I’m bringing you a treat today, Zen readers! A post from the ILN’s own Jenn Smuts – and it’s a good one. Prepare to get uncomfortable and start asking yourself the hard questions.


Last week Lindsay asked the Zen audience about whether they were still feeling inspired with the arrival of the new year, then she afforded us three “inspiration” ideas.  This post is going to take her ideas: reading, writing and thinking, and elaborate on one goal – leveraging women in the profession.

Perhaps it’s because Wonder Woman has always been my role model, Mary Poppins is my favorite Disney Princess or it’s because Ruth Bader Ginsburg is now an icon and her action figure adorns my office window sill – that I believe client teams, law firms and even legal networks can benefit by inviting, including and empowering women to help drive business forward.

I started in my legal marketing career nearly twenty years ago in Pittsburgh, PA.  At that time, I had two friends and fellow daycare moms:  Cathy Bissoon, an Employment attorney at Reed Smith, who served as the firm’s Director of Diversity, and Megan Carpenter, an IP attorney at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart (today’s K&L Gates).  Today, the Honorable Cathy Bissoon is a U.S. District Court Judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania and Dean Carpenter is currently at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, one of the top law schools in the country for student outcomes — #5 in the US (and #1 in New England) for employment on the open market and #15 in the US for bar passage.  These women are just two examples of female lawyers that I have met, worked with, and who have consistently afforded the legal profession proof positive that the female ability, commitment, approach and contribution is invaluable.

At the beginning of every year, U.S. law firms proudly announce their new partners, and white shoe law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison is now trending in the news for all the wrong reasons.  Their 2019 partner announcement proudly showcased very few women and no minorities. Their clients reacted in a volatile way. The American Lawyer article titled 170 GCs Pen Open Letter to Law Firms: Improve on Diversity or Lose Our Business and includes Paul Weiss clients, general counsel and corporate legal officers who have had enough. The open letter to big law firms says, “Our companies will prioritize legal spend on those firms that commit to diversity and inclusion.” Money talks, so I trust we will see how this action influences big law firm behavior going forward. (Watch this space.)

Although I can vividly remember 1999 like it was yesterday and all of those Y2K plans, 2020 is now less than a year away. I can’t help but ask myself “are we really still at this point?” The answer is a resounding “yes!”  So together with some inspiration, a goal and a network full of dynamic, women lawyers I am committed to learning how and where I can lend a hand in advancing women in the profession. What’s your goal?

Jenn Smuts is the Chief Marketing Officer for ILN member firm, Connolly Gallagher LLP.  With nearly 20 years of experience in law firm strategic planning; marketing and business development; individual coaching; budgeting; and team leadership, Jenn is a seasoned legal marketing professional. She has a  history of building consensus within a department, among attorneys and across functional lines. Jenn also has experience as a law school guest lecturer on various concepts of the business of law, including attorney marketing, business development and professional development. She most recently joined 2020 Women on Boards– a national campaign dedicated to increasing the percentage of women on corporate boards to 20% by 2020.