Maria Crimi Speth of Jaburg Wilk Law Firm

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Impactful Women In Business Talk: Chatting with Maria Crimi Speth of Jaburg Wilk Law Firm

LocalFi: SEO Digital Marketing Agency’s Chief Operating Officer, Kim Coates, sits down with Jaburg Wilk shareholder and Intellectual Property attorney, Maria Crimi Speth to talk about finding the passion and courage to pursue what you enjoy, and how women can succeed in achieving their goals!

Kim: Please tell me more about your position at Jaburg Wilk.

Maria: Our law firm is an almost 40-year-old law firm that is comprised of approximately 40 attorneys. I am one of nine shareholders of the firm.

I lead the Intellectual Property group of the firm. I handle Intellectual Property litigation and transactions, with the majority of my practice being litigation. I handle disputes related to trademarks, patents, copyrights, and trade secrets.

I also help companies prevent litigation and protect their intellectual property by registering trademarks and copyrights, and drafting agreements such as license agreements and other contracts that have an intellectual or technology component.

I also act as an arbitrator and mediator in intellectual property and technology disputes.

Part of my role is also mentoring young attorneys, which I’m very passionate about.

Kim: What is the driving force or passion for why you do what you do?

Maria: I love solving problems. I love simplifying problems. I like to take something that people think is overly complex and whittle it down to a very simple core issue that needs to be addressed. I love doing that.

Kim: So what was the event that made you realize that you wanted to be in the legal industry? What got you into this industry in the first place?

Maria: When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a spy. I loved the spy shows, and being a spy was the coolest thing ever. I had all the spy kits; all the toys, and all the things to be a spy. The little fingerprint kits and stuff — so fun!

As I got older, I thought that that’s not somebody you can just become. That’s not really a career that you just choose. And so, I decided that I wanted to be an FBI agent. My mom hated the idea that I wanted to be in law enforcement and was fearful of that. A lot of people tried to talk me out of it.

As an older teenager, I shifted to wanting to become a criminal psychologist or profiler. So, when I started college, I took psychology classes and majored in psychology.

I completed four years of college and while there, I learned that I love anything to do with language and English. It’s funny because, in high school, I did a lot of math and science. I was a rockstar in math and science. But, as I got to college, it was clear that I did not enjoy the upper-level science and math classes as much as I enjoyed the English language classes, the writing, and the reading.

Also, a 4-year degree in psychology wasn’t going to get me to where I needed to be. I needed to go to the next level and get a master’s or a doctorate. That meant taking a lot more science, math, and statistics classes. I just didn’t want to do that!

But I loved debate, I loved public speaking, and I loved arguing. People were always saying: ‘you’re always arguing, you should be a lawyer!’ My mother would encourage me to go into law too, instead of law enforcement. So, by the time I finished college, I decided I’d go to law school. I liked that better.

During law school, I interned with a law firm that focused their practice on federal law; and, a big part of that was intellectual property. And, I fell in love with it! Since my first trademark case, I knew I loved it! And now I have been practicing law for 35 years.

“It wasn’t a simple aha moment; it was a progression.”

Kim: It really sounds like a journey! You had to discover what was good for you personally and find what you really enjoyed.

Maria: Yes, and to find out what I liked and didn’t like; and being true to myself and not pushing myself to do things I didn’t enjoy; and following the path of what I knew I enjoyed.

Kim: If you could teach one lesson, specifically to females in business, what would that lesson be?

Maria: It revolves around finding your voice. I believe it’s so incredibly important that we speak up and that we have our voices heard. However that shows up for you, it’s critical.

I’m amazed at how many women were taught at a young age to not voice what they were feeling, believing, or perceiving… and not being true to their voice, what their intuition was telling them, what their mind was telling them, what their emotions were telling them.

“We are incredibly intuitive and intelligent beings. Know your own power and use your voice. Understand the immensity of your own power, and use your voice.”

Don’t be silent when you know there’s something to be said. Don’t criticize or doubt yourself too much. It’s that kind of thinking that holds women back… believing that they should not speak up. If something’s not right, speak up.

Kim: What is one habit that you’ve developed that’s made a big impact on your success?

Maria: Gratitude. This is what I learned from my mother. I came from nothing; I came from food stamps and a single-parent upbringing.

We had very little but I didn’t even know it. Growing up, I didn’t even know we were poor because my mother was always grateful for what we had. I didn’t hear her saying: ‘oh we should have this, we should have that, we don’t have enough money.’

“It was always gratitude for what we had and that’s all I’ve ever known.”

I think it’s the key to my success. Either I’m going to get it if I can; if I can’t, I’m grateful for what I have. That’s the way I’ve always been, and I think it’s critical. You’re not happy because of what you can obtain; you’re happy because of what you have.

Kim: Yes! Maybe that’s why we get along so well, because we’re both positive thinkers! You can find happiness and be grateful in any situation. It’s even more powerful that you learned it from your own mom too. It’s been ingrained into you forever.

Maria: And it wasn’t through her words. It was through her deeds. I don’t think she ever said to me to be grateful. She just was.

“You learn your best lessons from actions, not from words.”

Kim: Gratitude is definitely a habit too. You have to build your way up to learning this habit. For somebody who doesn’t have gratitude inherently, what would you say is the first step in building this habit of gratitude?

Maria: This is not just my suggestion — it’s what everybody says.

When you wake up in the morning, before you even get out of bed, start thinking about what you’re grateful for.

For Example:

  1. I woke up. I’m awake, I’m here, I’m alive.
  2. I woke up in a really comfortable bed.

And then build from there. Just start thinking about the most basic things that you can be grateful for. And do that every morning.

Ideally, don’t watch the news. If you watch the news, be grateful for our situation. Look at what’s happening in some places and, instead of saying ‘oh it’s a terrible world,’ say that ‘I am so grateful that that situation has not directly impacted me.’

And if something has directly impacted you, allow yourself to feel it. Allow yourself to feel the hurt, but look for the moment where you can learn the lesson and be grateful for whatever it is.

The Butterfly Effect

I had an aha moment that took me 25-30 years to figure out. I was thinking about what is the one thing that I wish could’ve been different.

And my first thought was that I wish that my dad could’ve been at my wedding. I was 10 years old when he died. Wouldn’t it have been awesome if my dad could’ve been at my wedding? If he could have known my husband and my children…

My aha moment was: had my dad not died when I was 10, then I would not have this life. I would not have met my husband; I would not have my children.

It was at that moment, as a grown adult with kids of my own, that I was grateful for what the universe served up to me.

You see, my dad was an electrician; my dad was in the trades. And the way I met Ray (my husband) is that my mom found Ray’s boss in the phonebook because she needed somebody to do the remodel in the basement of our home. She didn’t know anybody so she found someone, the person who Ray was working for.

Had my dad been alive, there would’ve been no chance my mother would have opened the phonebook. He would have known people.

It took a long long time to be grateful for that turn of events that seemed to me, for a long time, to be horrific. But ultimately I was grateful for it. I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s the butterfly effect, you have no idea what would have happened.

Kim: Can you name one person who has positively influenced you in business and your personal life? How has that person impacted you?

Maria: I have to go with Ray, my husband. He is 100% inspiration. He inspires everyone around him. And, he’s inspired me both personally and in my business.

The practice of law comes very naturally to me, the writing, the reading, the problem-solving. But, to be successful as a lawyer and to be a shareholder of a successful firm, you also have to be a rainmaker. You have to be able to go out there and get your own clients.

Some of that comes from being a good lawyer, but some of it also comes from being a good salesperson. That part does not come naturally to me. That is the part that Ray has helped me with. Ray has encouraged me. He inspires me to go out, to network; and again, to use my voice to sell myself because it doesn’t come naturally to me.

He’s always inspired me to do more, be better, and go for it. He’s the ‘go-for-it!’ guy.

Kim: How long have you been married now?

Maria: Let’s see. I no longer do math because I don’t have to…(hence the math joke above haha) It will be 39 years in May 2024.

Last question: What are 1 or 2 of the most impactful books that you’ve read that you’d recommend to any entrepreneur or female entrepreneur, in general?

Maria: The first one that comes to mind is Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg. Lean In really changed my perspective on mentoring and helping other women.

I will confess that for a big part of my career, while I recognized that it’s harder for women, my mentality was pull up your big girl panties and get over it! Just do it. I did it; you can do it. Yes, you work a little harder; you overcome more barriers. Just do it. I was not as compassionate as I could’ve been.

When I read Lean In, one of the messages was that one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a woman in business is who you choose as a life partner. I resonated with that. I would not be where I am if it were not for Ray.

Not only for the inspiration, but he literally raised our children for us when I was out working . Had I chosen a partner who expected me to take care of him, I would not be where I am. Instead, he took care of me.

“Choose somebody who will support your career.”

It resonated with me. What about the women who don’t have that for whatever reason? They didn’t know any better. They didn’t know to choose somebody like that or they thought the person that they married was going to be an equal partner with them.

I realized that I had it super easy. When I was raising kids, I was raising kids with more than a half-time partner who was doing most of the heavy lifting. I realized just how hard it is for women who are raising kids and having a career at the same time.

It shifted my perspective to doing everything that I can and making it part of my life’s mission to help other women. To lift other women up. To be more compassionate. To put a ladder up, and reach down and pull them up… and not just say: I did it, you can do it.

Another book? Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach! I read that as a little girl. That’s all about potential. That is about believing in yourself and your potential. That’s a good one!

Kim: Honestly, it sounds so silly and small… but sometimes, the kid books are the ones with the biggest moral lessons!

Maria: Absolutely! That book is about believing in yourself, and what’s more important in business than believing in yourself.

Kim: If people want to learn more or work with you directly, what’s the best way to contact you?

Maria: Email is usually the best way to contact me.
Email: mcs@jaburgwilk.com
Direct line: 602-248-1089
Website: www.jaburgwilk.com


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