Leah Smith: Why I chose UofL Law

Leah Smith

Miami University (of Ohio)
B.A. English/Journalism

I was an undergrad at Miami University and didn't know exactly what field I wanted to pursue. I wasn’t interested in math or biology, but other than that, I was totally lost—until I discovered an interest in journalism. Writing gave me instant power and purpose. Working as a reporter let me share with readers my insight into a persons intimate moments of success, struggle, or shame. I was able to expose injustice,indirectly affect policy making and help to really make the world a better place.

After I graduated from college, I moved to Mississippi to work for the statewide newspaper. I had the privilege to report some unforgettable experinces: writing about the tragic indictment of Jackson’s mayor; scoring an exclusive interview with then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential primaries; and visiting with the loved ones of 13 Mississippians still missing one year after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast.

While covering the Mississippi Senate, I met the state Superintendent of Education Dr. Hank Bounds. He was young, energetic and had bold ideas about how to truly help kids who were struggling in a state known for its failing public education system. Shortly thereafter, I left the paper and joined his staff at the Mississippi Department of Education as a legislative assistant. There, I realized a new way to use my writing skills to change the world – through the law.

I saw some heartbreaking things, there. Schools in the blazing-hot Delta, one of the poorest regions of our country, were without air-conditioning. Teachers were reading passages from the Bible because they didn’t actually know how to teach in their subject area. In some places, there was actually a better chance that a child would eventually end up in prison than graduate from high school. But Dr. Bounds saw a way out for our kids by improving educational opportunities and I participated in his dream by helping to write and lobby for education legislation. Through this work, I learned that a one-word change in a statute could either save or set back school children. We worked tirelessly to make sure the law wouldn't let them down.

When Dr. Bounds was appointed Mississippi’s new Commissioner of Higher Education I moved with him to serve as his communications director. I didn't find the work of writing speeches and planning press conferences as meaningful as my other professional experiences. In my heart I knew I could do more, and I wanted to return to Kentucky to pursue a degree from UofL Law.

I have many options that I can pursue after graduating from UofL Law. More than just teaching the fundamentals, the faculty helps us understand how we can apply our legal education to make the world a better place.