Vanderbilt University Law School student Bria Smith, a recent recipient of the Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP Diversity Scholarship, spoke with Attorney at Law Magazine about her aspirations and plans for the future.
AALM: What first drew you to law?
BS: The first case I ever read was my father’s appeal. It was my sophomore year of high school and I became curious about why he was incarcerated. Among the many feelings that it produced was a frustration that I didn’t fully comprehend what I had read. I said then that I would return to his appeal when I better understood the law. While I don’t see myself in a criminal practice, that was the event that initially piqued my interest.
AALM: You have been very active in various organizations promoting and fostering diversity. Can you tell us a bit about these experiences?
BS: I served as a 1L representative for OutLaw this year. The organization worked hard to foster relationships between the LGBT community and its allies in the law school. The support I found there helped ease my transition into law school and I’m looking forward to repaying that kindness during my 2L year when I’ll be serving as the vice president of the organization.
AALM: Please tell us a little about your experience at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.
BS: Detroit, like many places across the nation suffers from a backlog of untested sexual assault kits. Eleven thousand kits were found in an abandoned police facility. The Wayne County Prosecutor was dedicated to getting those kits tested and prosecuting where possible. My first exposure to the legal field was spending a summer as an intern with the team of prosecutors and investigators assigned specifically to those cases. While I learned many news skills that summer, I think the time I spent in the courtroom watching trials was invaluable.
AALM: Is there a book, movie or event that impacted your decision to study law or in some way affected your attitude toward it?
BS: My undergraduate institution does a program where all of the incoming students read the same book. The year I started the assigned reading was Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy.” Although I knew I wanted to be a lawyer, there were none in my family nor had I ever met one. Reading his book, and watching him speak on campus, inspired me by showing me the transformative power of the law and by showing me that there is room in the profession for people who look like me.
AALM: What are you most looking forward to with your upcoming Bradley clerkship?
BS: Many of the attorneys who come to speak at Vanderbilt are in agreement that the practice of law looks very different from what you do in law school. My upcoming Bradley clerkship will provide me with the opportunity to survey the everyday workings of many different practice areas and decide where I envision myself after graduation. I’m most excited to see if I find myself interested in an area that I had not previously considered.
AALM: How do you relax? Do you have hobbies?
BS: While incredibly rewarding, the first year of law school can also be challenging at times. Luckily, my law school is located in a gorgeous city. Nashville has so many great ways to relax. I’ve been enjoying everything from live music venues to long hikes with others in my section.