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Hidden Gems: Meet Almuhtada Smith of ARS Counsel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Almuhtada Smith.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I was born and raised in the Aspen Place Projects of Passaic, New Jersey. Passaic is an urban city nestled between Newark and Paterson, and about ten miles from New York City. Although I grew up in a poverty stricken area, I always felt an abundance of love and protection thanks to my family. Despite the trouble that loomed in my neighborhood, I was always shielded from negative influences. I largely attribute my family and community for helping me become who I am today. I did well enough in school to earn an academic scholarship to Morehouse College, where I cultivated meaningful relationships and life-changing experiences. 

Morehouse men are indoctrinated with a focus on service and brotherhood, much like our most famous alum, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The “Five Wells” are also instilled in each Morehouse man – students are encouraged to be (1) well-read; (2) well-spoken; (3) well-dressed; (4) well-traveled and; (5) well-balanced. My education and experiences at Morehouse provided me with the opportunity to attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law. I immediately fell in love with the city of Los Angeles, where I’ve remained since then. After law school, I worked for several law firms, including an AM 100 ranked firm, before hanging my own shingle. I launched ARS Counsel to provide affordable, high-quality corporate, intellectual property and entertainment law services that centers and caters to Black entrepreneurs and other people of color at its core. 

In my free time I serve as the chairman of the Los Angeles Southwest College Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving community access by supporting indigenous innovation, and providing access to quality education and entrepreneurial opportunities in South LA. I also enjoy attending Lakers games, shows at the Hollywood Bowl, and outdoor activities.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
My upbringing is atypical compared to my peers in the legal profession, so the road has come with many challenges, both personally and professionally. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is coping with the untimely deaths of several family members and friends throughout college and law school. My father passed away while he was incarcerated, one of my close aunts passed suddenly, and my 17 year-old cousin passed away in a car accident. Over five people I grew up with were murdered. So juggling my studies and the grief around these losses was difficult, but ultimately made me stronger.

Another challenge during school was navigating two different worlds – my life back home and my life as a student. My conversations with peers at Morehouse and UCLA were worlds apart from my conversations with friends back home. In many ways it felt like the double-consciousness that W.E.B. Du Bois spoke of, but intraracial. Double-consciousness is the lived experience of being torn between two worlds, how you see yourself and your people versus how others in your new world see you and your people.

I graduated law school during the great recession, which was a challenge within itself. My struggle with obtaining full time employment after law school taught me the importance of being agile, as well as utilizing your network. And like many Black lawyers, I experienced numerous challenges working in spaces where I was one of very few Black people. I had to quickly learn the language, culture, and customs associated with working in those environments. No amount of preparation can properly prepare you for those challenges, but successfully navigating them is invaluable. 

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
ARS IP Law Firm, P.C. (“ARS Counsel”) is a boutique law firm that handles all facets of intellectual property, licensing, corporate, real estate and entertainment law. We are a modern law practice that combines the reach and expertise of a large firm with the personal attention and cost structure of a boutique firm. Our services support those who are designing, saving, constructing, and/or creating the culture of the “built environment.” The term built environment, or built world, refers to the human-made environment that provides the setting for human activity, ranging in scale from buildings to cities and beyond. It has been defined as “the human-made space in which people live, work and play on a day-to-day basis.”

Our Of Counsel relationships with some of the top attorneys in licensing, financing, commercial real estate, entertainment, corporate and technology adds invaluable expertise to our firm. Our primary focus is to understand a client’s objective and then achieve the best possible outcome with maximum efficiency. We are practical, creative, responsive and nimble. Whether it is closing a deal, obtaining a vital patent or trademark, or raising capital for real estate development or a tech startup, we understand that results matter and aim to deliver.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
It’s important to have several mentors and sponsors throughout your career. My best advice is to find people who are as committed to the mentorship relationship as you are. Law students and young lawyers should lean into affinity bar associations of interest. For example, I joined the John M. Langston Bar Association early in my career and was able to network with a ton of like-minded Black attorneys who have helped my career in more ways than one. There are other organizations like the Black Women Lawyers Association, the Mexican American Bar Association, and the Asian Pacific American Bar Association, just to name a few. More broadly, you can meet people through the LA County Bar Association and the Beverly Hills Bar Association, or through your school’s alumni network. I also encourage people to connect in unconventional ways with people in various sectors. As a business owner in the middle of a pandemic, I use resources like Lunchclub and LinkedIn to connect with new people. You can also utilize new social media platforms, like Clubhouse, to build relationships.

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1 Comment

  1. Mariet Arias

    March 15, 2021 at 11:33

    Great advise in mentorship as it really helps you expand in more ways than one. Proud to be from the same time as you and see how active you are in living a life of service by helping those with less access.

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