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UH Law Center 2L Sarah Smati earns Vinson & Elkins Diversity Fellow

Neil Segel

2L Sarah Smati

May 20, 2022 – Sarah Smati was recently awarded the Vinson & Elkins Diversity Fellowship, placing her alongside 17 second-year scholars from 13 different law schools in the United States to gain hands-on experience at a Vinson & Elkins law firm.

“It has been amazing to receive support in diversity both from UH and from Vinson & Elkins,” Smati stated. “UH has an extraordinary support system for students of all backgrounds, and I have certainly benefitted from the mentorship of my peers and professors so far in law school."

Awarded $25,000 and a clerkship as a summer associate at the Houston-based Vinson & Elkins office, the fellowship will allow her to work with mentors to develop a deeper understanding of 3-4 specific fields of law while gaining real-world experience and skills.

“She is tenacious in her studies, turning a subject inside out in a way that is really quite extraordinary,” Sandra Guerra Thompson, Newell H. Blakely Chair and Professor of Law said. “Her diligence is going to bring energy and a lot of talent to the job, and I know they will greatly benefit from having her on their team this summer.”

A first-generation law student and a Houston native, Smati is returning for the second summer as a fellow to the largest, and one of the oldest, law firms in the city to attend workshops, panels and conferences and learn what to expect and how to excel in chosen careers.

“This past summer when I was at Vinson & Elkins, I gained exposure to both litigation and transactional law, rotating through commercial litigation, energy transactions, and mergers and acquisitions,” Smati said. “I was also able to work on pro bono projects, which was an incredibly rewarding experience.”

Still undecided, Smati is approaching the law from all angles, taking on extra courses, serving on the international law journal and pursuing a federal judicial internship to discover her specialty. At V&E she will work directly with clients, network with professionals and benefit from the experience and advice of mentors paired with her throughout the summer.

“Everyone is dedicated to the summer associates at V&E and really wants to see us thrive,” Smati said. “The mentorship I have received at this firm has been exceptional, and I am very excited to go back to such an inclusive environment, to continue to develop my skills and figure out what I want to do long term as a lawyer.”

Smati will rotate through practice groups with a focus on litigation, anticipating a broader range of pro bono projects and an introduction to more ideas, thought processes, technical skills and opportunities to apply knowledge that will prove invaluable to her legal career.

“It is hard to develop a solid understanding of the law just from class itself when you are studying theories,” Smati said. “Internships provide hands-on experiences that are critical to bringing it all together, and my time at V&E so far has been instrumental in shaping my understanding of the law and legal profession.”