Judy Smith, 2014 Woman Lawyer of the Year
Judy Smith, founder and President of Smith & Company, is the 2014 WBA Woman Lawyer of the Year. The Woman Lawyer of the Year Award recognizes a leader who has championed change in the profession by leading by example, advocating for justice, and promoting the advancement of women in the profession.
The theme for the 2014 Annual Dinner is “Civility.” Ms. Smith has exemplified the principles of civility by helping others through mentoring, volunteering, and giving back. She has demonstrated creative crisis management and problem-solving and an innate ability to bring various entities together to create as close to a win-win outcome as possible under what are often very trying circumstances. Her career path has sent her down both sides of the aisle, where she has bridged the public and private sectors. Ms. Smith has also broken barriers as a woman of color.
As a crisis management advisor Ms. Smith brings a unique combination of communication skills, media savvy, and legal and political acumen to clients facing a wide array of issues and challenges throughout the U.S and abroad.
Ms. Smith honed her skills through her experiences with some of the most historic and sensational events of our time, including the Iran Contra investigation, the prosecution of former Washington DC Mayor Marion Barry, the 1991 Gulf War, the Los Angeles riots, the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas, the President Clinton scandal involving Monica Lewinsky, the congressional inquiry of Enron, the General Petraeus CIA scandal, and the United Nations Foundation and World Health Organization response to the SARS epidemic.
In addition to her work as a communications advisor during high profile engagements, Ms. Smith also serves as a counselor to Fortune 500 corporations and has provided strategic advice on a variety of corporate communications issues such as mergers and acquisitions, product recalls, intellectual property litigation, corporate positioning, diversity, and other challenges. She has assisted companies such as BellSouth, Union Pacific, Nextel, United Healthcare, Americhoice, Wal-Mart, Radio-One Inc., Waste Management Corporation, and American International Group, Inc. (AIG) on a range of corporate, investor, and public relations matters.
Ms. Smith is involved in many of the public policy issues facing the nation. She has worked with several federal agencies and organizations on issues including the housing crisis, childhood obesity, education, and economic development. She has also provided communications advice to government entities and municipalities including the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the City of Cincinnati, the City of Detroit and Prince George’s County, Maryland.
In the international arena, Ms. Smith has provided counsel to several heads of state and executives of major corporations on matters in the Philippines, Haiti, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Zimbabwe. In addition, she assisted the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s leadership with its communication efforts as part of the War on Terrorism.
Prior to founding Smith & Company, Ms. Smith was a partner at several Washington DC-based public relations firms. Before that, she served as Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at NBC where she reported directly to the President and CEO and was responsible for the network’s strategic global communications strategy. Additionally, she served as NBC’s chief spokesperson for domestic and international programming and business ventures, and helped with the groundbreaking launch of one of the nation’s first cable news stations, MSNBC.
In 1991, Ms. Smith joined the White House with her appointment as Special Assistant and Deputy Press Secretary to President George H. W. Bush. During her tenure, she provided the President and his Cabinet with communications advice on a wide range of foreign and domestic issues.
Prior to joining the White House, Ms. Smith served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and was Special Counsel to the U.S. Attorney of the District of Columbia, where she oversaw legal and communications work on a number of high profile criminal and civil cases.
Ms. Smith served as Associate Counsel and Deputy Director of Public Information in the Office of the Independent Counsel, Lawrence E. Walsh from 1987 to 1989. There she managed legal as well as national and international public information for the Iran Contra prosecution of Oliver North, John Poindexter and several other defendants.
Prior to her legal career, Ms. Smith worked as a writer and public affairs specialist for several publications and private organizations headquartered in Washington, DC. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations from Boston University and graduated from the American University Washington College of Law, where she was the first African-American woman to serve as Executive Editor of the Law Review.
The television series Scandal, which revolves around the life and work of a professional fixer, was inspired by Ms. Smith. She serves as Co-Executive Producer of the show and provides insight and technical expertise on crisis management issues.
Ms. Smith is the author of the book, Good Self, Bad Self. She has received numerous communications and leadership awards and is active in community service.