College hosts native law students for unique event focused on entering legal profession

Mar 11, 2023 | Belonging & Access

Native law students from around the country joined the S.J. Quinney College of Law on March 3 and 4, 2023, for the first annual “Cutting Sign to the Legal Profession,” a unique workshop designed to help native law students prepare for careers in the legal field. The event was led jointly by career professionals from the S.J. Quinney College of Law, the University of Idaho College of Law, and the University of Washington School of Law.A large gathering of Native American students sitting at tables in a room and listening to a speaker standing at a lectern, with views of the Salt Lake Valley out the windows in the background

Cutting sign refers to the ancient Indigenous practice of using focused attention, a deep understanding of one’s surroundings, and clear intention in order to track and find people and animals—all skills which are also useful for navigating the range of career options available after graduating law school.

During the two-day event, attendees met Native lawyers who shared their experiences and provided advice for pursuing a legal career, while panels explored the range of careers and opportunities available after graduation. Workshops covered critical parts of the hiring process, including interviewing skills and cover letter writing. Attendees also had opportunities to interview with employers in person at the event.

The 2022 ABA Profile of the Legal Profession reveals that Native Americans are severely underrepresented in the legal profession, making up only 0.5% of all lawyers. This underscores the importance of building pipelines to law school for Native communities and ensuring that Native law students have the support they need to be successful in—and after—law school.

Elizabeth Kronk Warner, dean of the College of Law and a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, highlighted the need for support for Native American law students. “For many Native American law students, success in law school can be tied to the ability to form mentoring and support networks,” she said. “The Cutting Sign event seeks to fill an existing gap for Native students by providing a space where they can network with each other and current lawyers, learn about various areas of legal practice from current practitioners, and develop critical career development skills.

She continued: “Given the S.J. Quinney College of Law’s broad commitment to promoting diversity in the legal profession and our specific commitment to Indian Country, we are honored to be able to host the inaugural Cutting Sign to the Legal Profession workshop.”

Funding for the event was provided by the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, the University of Idaho College of Law, the University of Washington School of Law, the American Indian Law Center’s Pre-Law Summer Institute, Dentons Durham Jones Pinegar, the Federal Bar Association Indian Law Section, Greenberg Traurig, the Thomas A. Pleine Foundation, the University of Utah American Indian Resource Center, and the Utah Bar Indian Law Section.