Christopher Smith

The Public Defender
Former Pace University student, Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith ’17 has wanted to be a criminal defense attorney since he was a child. “My grandfather was homeless as a child so my life experiences and family history have taught me to love equality and fight oppression,” he says. “As I grew up, I noticed the flaws in our criminal justice system and, from that point on, I knew that I wanted a career in criminal law.” 

Smith began his pursuit of a career in criminal law during college when he majored in criminal justice and minored in history and business. After college, he wanted to take some time off before he applied to law school. “I wanted to be sure that law school was the best way for me to reach my goal of pursuing justice and working in the field of criminal law,” he says. 

After graduating from college, he volunteered with AmeriCorps’s City Year Miami where he worked as a teacher. He also spent time with middle school students on the weekends through the City Year Miami Young Heroes Program. “Through City Year I learned how much of a positive impact one can have just by donating their time and attention. I also learned that the only difference between an ‘inner-city’ high school student and a suburban high school student is an opportunity,” he says. “Learning all of this before I started law school made me further appreciate every opportunity I had to pursue the law. My interest in the law was piqued at this point, so I then spent time working in a law firm as a paralegal. Ultimately, I applied to Pace.” 

Applying to Pace Law was a logical choice for him. The location of the school was one of the primary draws because Smith knew that, ultimately, he wanted to start his career in the New York area. Coupled with Pace Law’s many practical learning opportunities in the criminal law arena, it was the ideal fit. 

One such opportunity was the John Jay Legal Services Clinic, where students gain real client representation experience, serving as not the assistant, not the researcher, but the lawyer. He gives most of the credit to his time spent as a student attorney with the clinic as well as to his professors, especially professors Dorfman, Gershman, Mushlin, Doernberg, and Frankel. “The energy, experience, and dedication of my professors was exactly what I needed to gain the tools necessary to fulfill my desire to become a criminal defense attorney,” he says, adding that “spending an entire year with the clinic gave me the confidence to know that I can provide competent legal representation as an attorney my first year after law school.” 

And that’s exactly what he’s been doing when he was offered a criminal defense law graduate position with the Bronx Defenders before graduating. The Bronx Defenders, an organization that provides innovative, holistic, and client-centered criminal defense, family defense, civil legal services, social work support, and advocacy to indigent people of the Bronx. He hopes to build on the educational foundation that he established at Pace Law and grow as an attorney while pursuing his passion for criminal law. 

“I want to defend the most vulnerable population in my hometown. I want to make sure that everyone has justice available to them. To me, justice in the most basic sense means the equal treatment of all regardless of their race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Justice can also mean instituting the correct punishment to the extent one is needed and not an ounce more. Sometimes, it is easier to say what justice is not. Justice is not when a mere accusation can destroy one’s future, destabilize a family, and make a person feel hopeless. Law school, specifically Pace, helped me organize this scattered desire to help the most vulnerable members of our society into something more organized and effective.” 

Asked if he had any advice for current or future law students, he notes that you should “never forget the responsibility that comes with this blessing. And follow your heart; do what gets you going. If you are passionate about something, pursue it and someone, somewhere, will recognize that and give you an opportunity.” 

Former Pace University student, Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith ’17 has wanted to be a criminal defense attorney since he was a child. “My grandfather was homeless as a child so my life experiences and family history have taught me to love equality and fight oppression,” he says. “As I grew up, I noticed the flaws in our criminal justice system and, from that point on, I knew that I wanted a career in criminal law.” 

Smith began his pursuit of a career in criminal law during college when he majored in criminal justice and minored in history and business. After college, he wanted to take some time off before he applied to law school. “I wanted to be sure that law school was the best way for me to reach my goal of pursuing justice and working in the field of criminal law,” he says. 

After graduating from college, he volunteered with AmeriCorps’s City Year Miami where he worked as a teacher. He also spent time with middle school students on the weekends through the City Year Miami Young Heroes Program. “Through City Year I learned how much of a positive impact one can have just by donating their time and attention. I also learned that the only difference between an ‘inner-city’ high school student and a suburban high school student is an opportunity,” he says. “Learning all of this before I started law school made me further appreciate every opportunity I had to pursue the law. My interest in the law was piqued at this point, so I then spent time working in a law firm as a paralegal. Ultimately, I applied to Pace.” 

Applying to Pace Law was a logical choice for him. The location of the school was one of the primary draws because Smith knew that, ultimately, he wanted to start his career in the New York area. Coupled with Pace Law’s many practical learning opportunities in the criminal law arena, it was the ideal fit. 

One such opportunity was the John Jay Legal Services Clinic, where students gain real client representation experience, serving as not the assistant, not the researcher, but the lawyer. He gives most of the credit to his time spent as a student attorney with the clinic as well as to his professors, especially professors Dorfman, Gershman, Mushlin, Doernberg, and Frankel. “The energy, experience, and dedication of my professors was exactly what I needed to gain the tools necessary to fulfill my desire to become a criminal defense attorney,” he says, adding that “spending an entire year with the clinic gave me the confidence to know that I can provide competent legal representation as an attorney my first year after law school.” 

And that’s exactly what he’s been doing when he was offered a criminal defense law graduate position with the Bronx Defenders before graduating. The Bronx Defenders, an organization that provides innovative, holistic, and client-centered criminal defense, family defense, civil legal services, social work support, and advocacy to indigent people of the Bronx. He hopes to build on the educational foundation that he established at Pace Law and grow as an attorney while pursuing his passion for criminal law. 

“I want to defend the most vulnerable population in my hometown. I want to make sure that everyone has justice available to them. To me, justice in the most basic sense means the equal treatment of all regardless of their race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Justice can also mean instituting the correct punishment to the extent one is needed and not an ounce more. Sometimes, it is easier to say what justice is not. Justice is not when a mere accusation can destroy one’s future, destabilize a family, and make a person feel hopeless. Law school, specifically Pace, helped me organize this scattered desire to help the most vulnerable members of our society into something more organized and effective.” 

Asked if he had any advice for current or future law students, he notes that you should “never forget the responsibility that comes with this blessing. And follow your heart; do what gets you going. If you are passionate about something, pursue it and someone, somewhere, will recognize that and give you an opportunity.”