Mary Smith


American Bar Association


Member since:


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Mary Smith is President-Elect of the American Bar Association and is the first Native American woman in this role. In August 2023, she will become president of the world’s largest voluntary association of lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals. Smith is an independent board member and former CEO of a $6 billion national healthcare organization, the Indian Health Service. She currently serves on the board of PTC Therapeutics, Inc., a global biopharmaceutical company, and on the board of HAI Group, a leading member-owned insurance company for the affordable housing industry. She is also vice chair of the VENG Group, a national consulting firm. Smith has served at the highest levels of government, both at the federal and state level. She served on the senior team of the Civil Division at the U.S. Department of Justice and was general counsel at the Illinois Department of Insurance. Earlier in her career, she served in the White House as associate counsel to the president and associate director of policy planning. In her private sector experience, Smith served in a senior role at Tyco International (US) Inc., a $40 billion public company, where she managed a $60 million budget. She also served as special counsel and estate trust officer at the 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 has served in leadership roles at the ABA and in state and local bar associations. She is a past secretary of the ABA and was the first Native American member of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. She has held leadership positions in both the ABA Section of Litigation and the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice. She also served as an ABA representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Smith served on the executive council of the National Conference of Bar Presidents and is a past president of the National Native American Bar Association. She was co-chair of the Litigation Section in the District of Columbia Bar Association and served on the board of directors of the Chicago Bar Association. In her civic activities, Smith is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Economic Club of Chicago, the International Women’s Forum, and the National Association of Corporate Directors. She 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. In 2022, Smith received the Abner J. Mikva Award from the American Constitution Society Chicago Lawyer Chapter. She was also selected for Crain’s Chicago Business’s Notable Women in STEM in 2020 and Crain’s Custom Media’s “Chicago’s Notable Women Lawyers” in 2018. In 2017, she was honored by the National Congress of American Indians for her leadership of the Indian Health Service. In 2015, she was recognized on the Lawyers of Color Fourth Annual Power List. In 2012, she was a recipient of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession’s Spirit of Excellence Award. At the conclusion of her time in the White House in 2001, she received the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director’s Citation for Exemplary Public Service. Smith graduated from the University of Chicago School of Law, cum laude, and earned a B.S. in mathematics and computer science, magna cum laude, from Loyola University Chicago. She served on the law review and clerked for the Hon. R. Lanier Anderson III in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.