Best school for Native American law?

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Banosby
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Best school for Native American law?

Postby Banosby » Sun Jan 05, 2014 8:47 pm

I'm not really sure if this is the correct subforum, but does anyone have any insight into whether, when choosing a law school for the express purpose of working in Native American Law, it matters whether the school has an explicit Native American law program?

A friend is planing on applying next year and already has an LSAT score that'll get them into schools that have Native American law programs, but I suspect that beyond the obvious 'maybe they'll change their mind' reason for retaking and getting into a higher-ranked school, going to a school with one of these programs doesn't particularly jump out at employers as a positive. But I'm just a 2L with no knowledge of that particular field, so I don't really know what I'm talking about and thought someone around here might a better idea.

So...anyone work in Native American law? Or otherwise have some idea?

Arcticlynx
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby Arcticlynx » Sun Jan 05, 2014 8:55 pm

I know University of Arizona has a good curriculum in Native American Law, and a Native American specific clinic program which could be helpful for experience. But beyond that I don't really know much.

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twenty
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby twenty » Sun Jan 05, 2014 8:59 pm

Native American law (which is not actually a thing, but okay) usually either means wanting to practice law in predominantly NA communities, or to work in policy (i.e, Indian Affairs, DoI, USDA, some NGO). The latter definitely does not require, or even prefer a law degree. For the former, the ideal choice is attending the best school in your region for as close to free as possible.

A T14 while taking on a lot of debt seems like a really bad idea unless there's a super specific PI-oriented field your friend is interested in AND has connections to. Even then, would probably be better off going to a regional school for close to free.

Curriculum is not going to matter lots here.

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BlueLotus
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby BlueLotus » Sun Jan 05, 2014 9:03 pm

CU Boulder has a NA Law clinic.

But I would not go unless free or close to it, ITE.

Arcticlynx
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby Arcticlynx » Sun Jan 05, 2014 9:08 pm

And so does South Dakota (at least according to their website). I would think the biggest consideration would be which tribes your friend wants to work with and where they are located... The tribe may or may not already have a connection with a specific law school, in which case your friend probably wants to go to that specific school in order to develop a relationship with the tribe. Unless he/she already has a relationship, in which case disregard.

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worldtraveler
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby worldtraveler » Sun Jan 05, 2014 9:09 pm

What exactly does he want to do? Work on legal aid on a res or on policy work in DC? Arizona has far and away the best Native Law program.

I have a good friend who works in this area. Getting into the field will in large part depend on whether you're a member of a tribe or have connections. It is a really interesting area to work in, but due to funding issues a lot of legal aid and non-profit agencies doing this kind of work are not hiring very many new attorneys. You also have to be willing to work in the middle of nowhere.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Jan 05, 2014 9:36 pm

Due respect to twentypercent, Indian law is a thing. I agree with most of what everyone else has said about the kind of work available, but there are also firms that work exclusively with tribes, particularly in economic development (esp. gaming) and/or natural resource issues. Those jobs are more traditionally business (or energy) lawyer-y type jobs, but also require understanding the jurisdictional and trust-relationship issues in Indian law. My impression is that this kind of work is becoming much more significant, compared to the traditional civil rights/land rights cases that dominated Indian law in the 60s/70s/80s.

My impression is that the Indian law community is pretty small, and that going to school in the region where you'd want to work is important (as others have said). I also have the impression that a lot of the profs working in Indian law programs also have connections, so I think there could be a benefit from going to one of those schools (as well as making connections with Native student communities).

The downside is, as the OP suggests, that most of the schools that have a critical mass of Indian law offerings are not elite schools, so if you change your mind about doing Indian law, or it doesn't work out, you have foreclosed the kinds of opportunities that the T14 or up can get you.

(The schools I know of that have some kind of focus in Indian law or strong Native student communities: the Us of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin, Washington, Minnesota, Hawaii [though probably Hawaii-specific, which is really its own thing], UCLA [I think], Lewis and Clark, and Michigan State. There may be others I'm missing, though - maybe Wyoming?. I also think there are quite a few Harvard-educated people in the field, actually - I don't know anything about their program, but it's Harvard, so if you go in with a clear focus they probably have the resources to support you.)

lastminuteuser
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby lastminuteuser » Sun Jan 05, 2014 9:48 pm

+1
Last edited by lastminuteuser on Wed Jan 29, 2014 12:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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stillwater
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby stillwater » Sun Jan 05, 2014 9:51 pm

twentypercentmore wrote:Native American law (which is not actually a thing, but okay)


we aren't talking about space lawl here. as a couple of posters have said, its very real.

Banosby
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby Banosby » Sun Jan 05, 2014 10:47 pm

First, thank you all for replying; I'm sure my friend will all find this quite helpful.

I believe my friend wants to work for tribes protecting their interests against state/federal action/regulation, but I get the impression that (like most 0ls) my friend doesn't have a particularly definite interest in mind.

Would be inaccurate to summarize the responses so far as suggesting that given how small/niche this particular market is, which school you go to (whether in terms of prestige or particular programs) matters less than connections? So finding schools with professors that could potentially make contacts for my friend would be a primary concern (which would presumably overlap somewhat with those schools that have Native American programs, but not entirely; see Harvard)?

lastminuteuser, would you mind listing some of those firms? I'm interested in working for federal agencies myself, so I have some idea of how it works, but if you had any particular insight into IHS, BIA, etc., that would be most welcome. (Oh, and this is a shot in dark given how many tribes are in California, but I'm from there originally and had several Yurok friends; you aren't from up north are you?)

Thanks again for all the help guys.

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twenty
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby twenty » Sun Jan 05, 2014 11:17 pm

You folks are right to a large extent. The gut feeling I have with people that proclaim an interest in Native American law is:

compared to the traditional civil rights/land rights cases that dominated Indian law in the 60s/70s/80s.


It's like a less-notable "international law." Yes, there are firms that specialize in casino operations, yes there are firms that specialize in international trade. But "Native American Law" is such a huge subject (and more importantly, something that no single practice can claim to fully encompass), it's not really a "thing." Sorry if I came across as if it therefore doesn't exist, like space law -- but it is a much more specific area than such an overarching term would suggest.

Anyway, the minimal experience I have with policy/legal hiring was during my short TDY with DOI, the folks I spoke to there mentioned BIA hadn't hired an entry level attorney in four years (which is the longest anyone's memory goes). DOJ has a very small component, and USDA has an even smaller one. At the risk of outing myself, we had a spot open up that went to the BIA hiring authority, but it was instantaneously filled by a hardship transfer within BIA. This caused a huge uproar (since a couple other people wanted the same transfer).

This was about the same time we all had our computers confiscated. Good times. :D

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Jan 05, 2014 11:26 pm

twentypercentmore wrote:You folks are right to a large extent. The gut feeling I have with people that proclaim an interest in Native American law is:

compared to the traditional civil rights/land rights cases that dominated Indian law in the 60s/70s/80s.


It's like a less-notable "international law." Yes, there are firms that specialize in casino operations, yes there are firms that specialize in international trade. But "Native American Law" is such a huge subject (and more importantly, something that no single practice can claim to fully encompass), it's not really a "thing." Sorry if I came across as if it therefore doesn't exist, like space law -- but it is a much more specific area than such an overarching term would suggest.

I still don't think this is actually true. It may depend on where you are or who's expressing the interest, but it doesn't really describe most people I know who've expressed an interest (in particular, people with connections to Native communities). I mean, federal Indian law is a clearly defined practice area that's actually tested on the bar in a few states.

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twenty
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby twenty » Sun Jan 05, 2014 11:36 pm

My experience has been a bit different; though in fairness, entirely with 0Ls/undergrads in the debate community that wanted to "sue the f*** out of the government." Probably not indicative of, you know, actual law students. :p

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bjsesq
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby bjsesq » Sun Jan 05, 2014 11:45 pm

The old adage remains true: do not go to any school for specialty anything. Go to the best school you can, and establish relationships early in your law school career to demonstrate your dedication to the area. And yes, Indian Law is a thing and is a guaranteed section on the South Dakota bar exam that focuses on the interplay of Federal Law, State Law, and the law of the sovereign tribe.

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Kronk
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby Kronk » Sun Jan 05, 2014 11:48 pm

twentypercentmore wrote:My experience has been a bit different; though in fairness, entirely with 0Ls/undergrads in the debate community that wanted to "sue the f*** out of the government." Probably not indicative of, you know, actual law students. :p


Nah, Native American Law is a thing like Family Law is a thing, dooder. There are laws specific to NA tribunals and special laws that apply to reservations and conflict of laws issues because they retain some autonomy and etc.

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cron1834
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby cron1834 » Mon Jan 06, 2014 2:28 am

New Mexico is well regarded in this field, though their job placement seems to be restricted to NM and AZ.

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BlueLotus
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby BlueLotus » Tue Sep 23, 2014 9:00 am

is it hard to get a legal aid jerb on a reservation with minimal ties? i will volunteer on the Navajo Nation during spring break doing pro bono work, but that is the extent of my involvement with Native American issues. May take American Indian law next semester.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Tue Sep 23, 2014 9:45 am

BlueLotus wrote:is it hard to get a legal aid jerb on a reservation with minimal ties? i will volunteer on the Navajo Nation during spring break doing pro bono work, but that is the extent of my involvement with Native American issues. May take American Indian law next semester.

If that's your only experience with Indian law I suspect you won't be very competitive for reservation jobs. They're not very sought after in terms of numbers because the pay is (usually) terrible and the locations aren't always very desirable to many people, but the people who go for those jobs usually have strong ties to a Native community and/or a strong Indian law background. (Indian law is very much its own thing.)

I wouldn't say don't apply, because who knows? Some locations get very very few applications. But you'd have to be VERY convincing about why you're suddenly interested (especially if the job is not local to you) and how your experience transfers/makes up for lack of experience with Indian law/communities. I think it would be an uphill battle.

AReasonableMan
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby AReasonableMan » Wed Sep 24, 2014 8:36 am

Is this a real thing? Would they want you? I know people who have done law for the purpose of working in Sharia Law of Talmudic Law courts, but they were also already imams and rabbis established in the community.

Why don't you be a lawyer, and plan on doing this for pro bono hours. You may be chasing an area of law that doesn't exist. There are laws specific to Native Americans, but the big cases you're talking about to recognize their rights are most definitely going to be handled by a Gibson Dunn or Skadden litigation partner who feels strongly about the issue. Some TTT solo isn't going to be the person the tribe invests their future in.

Your best bet is to retake, go to the best law school, get a summer job at a pro bono heavy firm, mention your passion in a non-weirdo way to someone you befriend, get hooked up with someone who does pro bono in this area, also do work that makes money, profit.

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Flips88
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby Flips88 » Wed Sep 24, 2014 9:13 am

Since no one has brought it up yet, the University of Oklahoma is a good option and a leader in the area. Oklahoma has one of the largest Native American populations in the country (3rd by percentage of population and 2nd for overall population). There are federally recognized tribal governments based in OK for the Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Kiowa, Choctaw, Comanche, and the largest branch of the Seminole tribe. OU Law offers a JD certificate in Native American law and an LLM also if you wanted to do it on top of the JD. They also have a journal dedicated solely to the topic (American Indian Law Review) and a moot court competition focusing solely on native american legal issues.

The undergrad also offers various Native American languages that I'm sure you could study while at the law school (Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, and Kiowa).

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worldtraveler
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby worldtraveler » Wed Sep 24, 2014 9:38 am

AReasonableMan wrote:Is this a real thing? Would they want you? I know people who have done law for the purpose of working in Sharia Law of Talmudic Law courts, but they were also already imams and rabbis established in the community.

Why don't you be a lawyer, and plan on doing this for pro bono hours. You may be chasing an area of law that doesn't exist. There are laws specific to Native Americans, but the big cases you're talking about to recognize their rights are most definitely going to be handled by a Gibson Dunn or Skadden litigation partner who feels strongly about the issue. Some TTT solo isn't going to be the person the tribe invests their future in.

Your best bet is to retake, go to the best law school, get a summer job at a pro bono heavy firm, mention your passion in a non-weirdo way to someone you befriend, get hooked up with someone who does pro bono in this area, also do work that makes money, profit.


everything about this is terrible

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bjsesq
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby bjsesq » Wed Sep 24, 2014 9:40 am

worldtraveler wrote:
AReasonableMan wrote:Is this a real thing? Would they want you? I know people who have done law for the purpose of working in Sharia Law of Talmudic Law courts, but they were also already imams and rabbis established in the community.

Why don't you be a lawyer, and plan on doing this for pro bono hours. You may be chasing an area of law that doesn't exist. There are laws specific to Native Americans, but the big cases you're talking about to recognize their rights are most definitely going to be handled by a Gibson Dunn or Skadden litigation partner who feels strongly about the issue. Some TTT solo isn't going to be the person the tribe invests their future in.

Your best bet is to retake, go to the best law school, get a summer job at a pro bono heavy firm, mention your passion in a non-weirdo way to someone you befriend, get hooked up with someone who does pro bono in this area, also do work that makes money, profit.


everything about this is terrible

The enlarged is the only part I liked.

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baal hadad
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Re: Best school for Native American law?

Postby baal hadad » Wed Sep 24, 2014 10:40 am

Yale




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