Samiyyah Ali: 2016 Best and Brightest

Samiyyah Ali

Samiyyah Ali

Vanderbilt University Law School

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Undergraduate School: Duke University ’10 (A.B.); The Ohio State University ’12 (M.A.)

Undergraduate Major and Minor: Undergraduate major in Psychology, minor in International Comparative Studies. Master’s Degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During Law School: Vanderbilt Law Review (Executive Editor); Black Law Students Association (Vice President); Phi Delta Phi (Parliamentarian); VLS Ambassadors (President, Obiter Dictum Admissions Guide Editor-in Chief); Law Students for Social Justice (1L Rep.); Vanderbilt Legal Academy Scholars Program; Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership in the Professions; Dean’s List; Scholastic Excellence Awards.

Where have you interned during law school? Williams & Connolly LLP, Washington, DC (Summer 2015); Alston & Bird LLP, Atlanta, GA (Summer 2014)

What practice area will you be specializing in after graduation? I will spend two years clerking for judges of the Eastern District of Kentucky and the D.C. Circuit. Then, I hope to enter private practice working in litigation. I am presently interested in appellate, patent, and securities litigation, but I am excited to further develop my interests during my clerkships.

Why did you choose to attend law school? Growing up, I was passionate about advocacy and access. During my prior educational and work experiences, the work I found most rewarding always involved resolving complexity and empowering others to accomplish their goals. I’ve always known that law school was my next step—the ultimate opportunity and privilege to advocate and resolve issues to enable others to reach their best.

What was your favorite law school class? Regulatory State, which is our required 1L class that focuses on statutory interpretation and the key administrative law doctrines. After so many years of watching the legal field theatrically portrayed in the media (from Legally Blonde to Law & Order), I was astounded that some of the most pervasive and important legal schemes were regulated by administrative agencies (which are never mentioned on the Good Wife). I was immediately drawn to the administrative state’s ability to bridge the gap between the law and the people, as well as the complexity of its mere existence in a three-branch government. And it helped that I had a fantastic professor, Dean Kevin Stack, who brought passion to the subject each and every day.

Which attorney do you most admire? Besides Atticus Finch? There are a lot of attorneys I admire, and I’ve been blessed to meet so many inspiring practitioners. My favorite is Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Even before her nomination to the bench and as a DA, she embraced her identities and worked ruthlessly for change in her communities. She worked hard to achieve the agency to advocate for herself and others and to ensure she was well-rounded. That’s the kind of lawyer I aspire to be—always hungry for more education and passionate about pursuing justice.

What have you enjoyed most about law school? Law school has truly been a great experience. At VLS, the spirit of collegiality between my peers and the approachability of the professors cannot be overstated. I’ve enjoyed learning the intricacies of the law and developing my own interests and beliefs in an environment where others strike a perfect balance of being engaging, supportive, competitive, and inspiring. So, I will probably miss all aspects of law school, except, of course, final exams.

What word best describes your professional brand? Authenticity. I can only give who I am and what I have. So I try to contribute authentically and fully.

“I knew I wanted to go to law school when…I felt like I could do more for my community.”

“If I didn’t go to law school, I would be…a K-12 special education teacher.”

Which academic or personal achievement are you most proud of? I will be the first lawyer in my family, and for that I feel more grateful than proud. As a first generation student, I have had so much support from my family, friends, and mentors. So graduating from law school will really be a community accomplishment; we did it!

Fun fact about yourself: I played rugby in college, the position of tight head prop. I will admit that it was a little tougher than my HS Cheerleading career.

Favorite book: The Giver

Favorite movie: Center Stage

What are your hobbies? Rugby, playing the violin, attending Taylor Swift concerts, cooking, classical dance, seeing Broadway musicals, kickboxing, and all things HGTV.

What made Samiyyah such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2016?

“It is honestly difficult to describe Samiyyah’s value to the law school in so few words. She is a brilliant student and a unique individual who knows who she is and what her values are. It often seems like she is close friends with every law student in the building. She finds points of connection with everyone she meets, making them feel valued, respected, and included. Samiyyah is beloved by her peers, admired by her faculty, and there is no limit to what she is going to achieve in her lifetime.”

Chris Meyers
Director of Student Affairs
Vanderbilt Law School