Mock trial, moot court affirm passion for advocacy

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Sharae’ Smiley found her career calling during high school when she participated in a mock trial at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice.

“I got the chance to argue and examine volunteer witnesses in front of real judges, and found the experience thrilling and exhilarating,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be a lawyer after that.”   

After graduating from Cass Tech in Detroit, Smiley earned her undergraduate degree from Michigan State University, choosing criminal justice as a major that would help prepare her for law school.

During that time, she worked as a legal intern at the Meridian Law Center in Okemos; and as a crisis line advocate for EVE (End Violent Encounters) in Lansing.   

Now in her 3L year at Wayne State University Law School, Smiley said that Mock Trial and Moot Court have affirmed her passion for advocacy and her goal for a career in litigation.

She has traveled to other states to compete as a member of the AAJ STAC National Team, and competed in the in-house winter semifinals as a Moot Court Junior member.

“I love the thrill of competition,” she said.

Smiley particularly enjoys the hands-on experience of Wayne Law’s experiential classes and programs, and has interned with two federal judges and the Wayne County prosecutor’s office, and participated in the school’s Criminal Appellate Practice Clinic.   

Her first legal job as a law student was a 2015 internship with Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Stafford in Detroit.

“I learned so much from her,” Smiley said. “Judge Stafford continuously stressed the importance of good legal writing, and encouraged me to seek out opportunities to improve those skills. She has continued to encourage me and has been like a mentor.”    

Smiley also spent five months that year facilitating weekly Legal Clinics offered through Common Ground at the Oakland Law Library.

She procured volunteer attorneys to offer pro bono consultations, and provided referrals to legal services available throughout Metro Detroit. In addition, she has worked as a crisis telephone specialist for Bloomfield Hills-based Common Ground.   

A 2016 internship with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office helped Smiley sharpen her oral advocacy skills.

“I had the invaluable experience of being on the record for a preliminary examination in front of a judge,” she said. “It’s not common for law students to get experience being on record, so I was very grateful for the opportunity.”

Smiley worked for two summers at Dickinson Wright, where she enjoyed the challenging work and autonomy while working on assignments ranging from intellectual property, commercial real estate, to nonprofit corporate work.

“This was especially rewarding because I don’t know what area of law I would like to practice after graduation,” she said. “I enjoyed the supportive environment, and am excited to join Dickinson Wright as an associate attorney in 2018.”   

Smiley was the recipient of a Judge Damon J. Keith scholarship from the Wolverine Bar Foundation.

“Judge Keith is a champion of equality, civil rights, and service to the community — so I was honored and humbled to learn I’d received the scholarship for my community service work,” she said. “The Wolverine Bar Foundation is an amazing organization that’s been instrumental to my success in law school.”   

Smiley also worked as a research assistant for assistant professor Blanche Cook, researching and drafting memorandum on implicit racial bias and its effects on the American criminal justice system.

Away from her studies, the Detroit native enjoys spending time with her family and going to the movies with her friends and fiancé.

She also finds time to volunteer and perform community service, joining her family last fall in preparing and serving Thanksgiving Dinner at the Detroit Veterans Foundation.

As a member of the school’s Black Law Students Association, Smiley helped serve dinner to the homeless at the Detroit City Rescue Mission.

Meanwhile, while serving as the BLSA Community Service chair, she organized a holiday donation drive for the YWCA Interim House, a domestic violence shelter in Detroit.

BLSA collected winter coats, gloves, hats and scarves, and toiletries for women and children, and raised more than $ 300 for the families.

“This project was very important to me since I worked at a domestic violence shelter in Lansing for a year,” she said.


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