Alumna thrives as director of litigation practice at Smucker’s
When Jaclyn Bryk ’04 began applying for law school, her Buckeye physician father gave her just two rules: “You can’t sue doctors, and you can’t go to Michigan.” With an illustrious litigation career, a strong work ethic, and even a winning case against Michigan, Bryk has repeatedly made her Buckeye family proud.
Currently practicing as the director and managing counsel of litigation at The J. M. Smucker Company, Bryk succeeded in each of her previous roles, rising quickly in the industry as a young associate given responsibility beyond her years.
After a brief stint in a small Cleveland firm out of law school, Bryk joined a boutique litigation firm, Flaherty Sensabaugh Bonasso, in Charleston, West Virginia. “I really got my start and honed my craft in Charleston,” said Bryk. “I worked on high profile cases, including West Virginia Univ. Bd. Of Governors v. Rodriguez, where WVU sued Rich Rodriguez for breaking contract when he took the head football coaching job at Michigan.”
“When the case started, my boss asked me if I had heard of Rich Rodriguez, and I said no. I’m a Buckeye. Given my Buckeye background, he thought I was perfect for the case involving Michigan,” said Bryk, who worked as the associate from drafting the complaint to the settling agreement.
“I went to depositions, built a team to do discovery, and even wrote the motions,” said Bryk. “The case was my life, but it was a lot of fun to go up against Michigan. Not only was it a fun subject matter, but it was an amazing opportunity to be given a huge responsibility as such a young associate,” she said. “It taught me good instincts, and it taught me how to win. We ended up getting the full value of the buyout. Rodriguez owed $4 million and he paid every penny,” said Bryk. “It’s a case that made my career and got me to the next level.”
Bryk moved back to Ohio in 2009, where she began as an associate at the Cleveland law firm of Tucker, Ellis & West, representing drug manufacturers and focusing on medical and pharmaceutical liability for multi-national drug litigation.
“I hit it off with the general counsel and other members of Smucker’s legal department during a meeting with my firm regarding its litigation needs,” said Bryk. “They called me six months later and invited me to interview for a position heading up litigation.”
“I had only been practicing about seven years when I took the position at Smucker’s,” she said. “It was really intimidating to be the first litigator in a company that was so fast growing. Smucker’s had grown from a $500 million dollar company to a $4 billion dollar company in a span of about six years before I started, and is now valued at about $8-9 billion.”
Focusing on class action litigation, Bryk has become known as an industry leader for successfully taking Proposition 65 cases to trial. “I have a huge practice that spans all the way from New York to California,” she said. “I spend a lot of time on the road, but I love my job and, I love my company. I’m extremely happy and couldn’t have ended up in a better place. Smucker’s is the perfect fit for me professionally.”
“I hope to continue to protect my company as it grows and make good, positive differences to ensure we have a court system that applies laws justly and stands up to frivolous litigation,” said Bryk, regarding her plans for the future. “Otherwise, I’ve learned to take things day-by-day. Sometimes when we focus too much on where we’re going, we lose sight of what’s important. The best things happen when you take things as they come, put your nose to the grindstone, and do the best with what you’re given.”