As a member of the Pro Bono Scholars Program, Spencer Smith ’19 has already taken the bar exam—and passed. He also participated in the Criminal Defense and Advocacy Clinic. He then spent his spring semester working at Youth Represent, assisting clients between the ages of 16 and 24 who may have faced discrimination for having criminal records, clearing and fixing their records when possible. Smith previously worked with the organization in his second year of law school through the Youth Reentry and Legal Services Clinic.
In other words, Smith is clearly making the most of his law school experience, and he hasn’t let anything stop him—including his wheelchair. He was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a rare neuromuscular condition, as a child, and he said that his clients’ initial judgments about his use of a wheelchair change when they see his confidence in his work.
In fact, he recently shared his passion for social justice and his dream of becoming a public defender with Brain & Life, a publication of the American Academy of Neurology.
“My experiences at Brooklyn Law School, particularly in the clinics, have shown me that working with issues around incarceration is truly what I want to be doing,” he said. “I want to be a public defender so I can be at the front end of that problem, making sure clients walk away without a criminal record or adding to one.” After graduation, Smith will be working as a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society in New York City.
“I am thrilled that Spencer has chosen to pursue defender work and already consider myself fortunate to call him a colleague,” said Professor Kate Mogulescu, who directs the Criminal Defense and Advocacy Clinic.
Smith credits his parents, his community, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, college, and friends with helping him overcome his challenges. He is involved with the New York chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and volunteers his time to speak to donors, the community, and teenagers with SMA who are beginning to navigate the challenges of college and work. He hopes that one day he and his wife, Krystnell Storr, can raise their children much as his own parents did.
“My parents didn’t let anything stop me,” he said, “and they raised me to be an advocate for myself. I’ve been fortunate to have received tremendous support throughout my life, and that’s inspired me to give back.”