Wayne Law student gains valuable experience with Prosecutor's Office


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Aubrie Smith started her career trajectory with a BBA in marketing, summa cum laude, from Northwood University in Midland.

“Obtaining a business degree was a great first step to learning how to network, form business connections, get comfortable pitching ideas in front of a crowd—and get them rejected—as well as learning entrepreneurial skills in case the legal world led me to opening my own practice,” she says.

“I’d heard horror stories of people who got undergraduate degrees in pre-law subjects, but then didn’t end up going to law school, or didn’t like practicing. I liked business, marketing, and social media analytics. I knew the skills I would take away from a business degree would help me in the legal field, but also wouldn’t hurt me if I eventually decided practicing law wasn’t for me.”

She is, however, on track with Lady Justice, and is a rising 2L at Wayne Law, where she particularly appreciates the student body.

“Choosing a school, getting caught up in rumored horror stories, and then starting in a pandemic—it was easy to be come engulfed by the unknown,” she says. “I couldn’t have felt more comforted and welcomed by all of the wonderful upperclassmen who went out of their way to guide our hectic 1L year. I truly felt Wayne was a warm environment, welcoming and encouraging every student with the same caliber.”

At her core, she says, she is an analytical advocate.

“I feel at my best when I’m helping people solve their problems in a way they weren’t able to themselves—whether that be with time, resources, or through the law,” she says. “With that type of advocacy as my natural state, as well as an inherent interest in improving the social mechanisms associated with our criminal justice system, studying law was always a natural fit.”

Currently, her two particular areas of interest are criminal defense and family law.

“Criminal defense has always been my main interest, but I also feel a strong pull towards practice areas like family law, juvenile advocacy, or even helping communities on a bigger scale through areas like public health law,” she says.

One highlight of her 1L year was serving as a 1L representative for the Student Board of Governors.

“Having a direct line to individuals who can make a difference from posed student concerns, and having a hand in that change, really connected me to the school during our virtual year,” she says. “As secretary, I look forward to continuing the connections I’ve made with fellow students and administration and having a greater part in the growth of Wayne Law.”

Being a part of the Criminal Law Society and National Lawyers Guild student organizations this past year provided the opportunity to meet other students with similar interests and collaborate on ideas for how to get involved.

“Moving to a new city for law school, as well as being virtual, left me feeling very disoriented,” she says. “Student organizations like these help me band together with like-minded classmates and jump start my involvement in the Detroit legal system.”

A member of the Women’s Law Caucus, Smith notes the legal field is still predominately male.

“Being a first-generation law student—first-generation student in general—as well as a woman, the anticipation of being met with challenges was inevitable,” she says. “Joining the Women’s Law Caucus was a direct way to relieve that anxiety and speak to individuals with similar anticipation.

“The WLC was an amazing place to get access to upperclassmen and licensed attorneys with words of advice, resources, and a wealth of knowledge to share. This upcoming year, I have the privilege of being the vice president of Community Relations for WLC and I’m so excited to offer the same experiences to other students and help them connect with their community and future careers.”    

Wanting to learn about Mock Trial as early as possible, Smith volunteered to be a Mock Trial witness.

“But it turned into so much more than that,” she says. “I was paired with two amazing upperclassmen who introduced me to other student organizations and gave me the ins and outs of the mock trial program. Being a witness also it allowed me to visit campus more than I would have had the opportunity otherwise. Being a witness played huge role in my choice to join the Mock Trial team this upcoming year, and I’m beyond excited to see where it takes me.”

Smith has been interning this summer with the Convictions Integrity Unit at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, looking into factual claims of innocence and investigating their validity, as well as any new evidence that has come to light since the conviction.

“This has been an amazing opportunity to advocate for individuals claiming wrongful incarceration,” she says. “My mentor through the CIU is such an inspiring woman and I cannot thank her enough for the wisdom that she has shared in such a short summer internship.”

Smith also has been working as a law clerk for Cripps & Silver, a criminal defense firm in Detroit.

“I can’t express how beneficial this position has been,” she says. “Getting to work hands-on within one of my interested practice areas has solidified my excitement to practice and given me a group of attorneys who promote my growth every day.”

Her post-graduation goal is to become a litigation attorney for a criminal defense or family law practice.

“Eventually, I’d love to work in the post-conviction world doing work similar to an innocence project—working on claims of innocence,” she says. “However, I’m also really focusing on not casting too small of a net. Areas like juvenile justice and public health law are still on my list. I’m a firm believer in everything happening for a reason and, though I have specific area-related goals, I’m also open gaining experience that may alter those goals.”

Since she enjoys studying in a coffee shop or library, the pandemic had a direct effect on study habits and ability to focus on tasks.

“That being said, I tried to keep a very positive mindset on remote studies throughout the year and generally have a grateful attitude about slowing the spread of COVID-19 and going to a school that offered remote learning,” she says.

“Truly, the hardest thing about being home—was that I wasn’t home. I moved to Detroit for school and was unable to get out of my lease when we went fully remote. That type of isolation was tough. Looking forward, I’m hoping to be able to connect more with other students and engage with extra-curriculars like Women’s Law Caucus and Mock Trial on a more personalized level—no matter what format our education is in starting fall.”

Smith found that hobbies became an interesting thing during the pandemic.

“I’ve definitely embraced my inner homebody,” she says. “I love to camp, hike, and kayak as much as possible—but I usually can be found curled up with a book or deep-diving a true crime case through podcasts and documentaries.” 

The youngest of six girls, she is the only legal eagle in the family—“but they are all very supportive of the path I’ve chosen,” she says.

“No two of my siblings are the same, so coming from a large blended family—all of my siblings are half siblings—there has always been an amazing mix of personality and individual drive. My parents are very driven, motivated individuals who instilled an amazing work ethic in all of us through pure example—I attribute that to my goals and aspirations and my now-inability to let anything come between myself and my passions.”     

A native of the Bay City area, Smith now makes her home in midtown Detroit—and moving to the Motor City during a pandemic was definitely an odd experience, she says with a smile.

“Though I don’t quite feel like I’ve gotten the full Detroit experience yet, I’ve really enjoyed my time here. The people I’ve met, the entertainment, the scenes, and sense of community in such a big city has been really inspiring.”

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