The new president of the American Bar Association was in Tulsa on Wednesday to familiarize herself with the city and The University of Tulsa’s College of Law. Mary Smith is the first Native American woman to lead the ABA and said she chose Oklahoma for her first official stop as president, in part, because her grandmother grew up in Westville near Tahlequah.
Smith visited Greenwood Rising and TU’s Oklahoma Center for the Humanities before participating in a question-and-answer session with TU Law students. A former CEO of Indian Health Service, she also met with representatives from two of Oklahoma’s tribes.
Among other topics, she addressed the impact of the McGirt ruling, the Indian Civil Rights Act, the Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act and Tribal sovereignty. “It’s a complicated area of law, and there are very much highs and lows,” Smith said. She discussed the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in the legal field. The ABA has formed a leadership academy for lawyers of color and encourages people from underrepresented groups to consider a career in law.
Smith also spoke about how attorneys are using artificial intelligence to quickly perform routine functions and how policies can help guide ethics and the use of tools like ChatGPT. She does not want to see the United States fall behind other countries, so her organization has formed a task force to create a framework regarding the proper use of AI for attorneys.
Smith encouraged the students to enjoy their time in law school, explore all the different opportunities in the legal field and not put too much pressure on themselves. “Take advantage of internships, summer jobs,” she told students, who were gathered in the Price & Turpen Courtroom for the lunch-hour session. “Even as an intern, you can make a difference.”
TU Law Dean Oren Griffin said the students were energized by Smith’s visit and that it was an honor for the president of the American Bar Association to visit TU’s College of Law during its centennial. “We were really excited to have President Smith visit The University of Tulsa College of Law. Her comments regarding civility, the rule of law, and the future of artificial intelligence were well received by our students,” Griffin said.