – Lecturer – 2013
Atlanta Bar Association, Guardian ad Litem Training – Lecturer – 2013, 2012
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates – New Attorney Training – Trainer - 2011, 2012, 2013
Georgia Bar Association, Family Law Section – Nuts and Bolts of Family Law – Lecturer – 2012
National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder - Legal Issues for Families – Lecturer – 2012
Atlanta Bar Association, Guardian ad Litem Training - Program Chair and Lecturer – 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
Georgia Psychological Association – Custody Evaluator Training – December 2009 – Lecturer
Fulton County Superior Court, Family Division, Guardian ad Litem Training for Georgia
Association of Black Female Lawyers – June 2007 – Program Chair and Lecturer
10th Judicial Circuit, Guardian ad Litem Training – Program Chair and Lecturer – 2007,
ICLE Georgia – School and College Law, Special Needs Trusts, Due Process Hearings, Administrative Law – Lecturer – 2005, 2004
Marcus Institute – Update on IDEA – Lecturer- 2005
Lorman Education Services – Asperger’s Syndrome, Family Education Rights and Privacy – Lecturer – 2003, 2005
Fulton County Juvenile Court – Discipline and Special Needs – Lecturer – 2001
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates – Advanced Advocate Training, ADHD, Compensatory Servicers, Transition – Lecturer – 2003, 2005, 2008
Invaluable asset for a divorcing dad
Dawn could not have been more invaluable to me as I fought to get custody of my two children. She had a winning game plan and was there to make sure that I was informed and followed that plan to ultimately gain custody in a county that is very reluctant to award custody to fathers. Together we were a great team and got the result that will allow my children grow up in a happy and healthy environment. I cannot say enough good things or thank Dawn enough times for what she did for me and my family. I will be forever grateful.
Great lawyer who truly cares
As a lawyer myself, I'm very selective about the professionals that I choose when I need help. I hired Dawn and her firm to help me with a tricky Guardianship issue. From the beginning, she and her excellent staff put me and my wife right at ease and explained every step of the process clearly and thoroughly. They were great communicators, keeping in touch with me throughout the process. When we made it to the final hearing, the entire Court staff was openly impressed with Dawn's preparation, knowledge and professional demeanor. If you need a lawyer to help your family, you'd be smart to hire Dawn Smith and Smith & Lake.
Compassionate, excellent and the best attorney in Atlanta
My divorce had everything a nightmare could include...infidelity in another country, abuse, non-disclosure of marital assets, custody battle, tainted therapists, custody evaluators and a rogue opposing attorney. I walked away a happy mother with custody of my children, major decision making rights and most of all my children are safe. I am no longer harassed by my ex-husband or his insensitive attorney. Dawn has been there with me and my children all the way and will continue to be a part of our lives.
She navigated my case skillfully and brick by brick fought my case till I got what I truly wanted....to continue being the loving mother I am and to be the positive role model they desperately needed. Thank you Dawn for giving us a new start at life and for empowering me to stand up against abuse and infidelity and to forge ahead with my head held high.
The most import decision you'll make.
Dawn is a great lawyer. I had used other lawyers prior to engaging Dawn but none were as responsive, knowledgeable, or open to sharing process and strategy. I would highly recommend dawn to anyone that needs a skilled competent lawyer that can appreciate your situation, act on your behalf and move the process along while keeping you informed.
Tonight I was talking to a good friend about challenges in the school system with her daughter and special education resources. I understand her story all too well. So, I told her about an attorney that helped us 15 years ago. After our call i decided to google the attorney to refer to my friend and saw this opportunity to give a long overdue review. Ms. Smith represented us approximately 15 years ago in a meeting with the Douglas County school board. She helped us overcome a huge hurdle in getting our son services. Attorney Smith truly has a passion for what she does and is absolutely the best. Many years have passed and I still will never forget how much she helped us. Amazing!!!
Dawn Smith has provided excellent legal advice to me. I have always had a positive experiences & outcomes with her & her firm. I have used her on several occasions throughout the years. She is an attorney that I trust whole heartedly & has always steered me right. She is quick to get back to you with any answers to your questions. She has a strong understanding of personalities, special situations, & the emotions involved. Not only does she provide awesome legal representation & stands her ground, she also really cares. I highly recommend Dawn Smith. I will not use anyone else but her.
Contested Custody with International Issues
I first met Dawn to seek expert opinion and was represented by another attorney. The moment I shook hands with her, I knew I wanted her to be my attorney and within a week I became her client. My case is complicated and ongoing so I am not in a position to discuss it. From the beginning Dawn had a strategy and has given my children and me priority. Day or night she is there for me and acknowledges what I feel as a woman and mother. A true professional strong woman- no wonder she is once again 2015 Georgia Super Lawyer. We have a way to go with my case but I am in the best hands and all will be well.
Dawn understood my time constraints and did everything within her power to provide timely service even at a time when she was very busy with scheduled court hearings. I felt like my case with a top priority for her and she found a solution by having another partner step in when she was unavailable. I really appreciate Dawn's attention.