Aaliyah Smith ’23

Daughter of immigrants. Bilingual first-generation American. Justice Seeker.

Aaliyah Smith’s mother immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic and her father from Honduras. Aaliyah started her journey to law school because as a first-generation American and first-generation higher education student she wanted to give back to her Latin community. “I had enough of watching family, friends, and members of my community face life-altering events with inadequate legal resources. I had enough of seeing the waves of helplessness as the tides of injustice and inequality took their course. So, I wanted to do more to provide for my community and help them confront the challenges they may face in the legal world. Growing up in a predominately Latin/minority neighborhood in the South Bronx, you see the works of poor resources, corruption, discrimination, and more from a young age. But in what can seem like a shadow of darkness, there are always advocates working to be a beacon of light in confronting injustice. At its core, the law field is advocacy. The legal profession provides access to a variety of possibilities to give back to the community, including advocating for victims, defending the validity of convictions, offering defendants access to resources, and so much more. A career in law gives you the tools to be the change you want to see.”

Soon after coming to Haub Law, Aaliyah became involved with the Latin American Law Student Association. “I wanted to find a community and a support group. In joining LALSA, I knew would be surrounded by people with similar backgrounds, and goals or at least have some sort of commonality with them.  When I went to the first general board meeting in my 1L year, I saw how the e-board and members treated each other like family, it was a very warm feeling and I wanted to be a part of that. I became a 1L rep, then public relations coordinator, and now president. I can confidently say that the friendships and connections I made through LALSA were God-sent; I don’t know how I would have made it through law school without my LALSA family”.

This past summer, Aaliyah interned at the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office within the Special Prosecutions Unit. For Aaliyah, this experience solidified her desire to work in the field of public interest law. “I learned the importance of communication and interconnectivity. The law is interdependent, there is always a cross-section between different areas of law happening in one case. My time in WCDA over the summer and as a student attorney with the Criminal Justice Defense Clinic has shown me the necessity of both sides. The Prosecutor as the Representative of the State and the Defense Attorney as the Voice of the Innocent until Proven Guilty. I have come to appreciate both sides of the courtroom. As a prosecutor you wear so many hats, you are an investigator, a researcher, an advocate for the victim, and more. As a defense attorney, you ensure the system does its intended purpose: to bring actual justice; not to put blame on a face or justify harsh punishment. Defense attorneys make sure that the person behind “the defendant” is seen and humanized as so much more than a label. Both Defense attorneys and Prosecutors are integral in bringing about a better and more just system. I honestly would love to work on either side post-graduation because of how necessary each side is.”