Mr. E. Watson Smith

Of Counsel

Direct: (251) 441-9250
Fax: (251) 432-2800
P.O. Box 1988
Mobile, AL 36633

Attorney Assistant

Brenda Stapleton
Phone : (251) 441-9297


Bonnie Turner
Phone : (251) 441- 9229

Related Practices:


LL.M., Taxation, New York University, 1962
LL.B., Duke University, 1965
B.S., Auburn University, 1962
Watson Smith primarily works with non-profit health care organizations on tax-exemption, tax planning, ERISA, regulatory, transactional and contract matters. He also represents physicians on recruitment, tax and corporate matters. Having spent four years as an in-house general counsel at a large healthcare system, Watson is a savvy advisor for his healthcare clients.

Watson’s experience includes drafting and advising qualified retirement plans (pension, profit sharing and 401(k) and 403(b) plans), cafeteria plans, and other welfare benefit plans. He provides ongoing advice as to the operation and administration of these plans.

Watson also represents individuals on estates and trust matters. He has been recognized as a Best Lawyer in Tax and is a former trustee of the American Tax Institute, meaning clients can be assured that Watson is committed to remaining abreast of the latest tax laws and regulations.

Watson is committed to delivering quality legal work on a timely basis to his clients. He operates by the Golden Rule and treats people the way he wants to be treated. His competitive nature keeps him ahead of the game and his non-profit, healthcare, corporate and individual clients appreciate his straight-forward manner.

Representative Experience


Provides tax advice and planning to a number of business and non-profit corporations, professional corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), partnerships and trusts.
Provided tax and other legal advice to several local and Southwest Alabama-based foundations, including the formation of foundations, providing advice relating to charitable gifts and donations, and regular advice as counsel to a foundation having assets of approximately $40 million.
Obtained tax-exempt status for many health care organizations and other institutions.
Represented taxpayers in tax litigation in the U.S. Tax Court and Federal District Court.

Corporation Law

Handled a number of mergers and acquisitions including transactions ranging from $20 million to $50 million.
Advised tax-exempt organizations with respect to the issuance of tax-exempt bonds, including bond issues up to $100 million.
Served as outside general counsel for a number of local corporations.

Employee Benefits (ERISA)

Drafts qualified retirement plans (pension, profit sharing, 401(k) and 403(b) plans), cafeteria plans, and other welfare benefit plans.
Provides ongoing advice as to the operation and administration of these plans.
Obtains tax-exempt determination letters for many qualified retirement plans.

Health Care and Hospital Law

Acts as counsel for a number of hospitals and other healthcare organizations, including serving as in-house general counsel for a large integrated health care system.
Provides ongoing advice in numerous areas relating to hospital and tax law for these healthcare organizations.
Provided advice in connection with the acquisition of a large number of physician practices.

Honors and Awards

Selected for inclusion in Best Lawyers of America in the field of Tax Law, 1987-present; Health Care Law 1991-2007
AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, since 1983

Professional and Community Involvement

Member, Alabama Law Institute
Member, Alabama State Bar
Member, American Bar Association
Member, American Health Lawyers Association
Member, Board of Trustees of the American Institution on Federal Taxation, 1977 to 2007
Member, Mobile County Bar Association


1965, Alabama State Bar

Court Admissions

1970, U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit
1971, U.S. Supreme Court
1975, U.S. Tax Court
1981, U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

What Our Clients are Saying

Brandy Walker

“My husband and I were referred to Johnstone Adams in the spring of last year. We are working very closely with Jessica Welch and Greg Watts on an ongoing and unwanted family estate matter. Ms. Welch and Mr. Watts have been so professional and knowledgeable.

In addition, considering the nature of the suit, Jessica has provided my husband and I with a peace of mind we didn"t think was possible during this extremely stressful time of our lives. She is an amazing trial attorney. They have gone above and beyond. To sum it up, I have nothing but the utmost respect and appreciation for them. I would strongly reccomend either of them to my dearest friends and family members. I'm so thankful that we stumbled upon them. I'm actually going to miss Jessica Welch when this is all over.”

Andre Kistner

“I am currently using this law firm and they are informative, keeping me up to date with my case, and they return your calls/emails immediately. I am very satisfied.”

Stu Cookson

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Angela R.

“Johnstone Adams was a great help when it came to drawing up our family’s will and advanced directives prior to the birth of our first son. These are certainly things that no one wants to think about, but the process was easy. They were professional and knowledgeable, answering all of our questions along the way with compassion and sensitivity. Johnstone Adams responded quickly to any questions and was easy to get in touch with! We would highly recommend them for any legal work!!”

Alan C

“Jessica’s advice and assistance with our family's interests in a probate matter was exceptional from beginning to end-- always thoughtful, responsive and efficient, and focused and timely.

It was a genuine pleasure for the doubtless incorrigibly demanding old lawyer that I am to have a professional of her outstanding caliber assisting me on this matter—both generally and in my role as executor in particular—in a jurisdiction unfamiliar to me and on a matter completely outside of my own experience and expertise.

I might also point out that she was really excellent in interfacing, always in a timely and solution-oriented manner, with other parties involved in our matter to help keep our initiatives on track—including attorneys dealing with the disposition of residential real estate and financial assets.

Jessica and her excellent assistant, Shelly Perrone, also offered and provided pragmatic and efficient solutions to logistical and execution issues made significantly more challenging than usual given the COVID-19 crisis and my own location far from Mobile-- in Paris, France.”


“I highly recommend attorney Rick La Trace. Aside from being professional, polite, and yet firm, Rick is a combination of knowledge, detail, and responsiveness. (In my opinion, there are very few professionals who have ALL three qualities. Rick is one of the very few.) What makes him stand apart from the rest, is that he takes the time to listen to his client's concerns (no matter how "trivial"). He educates client’s on how the law works, shares his opinions, including the pros and cons of each. We would definitely use Rick's services again, and highly recommend him for anyone who wants a lawyer that they can trust to thoroughly handle their case from start to finish, even down to the small details. You can tell from working with Rick that he's not just about getting paid for his services, but that he enjoys working through problems and finding creative solutions for his clients. Also, I highly recommend the Johnstone Adams, LLC systems and processes. Shelly and Cathy were on top of things. I give Rick and Johnstone Adams more than five stars.”


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