By BEN SANCHEZ
Business Journal Writer
The path to discovering one’s passion and purpose can be a struggle for many individuals. For Temica Smith, Family and Criminal Law Attorney, there was a distinct desire to study law at an early age.
“Since third grade I always wanted to do criminal law,” Smith said. During her ribbon cutting, family members commented that at a young age her goal was to be a judge. Smith maintains that goal today, as she continues to pursue that dream. “I know I want to be a judge. There is no doubt in my mind.”
When Smith embarked on the journey to attain a law degree, she never thought it would lead to opening up her own business.
“They don’t teach you how to start a business in school,” she said. “I never understood what that would encompass. Each step was scary — I am still learning what I need to do in order to run my business.”
As a young, African-American single mother, Smith started practicing law in 2013, but her journey to Stockton was not without hardships.
Raised in Livermore, she was the first in her family to attend college. At California State University, Stanislaus, she worked tirelessly in school as a single mother, earning a bachelor and master’s degree in Criminology. Several people told Smith that she would never accomplish her goal to become an attorney if she was a single mother. Her daughter had a health condition that kept her in and out of the hospital in Modesto, while Smith continued her studies.
“I was right there in the hospital with my daughter. I studied there because I was determined to be an attorney. I could only miss class twice, but I knew I had to be here with my daughter.”
Commuting from Modesto to Stockton, Smith was attending Humphreys University, Drivon School of Law for her Juris Doctorate degree in law. “The more people told me I couldn’t do it, I felt more compelled to move forward and accomplish it,” Smith said. “I tell girls today, you can do whatever you want to do. I tell my daughter that now. If you want to accomplish it, you can.”
Smith built an impressive career in a short time, working an internship with the District Attorney’s Office in Sacramento County, and passing the California Bar Examination on her first attempt. Eventually she decided to stay in Stockton and practice with Gilbert Somera, a Stockton native and local trial attorney.
Somera focuses his law practice on DUI and Criminal Defense, Civil Rights, and Personal Injury. He would allow her to take family law cases at his office and mentor her until she was ready to start her own practice.
“I never imagined I would do family law. I had to teach myself family law because I had been studying criminal law,” Smith said. “Gil allowed me to work at his office and I learned so much from him. I was honored to be a part of it.”
Within that short timeframe, Smith branched out on her own, working off of Channel Street for the past two years in Downtown Stockton before relocating into a larger office on Grand Canal Boulevard. “The workload was increasing and I needed to start hiring a team to keep up. We had interns, but it wasn’t enough. I was afraid we expanded too fast,” Smith said.
However, the new staff streamlined the firm’s operations and she now has more time to spend with her daughter. “I was just afraid to expand too fast, but my employees have been fantastic. It feels overwhelming to run my own office, but with my new team in place, I am confident we can continue our positive work in the community.”
With the business growing at a remarkable pace through word of mouth in the community, Smith brings interns from local high schools to provide opportunities to students willing to learn the profession. “I want those interns to start getting hands-on experience early in their career. I want them to have opportunities in our community,” Smith said.
Her no-nonsense, honest, down-to-earth approach with clients has earned her a spot as one of the top attorneys in the Central Valley.
“I never turn down a case. I love what I do. I love coming to work and making the clients feel comfortable with my approach to law. I want to give them hope.”