With an inspiring personal story of persistence and determination, AllynMarie Smedley today is emerging as one of Southern New Jersey's leading young matrimonial lawyers. Still in her late 30s Smedley ("It's 'Ali' to almost everyone") already has valuable litigation experience, and she has taken the reins - and the ownership risks - of one of the region's more respected family law practices. In October 2015 Trace Jenkins of Woodbury became Smedley & Lis LLC, in the same Euclid Street offices in Woodbury; Smedley has brought the practice a new energy and direction, while former principals Mary Cay Trace and Tom Jenkins continue to play important roles as of counsel to the firm. "Yes, the chairs have been re-arranged a bit," says Smedley. "But we have the same culture of focusing on realistic, practical and constructive outcomes for our clients." For Smedley, with no special connections or privileges, it's been a remarkable ride, even for someone early in a career: She juggled retail jobs and absorbed long South Jersey commutes to push herself through both undergraduate college and, later, law school. She landed at Trace & Jenkins after a clerkship, and has worked nowhere else. She was drawn to the specialty in part, she says, by personal experience: She and her brother's own parents divorced when she was eight. "We had the typical every-other-weekend parenting schedule, but both my mom and dad were always there for me," she says. "That experience definitely has given me unique perspective." In the ensuing years, aided in part by a confident, outgoing personality, she built her own identity as a capable litigator and negotiator. She grew up in largely rural Tabernacle in Burlington County ("Very much out of the way, lots of unpaved roads at that time") and played softball at Lenape High School in Medford after moving to Mount Laurel in 1990. On graduation, and feeling pressure to both leave the area - and stay - "I really wasn't sure what I wanted to do" and enrolled at nearby Stockton State. She took multiple jobs - one at Wawa, another at Burger King - working her way through as she majored in marketing, hopeful for a job in the field after getting her degree. But, married nine months out of school, she took a non-marketing position with Helzberg Diamonds in Deptford Township. After less than a year there, one day she was rear-ended by a careless driver; her back injury required a six-week recovery. "I was lucky in a way - the disability leave gave me time to reflect and consider what I really wanted to do." After being transferred to the Moorestown location, Smedley was encouraged by her managers and peers at the jewelry store to begin evening law school at Widener in Wilmington; her grueling home-work-school commute was just another obstacle, but Smedley got her law degree in four years of part time evening classes. Her work colleagues and managers became "like family to me - they were invested in my future no less than I was. They saw me through it." All of that while she gave birth to her daughter, Abby, in July 2004. The following year Smedley took a judicial clerkship with Family Court Judge Harold U. Johnson, where she got her first taste of matrimonial law. It was Johnson who referred her to Mary Cay Trace, who, with Tom Jenkins, "became great mentors - they worked hard, weren't rigid, always gave constructive guidance. They made you want to work hard." Over the next ten years Smedley built her practice - and reputation - as an effective young divorce lawyer, particularly in Gloucester, Burlington, Camden, Cumberland and Salem counties; when Trace and Jenkins elected, after 30 years, to cut their pace, Smedley and her younger partner, Kristin M. Lis, stepped up. "I think every lawyer reaches a point where they ask themselves, 'How much more day-to-day management do I want to do?' Their faith in us was a huge vote of confidence." The transition, they say, has been free of major stresses, a testament in part to Smedley's hands-on nature. Says she: "We are still very much a team" as Trace and Jenkins continue to practice with them. Today Smedley is on the board of Gateway Community Action Partnership, a Bridgeton-based nonprofit focusing on addressing family poverty. She also organizes an annual 5k scholarship fundraiser in memory of the life of an uncle who was a teacher, William Nace. Smedley and her husband Chris, a retail manager, live with their 11-year-old daughter Abby in nearby West Deptford.