Continued success for Tribe’s Attorney Training Program

Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum

This fall the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s Legal Department will gain a new attorney when Julianne Begay transitions from the In-House Attorney Training Program to become a full-time employee and member of the Tribe’s in-house legal team. Julianne is originally from Arizona, and is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. She received her B.A. in Native American Studies and Government from Dartmouth College. In 2015 she earned her law degree from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University. While attending law school, Julianne clerked at DNA People’s Legal Services in Window Rock, Arizona, as well as for the United States Bankruptcy Court in the District of Arizona. She gained valuable experience during law school as a student attorney at ASU’s Indian Law Clinic. Before attending law school she worked at Fort Defiance Indian Hospital, where she assisted with the Hospital’s transition during the first two years that it operated under a 93-638 contract.

“Julianne has excelled while taking part in the In-House Attorney Training Program. While receiving brilliant mentorship under Maynes, Bradford, Shipps & Sheftel and the Tribe’s Legal Department Director, Mrs. Lorelyn Hall, she has demonstrated a thorough understanding and respect towards the history and culture of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. Ms. Begay will be an asset for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe,” Southern Ute Chairman, Clement J. Frost said.

Like many tribes, Southern Ute has its own legal department. The Legal Department handles day-to-day legal matters and coordinates the work of general and special counsel, who focus on a variety of specialized areas of law. The Tribe’s Legal Department has four full time attorneys, three of whom are Native American. The attorneys in the Department represent the Tribe in a variety of ways, ranging from reviewing contracts and disciplinary actions and responding to questions regarding compliance with applicable law to drafting congressional testimony and talking points for trips to Washington, D.C. The in-house attorneys represent the Permanent Fund and the Casino in termination appeals and unemployment appeals. They also review proposed federal regulations and legislation and coordinate the Tribe’s comments. This year the legal team assisted with drafting and promulgating a revised Ethics Code and a brand new Expungement Code. Work continues on a much-revised Traffic Code, as well as the TERO Code, Gaming Code, Land Code, and Permanent Fund Personnel Policies.

The Tribe’s Legal Department was established in 2005 after the Tribe and its long-time general counsel, Maynes, Bradford, Shipps, & Sheftel, partnered to create the In-House Attorney Training Program. The intent of this partnership was to create a team of in-house attorneys who would be easily accessible to tribal staff and officials and who would assist in handling the Tribe’s ever-growing legal needs. The Department is staffed by attorneys who have successfully completed the Training Program, which involves two years of training and mentoring with the attorneys at the law firm, as well as close work with tribal staff, Tribal Council, and other tribal officials.

Entry into the Training Program is extremely competitive. In 2015, when the program was most recently accepting applicants, over 60 attorneys from around the country applied. Applicants are selected by Tribal Council and the law firm after an intensive, multi-staged interview process. Once hired, the tribal attorney trainees work closely with the firm and the Legal Department, alternating each week between offices in Ignacio and Durango. Each trainee completes a series of training “tracks” that include work with Tribal Council, Growth Fund, Casino, and the Permanent Fund departments. These tracks involve attending meetings, researching legal issues, handling legal services requests, and assisting the firm and Legal Department attorneys in representing the Tribe in litigation.

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