100 People to Watch This Fall : Page 52 of 102

Brad Smith Executive vice president of Legal and Corporate Affairs for Microsoft

America’s top technology companies have been on the front lines of the immigration reform debate since the very start, urging Congress to allow more high-skilled workers into the United States. Amid that debate, few voices have been more prominent than that of Smith, Microsoft’s top lawyer.

A 20-year veteran with the company, Smith has long warned that a failure to reform the H1-B visa system would mean tech companies would be unable to fill a glut of open positions, sacrificing jobs at home and sending the talents of failed applicants to competing countries. 

The issue of high-skilled visas has often put the tech companies at odds with labor leaders, who say a spike in foreign workers would depress wages and displace American labor as the nation’s unemployment rate hovers above 7 percent. 

It is an argument the technology sector rejects, and in June, Smith was on Capitol Hill promoting more H1-B visas as a benefit for everyone.

“If done right, attracting the talents of the best and brightest from other countries can help, rather than hurt, prospects for American workers because in an innovation economy, jobs often beget jobs,” Smith told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

He must have been convincing: One liberal economist called the Senate bill “a landslide”  in favor of the tech industry, including an increase in H1-B visas.

The National Law Journal recently named Smith to its list of the 100 most influential lawyers in the country.