Susan J. Smith
Divorce Law - Doylestown, PA

Susan J Smith has long been one of Bucks County's best-known matrimonial lawyers, for the last two decades a prominent and respected member of the region's legal - and civic - community. A personal combination of positive, intuitive and fiercely competitive, Smith in many respects is one of the early success stories of woman litigators in eastern Pennsylvania.

Now just 50, she remains very much in the prime of her career. Moreover, Smith recently made one of those professional moves which, once Hollywood reality-show producers get wind of it, could make her a household name: She joined, as a partner, the well-known Doylestown practice founded and led by Jeffrey Williams, himself one of the region's top divorce lawyers - and who happens to be Smith's ex-husband. As such their six-lawyer firm can rightfully preach what they practice: As former spouses and fulltime parents, Jeff Williams and Susan Smith serve as personal examples of how relationships can evolve - and how maturity can prevail. "It's been an interesting journey, as you'd imagine," says Smith today. "But it was a good decision for both of us. Life surprises you with things that end up being sensible and right." There's some irony, too, because Smith for years kept as high a profile in the region as Williams: Smith for years led the 35-lawyer office of Fox Rothschild in Bucks County, making her an influential lawyer at the firm, which evolved into more than 700 lawyers nationally.

Smith, who moved from Northeast Philadelphia to Doylestown as a child ("back when this was farm country"), retains an unpretentious and accessible nature - "My parents were self-made people who made sure we grew up treating everyone, from every walk of life, the same way, with the same respect. I've lived by that." A "happy kid" who was "scholastically oriented" at Central Bucks West High School, Smith went on to nearby Gwynedd-Mercy University (2500 students, founded in 1949 by The Sisters of Mercy) and majored in psychology adding English "for kicks" - "People would ask me, 'You went where?' But it was a great, nurturing place, and the right place for me." She contemplated pursuing a PhD in psychology, but instead chose Penn State's law school in Carlisle. She knew "right away," she says, that she'd focus on family law, in part because of her undergraduate major. Fortuitously, she landed at the Harrisburg office of well-known divorce litigator Jack Howett, whose fiery competitiveness "sometimes scared people" but "he was the perfect first mentor for me. It was right up my alley." Smith spent a year in Howett's practice before being lured away to the Doylestown firm of Power Bowen & Valimont; at 15 lawyers, it was one of the largest law firms in Bucks County, and Smith's career took off.

Part of her early success stemmed from her hometown roots: "I grew up here. I couldn't walk down the street without running into a friend." There was more to it: Smith proved an able lawyer and case-originator, who earned the trust and confidence of both higher-ups and clients. In 1999, six years after she joined the Valimont firm and three years a partner, the firm was acquired by Fox Rothschild, then in an aggressive expansion. To her credit Smith played a key role in the integration of the firms; within five years she was named head of the firm's Bucks County office. "You could say I'd worked for one first my whole career." Her practice has taken her throughout the five-county region; not surprising though that Bucks County family court judges call her by first name.

Smith and Williams, who have two teen-age children, separated in 2010 and divorced two years later, and continued their cross-town practices. "Calling ours a 'rivalry' would be a stretch," says Williams. But as Williams's firm lost some personnel, and Smith began to chafe under the growing rigidness of a large firm, the two began to talk. Within a few months they'd worked out a deal to team up. "Like all good divorce lawyers I think we both understand the sources of power in relationships, especially in the most difficult ones," says Smith. Williams, for his part, says "Susan has always been an excellent lawyer, and she makes us a better firm, plain and simple. I'm delighted with it."

Away from the office both Williams and Smith focus on their children, including keeping up with their 18 and 14 year-old sons' interest in baseball, football and basketball; they are preparing to send their oldest off to college in the South.

Susan J. Smith
"Our work involves helping our clients move on with their lives - and helping keep them whole, reassuring everyone that they will survive."
Phone: (215) 340-2207
Fax: (215) 340-2208
Gwynedd-Mercy University, Gwynedd, PA, 1989
Dickinson School of Law, Penn State University, Carlisle, PA, 1992

2017-05-26 09:35:32