2014 WOMAN OF INFLUENCE: Jennett Hill

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Moving from military base to military base as an Army brat—and spending much of her youth in Germany—Jennett Hill has a history of adapting to new surroundings. It’s a trait that has served her well.

After graduating from DePauw University, where she set track and field records, she worked at IBM for a decade before tackling the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. She clerked for Indiana Supreme Court Justice Frank Sullivan Jr.—including a year where she was nicknamed “cyber-clerk” because she managed the workload from Michigan after her husband took a teaching job there.

As he was offered a teaching job at Franklin College, she was wooed to Faegre Baker Daniels LLP. And after earning partnership there specializing in not-for-profit and tax-exempt law, she opted to take an offer with Faegre client Citizens Energy Group to become vice president and general counsel. Recently, “senior” was added to the beginning of her title.

Along the way, she’s been committed not just to her jobs, but to ways she can benefit others.

At Faegre, she not only helped the Indiana National Guard form a foundation to fund a memorial; she also led the firm in developing the Indiana Lawyers for Soldiers initiative, offering pro bono legal services for deployed members and their families.

“We wanted to make sure the soldiers knew that their families were being taken care of,” said Hill, “so that they could focus on doing what they need to do and coming back safely. The ‘how’ is just all of the boring legal work behind it. The ‘why’ is that it’s my way of giving back to a community that gave so much to me.”

She also was key in implementing a Street Law program with Eli Lilly and Co.

“The idea was to use minority attorneys to expose them to other aspects of the law besides criminal so they can say, ‘I can do that,’” she said. Within her firm, she also developed “speed coaching,” a variation on speed dating in which associates had an opportunity to ask questions and learn from partners in other practice areas.

Hill also has a strong history of board involvements, including past chairwoman and now vice chairwoman for Eskenazi Health Center, past director of the DePauw University alumni board, and seats with Center for Leadership Development and Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership.

The first female African-American partner at Faegre, Hill looks forward to a time such distinctions are in the past.

“I appreciate the acknowledgement. I respect that a lot of people fought very hard for me to even have the opportunity—that’s the only reason I don’t cringe too hard,” she said. “But people sometimes think that the only way you get there is because you are African-American and female. They sometimes disregard that you work just as hard if not harder than your counterparts. You are always trying to prove that you can do the job. It’s the ‘black tax’: Got to do more. Got to be better.”•

To read other Women of Influence profiles, please click here.

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