Second chance: Law student sets her sights on becoming a prosecuting attorney

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Lori Mireles-Smith got hooked on the idea of a legal career path during the heyday of the popular TV drama “L.A. Law.” But life had other plans for her, and she spent two decades in Order Processing/Software Licensing Management in the CAE Engineering field.

Six years ago, with her sons in their teens, Mireles-Smith sat down and pictured what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.

“I knew it was time to go back, get that law degree, and do what I had always wanted to do—practice law,” she says. “My boys are 19 and 21 now so it was the perfect time.”

From the very outset at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, Mireles-Smith knew she was destined for Criminal Law. An externship at the Wayne County
Prosecutor’s Office, and completion of the school’s Criminal Trial Clinic provided experience with both prosecution and defense.

“While I’ve liked both, prosecution seems the best fit for me,” she says.

In May, she interned full time in the Warrants Division of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office; and in late June, moved to the Major Drug Unit.

“I’ve loved my time here so far, and I’ve gotten a lot of great experience,” she says. “I’m very excited to keep learning and practicing the legal skills I’ve acquired. I’ve done a lot of research and written several motions. I’ve been on the record for everything from arraignments to sentencing—and almost everything in between. It’s so exciting to put everything I’ve been learning to work.”

Recently awarded a paid internship position, Mireles-Smith hopes eventually to be hired as an assistant prosecuting attorney.

“Kym Worthy is an inspiration and I’d like to keep doing that for as long as possible—keep climbing that ladder,” she says. “I’m not saying I would turn down the chance to be a judge, but if that doesn’t happen that would be okay.”

Detroit Mercy Law has been an excellent fit for this 4L evening student who is on track to graduate next May.

“If not for their evening program, law school would not have been possible for me,” she says. “I was able to keep working full time to support my family for the first three years while getting my legal education. The faculty and staff have been very helpful and supportive. I wouldn’t be at the Prosecutor’s Office without their connections.”

Always a “joiner,” Mireles-Smith enjoys participating in many different activities.

“Honestly, I love being a big fish in a little pond,” she says. Last year she was Student Bar Association class president for the 3L and above evening class and this year served as vice president on the Executive Board. “I love being a member of the SBA—it has really helped me meet and get to know my fellow students,” she says. “It also helps me give back to the school that has done so much for me. Being a part of the planning for the events that students enjoy has been a lot of fun.”

She has been president of the Hispanic and Latino/a Law Student’s Association (HiLLSA), a Student Ambassador, a pupil on the American Inns of Court, and a member of
Moot Court, the Criminal Law Society, the Women’s Law Caucus, and Phi Alpha Delta.

“HiLLSA has allowed me to really participate in activities involving the community,” she says. “HiLLSA, along with the Hispanic Bar of Michigan, has co-sponsored a free legal clinic in St. Gabriel’s Church in Mexicantown as well as a free immigration clinic in St. Michael’s Church in Pontiac. Our group helps with organization, refreshments and client intakes. We’ve held several Taco Tuesdays at the law school to raise funds. We’ve used those funds for the clinics as well as sponsoring DACA applicants and sending money and supplies to Puerto Rico. As I continue in the legal field, I hope to continue these good works with HBAM and HiLLSA.”

A Detroit native, Mireles-Smith has lived in Westland most of her life, and also has lived in Port Huron and Ann Arbor.

“I love being in downtown Detroit and hope to move into the city someday,” she says. “I love the growth the city is experiencing and it’s great to be downtown. My family has gone to the fireworks and the parade every year for as long as I can remember and Detroit has always felt like home. I’m very happy the law school is located right in the heart of all that is happening—it’s allowed for some great opportunities that may have been unavailable otherwise.”

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