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Incoming ABA Prez to Law Community: Bolster Democracy, Check AI  

Newly minted American Bar Association (ABA) President Mary L. Smith is setting her sights on democracy and artificial intelligence as she takes the gavel from Deborah Enix-Ross, the trade group’s immediate past president.

ABASmith, who will be the first Native American female president of the ABA, serves as the vice chair for the VENG Group and comes with a lengthy resume that includes healthcare executive and high-level government counselor.

“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.”

At her day job, Smith advises clients in a diverse array of subject areas including business development, communications, healthcare and corporate governance, according to  her VENG Group bio. Per the public relations firm, Smith is also an independent board member and the former CEO of Indian Health Service, a $6 billion organization. She was also appointed by the court as a trustee of the Tribal Abatement Fund Trust, which was created to address the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Smith earned her law degree from the University of Chicago School of Law and holds a degree in computer science and mathematics from Loyola University Chicago. Additionally, she served as a clerk in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals for judge R. Lanier Anderson III, according to the ABA.

From Twitter

Legal Innovators @LegalInnovators ·Aug 11

"Congratulations to Mary Smith on her historic role as the first female Native American President of the @ABAesq! It is wonderful to see glass ceilings shattered & new heights of representation at the highest rungs of the legal profession. Read more:"

After officially taking the reins at the conclusion of the Tuesday, Aug. 8 ABA Annual Meeting that took place in Denver, Smith made her priorities clear with the creation of the ABA Task Force for American Democracy, which will “consider and propose solutions for educating our citizens on the importance of an inclusive, strong and enduring democracy and help to provide bulwarks to bolster our democracy as conceived” as well as the formation of an artificial intelligence task force.

As such, Smith challenged her fellow law professionals “to harness both the promise—and the peril—of AI,” as she called on the new task force to “take a comprehensive look at the use of AI and make recommendations on the impact on the practice of law, access to justice and laws and regulations.”

Additionally, the ABA announced William R. Bay of Thompson Coburn in St. Louis will serve as the trade group’s president-elect and will take the position in August 2024. Meanwhile, Frank H. “Fritz” Langrock was named treasurer and Marvin S.C. Dang was named secretary.

“In every ‘Star Trek’ episode, viewers are reminded right at the beginning of a simple statement of their mission … Our mission must be to make our association the home for all lawyers,” Bay said. “The American Bar Association serves a unique role, a national unifying role, a place where every lawyer can find a home, value, worth and fulfillment.”

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