The General Counsel
Denise J. Smyler
General Counsel of the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Denise Smyler is the General Counsel of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. She was appointed to this position by Governor Tom Wolf on January 20, 2015 and reappointed by Governor Wolf on January 15, 2019. Prior to joining the Commonwealth, Ms. Smyler headed a thriving law practice in the private sector. She was the founding attorney and owner of The Smyler Firm, which she managed for more than sixteen years.
Before she launched her private practice, Ms. Smyler worked as an assistant district attorney, as legal counsel to the Philadelphia Prison Commissioner and subsequently as chief legal counsel to the Philadelphia Police Commissioner. While serving as counsel to the Prison System and Police Department, Ms. Smyler advised and represented the city in State and Federal Court proceedings and worked on drafting and negotiating contracts on behalf of the city agencies.
In her current position, Ms. Smyler leads the Office of General Counsel (OGC) and oversees the provision of legal services to the Governor, his senior staff, and over thirty (30) executive branch and independent agencies. Chief among her accomplishments during her tenure to date as General Counsel, Ms. Smyler has worked – with Governor Wolf’s full support – to expand and enhance opportunities for small and diverse law firms to serve the Commonwealth as outside counsel. Ms. Smyler’s efforts in this area have created opportunities not just for small and diverse businesses to do legal work for the Commonwealth, but also for those larger firms who demonstrate tangible commitments to diversity and equality in the workplace. As head of OGC, she also has undertaken several initiatives to improve client service and strengthen the capacity of OGC lawyers, including intensive transactions and litigation skills trainings, enhanced in-house continuing legal education programs, and targeted leadership and professional development efforts. Under Ms. Smyler’s direction, OGC has successfully litigated a number of high-profile matters, and served key roles in achieving various goals of the Administration.
Ms. Smyler has long been active in community service. Governor Ed Rendell appointed her to serve on the board of directors of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), where she served until 2011. That same year, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter appointed Ms. Smyler to the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority Board. Ms. Smyler additionally served on the Hearing Committee for the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, on the board of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and was a longstanding board member of Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts.
Ms. Smyler has been the recipient of numerous awards during her career. She was most recently named by the Philadelphia Tribune as one of the Philadelphia region’s “Movers and Shakers” and received the Legal Intelligencer 2016 “Lifetime Achievement Award”. Ms. Smyler is a graduate of New York University and earned her J.D. from Georgetown University.