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Rachel Smith Sees Connection Between Moot Court and Legal Research and Writing


While Professor Rachel Smith is officially the faculty advisor for Moot Court, she is unofficially the student appellate advocacy organization’s biggest fan.

“They’re amazing,” Smith said.

Smith, Professor of Practice, is currently in her second year as the Moot Court faculty advisor. Although she steps in for the occasional challenging situation and serves as the “official school face” when needed, it is a rather hands off position.

“When I started as faculty advisor, some told me they didn’t need my assistance for much. They liked their independence,” Smith said. “I found that, the students, they absolutely run it themselves. It’s incredible what they accomplish and what they do.”

This has certainly been the case for the upcoming August A. Rendigs, Jr. National Product Liability Moot Court Competition. “I try to make myself available to help out,” Smith said. “I can just show up (March 30 and 31) and watch the glory that they’ve created it.”

Smith, who was hired by the College of Law as a Legal Research and Writing professor in 2004, said she had likely expressed interest in the past and was invited to fulfill the faculty advisor position when it opened last year.

It made a lot of sense to her to have a connection between the legal research and writing program and Moot Court “because the first year we teach the foundational skills that the Moot Court people are going to build on later,” she said.

“Even if someone is not planning on being a litigator, those skills are valuable and can be used in other settings,” Smith said. “I think it’s a nice continuation of those basic skills you get in the first year.”

As an Indiana University law student, Smith was not a member of the Moot Court, although she did take an upper level appellate advocacy class. The former Articles Editor of the Indiana Law Journal graduated from the Bloomington-based law school in 1993, with a joint master’s degree in Environmental Science from IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs.  

From there, the 1986 Barnard College (N.Y.) graduate spent two years as a judicial clerk for the Honorable Wade Brorby of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, whose chambers are in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Smith then worked for four years as a senior assistant attorney general with the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office, a former geology major, Smith found this to be somewhat of her “dream job,” as it allowed her to focus on environmental issues, specifically those related to water and wetlands.

After several years out west, the Cincinnati native returned home, accepting an offer to become an associate at Dinsmore & Shohl downtown. “By then I had a couple kids (now ages 14 and 15) and I thought Cincinnati was a nice compromise, having lived in New York City; Bloomington, Indiana; and Cheyenne, Wyoming,” she said. “Cincinnati had all the things I liked.”

Smith spent five years at Dinsmore, before accepting the research and writing position at the College of Law. She had long been interested in teaching this area, which was the “part of practice I enjoyed maybe the most,” she said.

“When I was finishing my clerkship, I actually applied and got an offer to teach legal research and writing back at Indiana University, which I would have loved,” Smith said. “But I thought, since I hadn’t officially practiced law outside of clerking, that that was something I needed to do first before I could come back and teach.”

In addition to teaching Legal Research and Writing, Smith taught Legal Ethics last fall. She is also the University Appeals Administrator for the entire University of Cincinnati.

Outside of UC, Smith enjoys yoga, outdoor activities and eating at the various local Indian restaurants. She also secretly likes knitting, but in light of her donations to the recent Hooding Auction, it is safe to say that the cat is out of the (knitting) bag.

By Jordan Cohen, ‘13