DENVER, Aug. 8, 2023 — Mary L. Smith, vice chair of the VENG Group and a nationally recognized health care executive, was sworn in as president of the American Bar Association during the ABA’s House of Delegates meeting Monday in Denver and officially took office today when the House concluded its meeting. She is the first female Native American president of the largest voluntary bar association in the world.
“The American Bar Association and the legal profession have always lifted their voices to lead and chart the future,” Smith said. “Our country is at an inflection point, and we are called again to lead to address threats to democracy and both the promise and peril of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence. Law touches all aspects of society, and I hope that the ABA can welcome in all lawyers, as well as non-lawyers, who are invested in improving the profession, serving the public and protecting the rule of law.”
Smith has held many leadership roles in the ABA, including serving as secretary of the association from 2018-2020. She has previously served on the ABA Board of Governors for two terms and served in elected capacities in the Section of Litigation and Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice. She also served as an ABA representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council.
Smith is an independent board member and former CEO of a $6 billion national healthcare organization, the Indian Health Service. In 2022, she was appointed by the U.S. courts as trustee of the Tribal Abatement Fund Trust, a $1 billion+ fund to address the opioid epidemic. She has served at the highest levels of government, both at the federal and state level, including on the senior management 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. She previously served in a senior role at Tyco International Inc., managing one of the country’s most high-profile corporate governance and accounting matters.
Smith is past president of the National Native American Bar Association and founded and serves as president and chair of the Caroline and Ora Smith Foundation, named after her mother and grandmother, respectively, to train Native American girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She is also a member of the Council of Foreign Relations.
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.