Russell W. Smith

Principal | Houston


Russell W. Smith is a Principal at Cokinos | Young in Houston, Texas. Russell’s practice is primarily focused on resolving complex commercial and industrial construction disputes through litigation and arbitration. Russell has handled construction disputes involving refineries, chemical plants, pipelines and compressor stations, offshore-production and drilling platforms, water-treatment plants, office buildings, healthcare facilities, high-rise apartments and condominiums, retail and warehousing facilities, and military and university buildings, among other commercial and industrial projects. Russell is a frequent contributor to academic, construction-industry, and client-specific education and training programs focused on construction contracts, contract administration, and construction disputes. In addition to his construction practice, Russell has substantial experience representing clients in a variety of complex commercial disputes through all phases of state and federal litigation and arbitration.


  • University of Texas at Austin – J.D., with honors, 2007
  • Texas A&M University – B.B.A., magna cum laude, 2004

Recognitions & Distinctions

  • Honoree, Houston Business Journal 40 Under 40 Class of 2020
  • Fellow, Texas Bar Foundation
  • Named a 2019 – 2023 Super Lawyer in Construction Litigation by Thomson Reuters
  • Named a 2016 and 2017 Rising Star in Construction Litigation by Thomson Reuters

Representative Experience

  • Represented a Fortune 10 energy company in a wide variety of construction and related commercial disputes.
  • Represented publicly-traded pipeline company in nine-figure fraud and breach-of-contract disputes related to construction of interstate natural gas pipeline, construction of related compressor stations, and environmental remediation of pipeline rights-of-way.
  • Represented commercial real estate developer in dispute seeking damages for delay, defective work, and builder’s risk proceeds arising out of construction of luxury apartment community and associated infrastructure.
  • Obtained favorable jury verdict for industrial contractor after three-week trial over multiple competing claims for breach of contract (including owner’s allegations of termination for default, defective work, and delay) related to the construction of a chemical plant.
  • Obtained favorable settlement for pipeline company defending against general contractor’s claims for breach of contract and fraud related to the construction of multiple gas compressor stations.
  • Represented an American subsidiary of a Saudi-owned energy company in the enforcement of an arbitration provision requiring arbitration in the Middle East.
  • Represented an international infrastructure contractor in disputes related to public and private procurement and construction.
  • Obtained favorable settlement for commercial real estate developer seeking damages for delay and defective work associated with the development and construction of two 27-story condominium towers.
  • Obtained favorable jury verdict after one-week trial for telecommunications company defending against claims for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and unjust enrichment.
  • Obtained favorable settlement for general contractor bringing claims that owner breached a contract for the construction and commissioning of an air separation unit and fraudulently induced continued performance with no intention to pay.
  • Represented a foreign power company in dispute regarding ownership of mobile gas turbines and associated infrastructure in Tanzania.
  • Obtained favorable settlement for general contractor seeking damages related to owner-directed changes, owner-caused delay, and misrepresentations made before and during the construction of a petrochemical pipeline.
  • Represented an international engineering, procurement, and construction firm against negligence claims associated with the explosion of a chemical plant.
  • Served as national counsel for major beer manufacturer for franchise litigation and distributor relationship issues.

Speaking Engagements & Presentations

  • Lecturer, Advanced Topics in Construction Law, Texas A&M University, College of Architecture, Department of Construction Science, College Station, Texas, 2022 – 2024
  • Speaker, Predictions and Predilections with Elections, 2024 Design-Build Institute of America Southwest Regional Conference, Houston, Texas, May 2024
  • Speaker, Effective Use and Disclosure of Experts in Texas Construction Disputes, The Basic Course in Texas Construction Law, Houston, Texas, December 2023
  • Speaker, James v. Westlake: Written notice, substantial compliance, and practice points for contract negotiation, administration, and disputes in the wake of the Texas Supreme Court’s recent and significant decision, 36th Annual Construction Law Conference, San Antonio, Texas, March 2023
  • Speaker, James v. Westlake: Words Matter in Texas and Elsewhere, 2023 Design-Build Institute of America Southwest Regional Conference, Frisco, Texas, April 2023
  • Speaker, Forecasting Challenges in Design-Build Construction in light of Texas SB 219 and Material Price Escalation, 2022 Design-Build Institute of America Southwest Regional Conference, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, April 2022
  • Speaker, The Biggest Issues Impacting Your Work, 2021 Houston Contractors Association Management Conference, Key West, Florida, August 2021
  • Speaker, Delay Claims: Force Majeure or Merely a Pandemic?, Associated General Contractors of America, Houston Chapter, Houston, Texas, May 2020
  • Speaker, Recently Enacted Legislation Impacting the Construction Industry, 2019 Houston Contractors Association Management Conference, Chicago, Illinois, September 2019
  • Chair, Contract & Risk Management for Construction & Capital Projects: Enhancing Collaboration and Decision-Making to Mitigate Risk and Liability of All Stakeholders, Houston, Texas, September 2019
  • Lecturer, Construction Contracts & Claims, Collaborative Global Construction Engineering Advanced Training Program, Texas A&M University with Chungbuk National University (Republic of Korea), College Station, Texas, 2018 & 2019

Memberships & Affiliations

  • Texas Bar Association
  • Texas Bar Foundation, Fellow
  • Houston Bar Association: Construction Law, Federal Practice, and Litigation Sections
  • American Bar Association
  • Texas Young Lawyers Association
  • The Society of Construction Law North America
  • Associated General Contractors of America, Houston Chapter, Committee Member
  • Houston Contractors Association
  • Design-Build Institute of America


  • State Bar of Texas
  • United States District Court: Southern & Western Districts of Texas

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