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Brad Smith Moves From General Counsel to President at Microsoft

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on September 14, 2015 11:58 AM

Microsoft has a new president and chief legal officer. Brad Smith, the tech company's longtime general counsel, has moved into the C-suite, becoming Microsoft's new prez and CLO. Smith joined Microsoft in 1993, back when the Internet barely existed and photographers could still get Bill Gates to lie seductively across the top of an IBM machine.

Having served as Microsoft's general counsel since 2002, Smith is no stranger to the company's legal troubles. But despite being the legal face of the sometimes aggressive tech giant, Smith is widely known as a diplomat and a thoughtful strategist, having been described as "Microsoft's peacemaker" by The Seattle Times.

A Microserf for Life

Smith's promotion to president and CLO comes on the heals of a 22-year long career with the company. "It is interesting that they would put him as president of the company because he doesn't come from the operational side," industry analyst Katherine Egbert told the Associated Press. "I think it's a promotion of someone who's been a solid executive for them for a long time." Smith is the first company-wide president since 2002.

Smith joined MS when he was just 34 years old and helped shepherd the company through many legal battles. He was there when the Department of Justice filed a contentious antitrust lawsuit over the dominance of the Windows operating system and part of the negotiations a few years later when the DOJ went after Microsoft again, this time over Internet Explorer.

The Legal Challenges Ahead

Smith's new responsibilities will include "privacy, security, accessibility, environmental sustainability and digital inclusion," according to a company release. He'll also be responsible for maintaining one of Microsoft's favorite hobbies: wrestling with the U.S. government, though over privacy rather than antitrust concerns.

Microsoft is currently in court in the Second Circuit, resisting government requests for information stored in data centers abroad. That case rests on "who owns your emails -- you, or the company that stores it in the cloud," Smith wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial. "The cloud" in this case is actually a data center in Dublin, Ireland, where Microsoft stores Hotmail emails -- and its location abroad, Microsoft argues, means the company doesn't have to comply with a government warrant for an American customer's emails.

Some consider the case a potential threat to the international nature of the Internet and many technology companies have filed amicus briefs in support of Microsoft's position -- meaning that MS could finally be on the forefront of important tech developments, for the first time in years.

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