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This Is How We Do It Life Is Good At This Pace

Former Chief Executive Officer, Litigation Insights, Inc.
Joined Vistage in 2010
Merrie Jo and her husband, John Smee, at a Clemson football game

It was a beloved college psychology professor who first inspired me to research jury decision-making. That interest continued into graduate school, where at a conference I happened to meet a practicing jury consultant. For the first time, I realized I could turn my passion into a profession.

In 1990, I took a risk. I left graduate school early to take an internship at a jury consulting firm. The following years were a rush to learn the ropes, find the right firm and, yes, to finish my Ph.D. But by 1999, I worked my way to partner, and by 2008, to CEO and majority shareholder of Litigation Insights.

Taking over was like drinking from a fire hose. I was figuring out how to run a company while maintaining the same level of client-facing work on mock trials, witness preparations and jury selections. That’s when a client recommended Vistage.

”Vistage was essential in navigating this process.
I could leverage the shared experiences and expertise of
members — from M&A assistance to overall strategy.”

Vistage was my greatest business decision. I had access to resources to meet every challenge. My Chairs and members improved my leadership, vision and execution for over a decade as I watched my business flourish.

In August 2020, looking to expand its litigation services, IMS Legal Strategies approached me to incorporate Litigation Insights as its jury consulting division. Vistage was essential in navigating this process. I could leverage the shared experiences and expertise of its members — from M&A assistance to overall strategy. Their acumen proved instrumental as we established terms and sold in August 2021. I signed a two-year contract to ensure a smooth transition for my team and that the new leadership maintained the values important to us. All went as planned, and in August 2023, I moved to contractor emeritus status.

I am finally where I want to be — control over work and my life. I have time to binge TV shows, attend concerts and Clemson football games, and explore new hobbies. Moving to the country with my husband looks like my next big adventure.

The transition from owner to director at IMS to emeritus has granted me more time to be present. Life is good at this pace.

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