Jennifer Buettner is the Executive Director of the Birmingham Bar Association, an association of approximately 3,500 attorneys in the greater Birmingham area. She is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the BBA, which provides a range of services to members in their practices. In her role, Jennifer ensures that the BBA offers meaningful educational and professional programs for attorneys, hosts events where members can network and get to know each other, provides opportunities for attorneys to develop leadership competencies, and encourages attorneys to engage in public service.
Jennifer also serves as the Executive Director of the Birmingham Bar Foundation, which is the 501(c)(3) charitable arm of the BBA whose mission is to unify the philanthropic and educational efforts of the BBA.
Before becoming Executive Director of the BBA and the BBF, Jennifer was a practicing attorney for 18 years. She began her legal career with Balch & Bingham and, after becoming a partner, moved to an in-house position with Southern Company. Throughout her career at Southern Company, she took on roles of increasing responsibility, first focusing on transactional matters and then moving into an executive level position at the nuclear power division of the company.
In addition to being a Momentum alumna, Jennifer serves on the Board of Directors for Oasis and Hand in Paw and is a past President of The Literacy Council Board of Directors. She is married to Ernest Bates and they are the parents of Claire, a 5-pound bobtailed cat who thinks she is a dog. Both Jennifer and Ernest are Birmingham natives and enjoy all of the exciting restaurants, bars, events and opportunities that Birmingham has to offer our community.
What did you gain from your Momentum experience?
Momentum allowed me to see that it is not only okay, but also necessary, to focus on myself, improve myself and care for myself. Men are terrific at focusing on themselves, but women need to be better at it. We need to realize that to be good leaders we must be self-aware and continually on a path of improvement. I also gained some strong friendships that have lasted more than a decade since I was in the program.
What is one piece of leadership advice you have been given that has helped you in your career?
If I say that I am going to do something, do it now and do it right. One of the key elements of integrity is follow-through, and the more immediately you take action, the better.
If you knew then what you know now, what would you tell your 18-year-old self?
Don’t be in a rush to be a grown up. Take a gap year. Enjoy every experience open to you. That’s where true learning happens.
What challenges do you think the next generation of women leaders face?
Women will continue to face many of the same challenges we have always faced and one of the reasons for that is that women are not well represented in state and federal legislatures, on the bench and in executive offices. We need to encourage women to run for political office and support those who do.
What do you think organizations need to do differently for more women to rise into executive roles?
Businesses need to allow for more flexible work schedules – the reality is that women are the primary caregivers to children and parents and the business day needs to recognize that reality.
What three words do you think should characterize every leader?
Decisive, Dependable, Optimistic
How do you manage your career, home, and community life?
I achieve balance by starting every day with exercise. That’s what gives me energy to be active all day and to enjoy all of the things that need to be accomplished throughout the day rather than just slogging through them!
What advice do you have for aspiring leaders?
Embrace all opportunities, be very open to change, and don’t underestimate yourself.