Growing up, Tatiana (Tia) Smith was exposed to the many social and economic challenges common in underprivileged communities. As she got older, she became increasingly aware of the discrimination and injustice experienced by her friends and neighbors, which motivated her to pursue a career in human rights.
“I knew I wanted to make a difference and I want to make the world a better place for everyone. And so, in 2019, I was following politics and the news more closely than I ever had before and I didn’t really like what I was seeing. I felt like I needed to do something. It was around then that it occurred to me that maybe my best chance at making a difference was to become a lawyer,” says Smith.
Smith graduated from the University of Iowa with a BS in psychology in 2016 before continuing her education at Iowa Law in 2020.
Smith's time at Iowa Law has been marked by her active involvement in numerous student organizations. Currently serving as the DEI chair for the American Constitution Society, she is also an active member of the Citizen Lawyer Program and the Community Empowerment Law Project. As a research assistant to Dr. Brian Farrell, she assists in planning and executing human rights research, demonstrating her commitment to making a difference in people's lives.
Farrell attests to Smith's passion for advocacy and says her drive to help others does not go unnoticed.
“Tia is committed to public interest law and works hard to create opportunities for herself. I first got to know her when she volunteered to do research for the Iowa Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission. She is currently helping organize the annual Iowa Human Rights Research Conference after approaching me about her interest in the Center for Human Rights,” says Farrell.
This year, Smith is also a managing editor of the Iowa Law Review, a position she says has allowed her to take her legal skills to the next level.
“Being part of the Iowa Law Review was especially great for me because I knew little about law journals before starting law school. As a student writer and editor, I learned so much about the publication process and legal publications in general. It's a great place to start getting used to working on a team, meeting important deadlines, and living up to expectations,” she says.
The Iowa Law Review has established a remarkable reputation as one of the top-tier legal periodicals in the country. As a managing editor, Smith has made significant contributions to the publication and has developed her skills in the process.
“As a managing editor, it's critical that I pay attention to every detail, a skill that has been useful in other areas of work. I also must be able to communicate clearly to authors and other editors if there's a problem. Being a managing editor has helped to take my bluebook-ing skills to the next level because I probably have half of the Bluebook memorized by now. That has already been helpful in my internships, and I have no doubt it will be similarly useful in the future as a staff attorney,” she says.
Leveraging the skills and experiences gained at Iowa Law, Smith secured an interview with the American Constitution Society. When that position didn’t work out, she refused to let this setback impede her progress. Instead, she channeled her feelings of rejection into motivation to pursue her goal of securing a position with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
While she continued to be involved with the many clubs and student organizations at Iowa Law, Smith worked as a First Amendment Clinic Summer Fellow at Cornell Law School, and as a law clerk intern for the ACLU of Missouri. Currently, she is interning with the national ACLU.
“Our three years in law school are so short, so I’ve always tried to take advantage of all the experiences I could find. I'm a big believer in learning through experience, and my jobs have absolutely helped to prepare me for my future career. My internships, work in the CELP clinic, and volunteer positions have been the highlight of my time in law school. Through these experiences I've been able to connect with and give back to both my community and country, which is exactly why I came to law school,” she says.
After her positive experiences with the national ACLU and the ACLU of Missouri, Smith decided to apply for a staff attorney position at the ACLU of Nevada. The organization has never interviewed a student before, but with Smith’s extensive track record, they were interested.
“I had applied for a staff attorney position at the ACLU of Nevada, and they said several times that I'm the first student they've ever decided to interview, but they don't hire new grads. However, they ended up creating a fellowship position for me as a probationary period before becoming an official staff attorney,” says Smith.
Smith begins her new position on July 31st, and for her, the time can’t come soon enough.
“Working with the ACLU has always been my top choice, so I'm just so ecstatic for this opportunity,” she says.