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.

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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.

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Photo of Lindsay Griffiths Lindsay Griffiths

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. In this capacity, Ms. Griffiths is responsible for the oversight and management of day-to-day operations of the International Lawyers Network (ILN). She develops strategies and implementation plans to achieve the ILN’s goals, and handles…

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. In this capacity, Ms. Griffiths is responsible for the oversight and management of day-to-day operations of the International Lawyers Network (ILN). She develops strategies and implementation plans to achieve the ILN’s goals, and handles recruitment, member retention, and a high level of service to members. She is engaged in the legal industry to stay on top of trends, both in law firms and law firm networks.

In her role as Executive Director, she develops and facilitates relationships among ILN member firm lawyers at 90+ law firms in 67 countries, and seeks opportunities for member firms to build business and relationships, while ensuring member participation in Network events and initiatives. These initiatives include facilitating referrals, the management and execution of the marketing and business development strategy for the Network, which encompasses all communications, push-down efforts, and marketing partnerships, providing support and guidance to the chairs and group leaders for the ILN’s thirteen practice and industry specialty groups, the ILN’s women’s initiative, the ILN’s mentorship program, the management and execution of all ILN conferences, and more.

JD Supra Readers Choice Top Author 2019

During her previous tenure as Director of Global Relationship Management, the ILN has been shortlisted as a Global Law Firm Network of the Year by The Lawyer for 2016 and 2017, and included as a Chambers & Partners Leading Law Firm Network since 2011. She was awarded “Thought Leader of the Year” by the Legal Marketing Association’s New York chapter in 2014 for her substantive contributions to the industry, and was recently included in Clio’s list for “34 People in Legal You Should Follow on Twitter.” She was also chosen for the American Bar Association Journal’s inaugural Web 100‘s Best Law Blogs, where judge Ivy Grey said “This blog is outstanding, thoughtful and useful.” Ms. Griffiths was recently chosen for as a Top Author by JD Supra in their 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards, for the level of engagement and visibility she attained with readers on the topic of marketing & business development. She has been the author of Zen & the Art of Legal Networking since February of 2009.