Jennifer Smuts is the Director of Marketing and Business Development at Connolly Gallagher LLP in Wilmington, Delaware. She is one of the founding members and past president of the LMA Philadelphia and remains actively involved at the regional and national levels of the LMA. As part of our interview series with leaders in the LMA Northeast region, we asked Jennifer for her thoughts on what it takes to be a successful legal marketer today, how she achieves work/life balance and the most helpful career advice she ever received.
What do you think is the key for success as a legal marketer today?
Build your network and fill it with people from various backgrounds and interests. With so many social media tools to keep you connected, it’s easier now than ever to reach out and stay in touch. Be sure and afford your network attention. They will not always tell you what’s going on in their respective worlds so take time to ask and engage. This network will be your safety net throughout your career. Take good care of it and it will take good care of you.
What is the best career advice that you ever received?
“You’re not that important.” I know it sounds harsh but it was the slap I needed and an a ha moment. For years I worried about what partners thought of my comments long after a committee meeting ended. I fretted over presenting content that I knew inside and out because the audience might stare and ask “who made her the authority?” Let it go and charge forward with ideas and opportunities based on how you want to grow.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love legal marketing and business development right now because I’m doing it for attorneys that respect my experience, appreciate my efforts and value new ideas (although not every idea flies). Disclaimer: Connolly Gallagher LLP is a spin-off from a bigger firm where we all used to work together.
How did you get started in legal marketing?
Honestly, as I was standing in line at Rita’s (water ice) with my baby on my back, I started talking to the woman in front of me who also had a baby on her back. We quickly learned that we both landed back in Pittsburgh after being away for a while. We were both professional service marketers. I was temping at a property management firm, and she had an opening for a legal marketing manager. I landed my first legal marketing job at Klett Rooney Lieber & Schorling PC. The firm has since merged and today are Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC.
How do you achieve work/life balance?
As the breadwinner for my family I felt like it was my responsibility to work 60+ hour work weeks. I eventually gained work/life balance in my 40’s after one of my son’s middle-school friends asked who I was. Everyone knew my husband because he was the stay-at-home dad! I quickly went through my stages of grief – denial that this kid just asked me that question, anger that he could be so insensitive, depression thinking I really screwed up my priorities – and simply reassessed. I asked myself how much would it take (money, title, status) to keep me going at the same pace, and I didn’t come up with an answer. I knew what mattered most so I started taking steps to change my behavior. Disclaimer – I’m still not on the PTA but I do help with fundraisers and carpool to rugby.
What woman most inspires you and why?
The women that inspire me the most are the young women of today. I love their energy, lack of fear, willingness to communicate what’s on their mind and with so much opportunity in front of them, I’m confident they will turn our good into great!