CHICAGO, Aug. 9, 2022 — Mary L. Smith became president-elect of the American Bar Association at the closing of the ABA’s House of Delegates today in Chicago. This puts her on track to become the first female Native American president of the association in August 2023 at the ABA Annual Meeting in Denver. Deborah Enix-Ross of Debevoise & Plimpton in New York took over as ABA president for the upcoming year.
Smith, vice-chair and partner at the VENG Group and senior fellow at Freedman Consulting, LLC, is a member of the Cherokee Nation. She was born in Chicago and received her juris doctor degree from the University of Chicago Law School. She was on the ABA Board of Governors for seven years in two separate stints (2009-2012 and 2016-2020) and served as ABA secretary from 2017-2020. Smith has served in the ABA House of Delegates (2007-2012 and 2013-2022) and served in leadership roles in several ABA entities, including the Commission on Women in the Profession, the Section of Litigation and the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities. She also served as an ABA representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
“I am honored to be sworn in as ABA president-elect in my hometown of Chicago,” Smith said. “Today, as we look to strengthen our democracy, the importance of lawyers as stewards of the rule of law has never been more important. As the legal profession evolves, the ABA helps lawyers in their practices but also provides a way for them to be part of improving the profession and serving the public.”
Smith is an independent board member and former CEO of a $6 billion national healthcare organization, the U.S. Indian Health Service. She has served at the highest levels of government, both at the federal and state level, including on the senior team of the Civil Division at the U.S. Department of Justice and as general counsel at the Illinois Department of Insurance. Earlier in her career, Smith served in the White House as associate counsel to the president and associate director of policy planning. In her private sector experience, she served in a senior role at Tyco International (US) Inc. Smith also served as special counsel & estate trust officer at the Illinois Office of Special Deputy Receiver; a partner in the Chicago office of Schoeman, Updike & Kaufman, a women-owned firm; and an attorney at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in Washington, D.C., where she specialized in governmental investigations and securities class actions.
Smith is past president of the National Native American Bar Association and past president and founder of the National Native American Bar Foundation.
The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.