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Father and daughter graduate law school together

Father and daughter Tim and Sarah Smith graduated from The University of Akron School of Law last December after spending their entire time in law school together. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Smith).

Legal News Reporter

Published: January 25, 2019

Two recent graduates of The University of Akron School of Law are giving new meaning to the phrase “following in your parents’ footsteps.”

Father and daughter Tim and Sarah Smith graduated from Akron Law last December after spending their entire time in law school together.

“Personally I thought it was the coolest thing ever,” said Sarah’s father Tim. “I never knew anyone who went to law school with their child, but I thought it was a phenomenal experience.

“We sat together in class a lot,” he said. “I would bring Sarah coffee.”

“I am really happy the way things worked out,” said Sarah. “We were able to share materials and commiserate over some of the more difficult aspects of law school. It was very exciting and fun.”

It all began in early 2014 when Sarah came home from work one night and found her father studying for the LSAT.

“My dad wanted to go to law school for a long time, but I was not thinking about it until I picked up his book and started looking at the problems,” said Sarah. “I thought the questions were fun and it piqued my interest.”

“Sarah said the questions were kind of like puzzles and she loves solving puzzles,” said Tim. “I think she started thinking about law school right then and there.”

Sarah, who received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from The University of Akron, was working as a benefits coordinator/HR business partner at TTI Floor Care at the time.

“In addition to enjoying the LSAT problems, I realized that a law degree was very relevant to what I was doing,” she said. “I decided to study for the LSAT with my father and see where things would go from there.”

Sarah and Tim took the LSAT together in June 2014, doing well on the exam and applying to one school, Akron Law.

“We were not sure it would work out, but it did,” said Sarah.

They began law school in the fall of 2015, taking night classes because they both had day jobs.

Sarah left TTI Floor Care but started working part time as a paralegal in the Canton office of Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co.

Tim continued his job as a patent agent at GOJO Industries in Akron.

“I had an electrical engineering degree from The University of Akron,” said Tim. “I loved engineering, but with my then current job, I was traveling too much. I needed to make a change, but I did not want to forego the technical aspects of what I was doing. I decided to become a patent agent in 2000.

“I was planning to apply to law school in 2009, but my wife was diagnosed with cancer. That put the brakes on my plans. After her full recovery, I decided to follow through with my goal of going to law school.”

As 1Ls, the two found themselves taking the same required courses, but Sarah said students and professors did not realize they were father and daughter.

“With a last name like Smith, which is pretty common, it probably did not occur to people,” she said. “My dad and I don’t look alike either. In the last class that we took as a 3L, someone who had been in many of our previous classes was surprised to discover we were father and daughter.”

Akron Law Associate Clinical Professor Gary Spring said Sarah and Tim were the first father and child students that he ever taught.

“Tim and Sarah were in my Civil Procedure I and II classes and I did not realize they were related until the end of my Civil Procedure II class,” said Spring, who serves as the director of the Small Entrepreneur and Economic Development (SEED) Clinic.

“They were both very professional, top-flight students,” he said. “Sarah was a more traditional law student, but I give Tim Smith a lot of credit for coming back and keeping up with the younger students. Tim was also in my Negotiations class without Sarah.”

“Since Akron Law has been around for almost 100 years, it’s likely that the Smiths are not the first parent-child combination to attend the School of Law at the same time,” said Akron Law Dean Christopher J. (C.J.) Peters. “However, it is very rare, to say the least, that a parent and child would begin their JD studies simultaneously at the same law school and ultimately graduate together. We are frankly not sure whether this has ever happened before at Akron Law. 

“What is much more common is that children, grandchildren, and other relatives will follow in the footsteps of their family members who have attended Akron Law. I can think of at least eight families with three or more members who are Akron Law alumni.” 

Having received their juris doctor degrees, Tim and Sarah are now studying for the bar exam together, which they will take in February.

As for their legal goals, those are not the same. Tim is planning to remain at GOJO Industries, but serve as a patent attorney. Sarah, who has moved out of her family’s Akron home and lives in Warren, is a law clerk for 11th Ohio District Court of Appeals Judge Cynthia Westcott Rice.

Sarah did intern at GOJO Industries during the summer of 2018, but her plan is to serve as Judge Rice’s judicial attorney once she passes the bar.

“I love what I am doing now,” said Sarah. “Research and writing are my strengths and my calling is to work for a judge since those skill sets match what is required.”