Every day, Arizona Law students make contributions to their Wildcat community, their home communities, and beyond.

We share an interview with one of our outstanding student leaders in this week's Letter of the Law. Rising 3L Paulene Abeyta discusses her path to law school and her recent election as president of the National Native American Law Students Association (NALSA).

This marks the second time in the last three years that an Arizona Law student has been elected as National NALSA president. Jacob Metoxen ('18) was elected to the position in 2017. 

Until the footnotes,

Q&A With 3L Paulene Abeyta 
National NALSA President 
Paulene Abeyta
Name: Paulene Abeyta
Undergraduate institution: University of New Mexico
Year: 3L (Class of 2021)
Organization: President of National Native American Law Students Association (NALSA)
Ya'ah'teeh! My name is Paulene Abeyta and I am an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. I am a third-year law student at the University of Arizona. In April 2020, I was elected president of the National Native American Law Students Association. Prior to law school, I earned dual degrees summa cum laude in Native American Studies and Communication with a minor in Geography from the University of New Mexico.
What was your motivation to go into indigenous law?
It has been seven years since my grandmother passed away, but I always remember her talking about the value of going to school. Most importantly, I remember her encouraging me to go to school so I could use my education to help others and our community. 

After I earned my BA degrees, I ran for two seats, one on the local school board and the other on the health board. I successfully won both elections and got to work right away. As a board member, I was responsible for understanding substantial government contracts and intricate policies. I will admit the work was intimidating at first, but I quickly saw an opportunity to learn more. It was not long before I realized that I needed to go to law school to be in a better position to help.
With Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-CD1) in Washington, DC, during the National NALSA Mid-Year Conference
With U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in Albuquerque, NM

What do you aspire to do through your career?
I am interested in promoting Indian health and Indian education by helping tribes exercise control over their programs for the benefit of tribal citizens. My current areas of interest and research are the Snyder Act of 1921, the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, the Education Amendments of 1978, and the Tribally Controlled Schools Act of 1988.

Paulene and her family during Arizona Law's Homecoming celebration.
Proudly displaying National NALSA Honor Plaques with Prof. Tatum

Who or what has been the biggest influence for you so far?
During my first year of law school, eight out of the 10 professors I took classes with were women. That was empowering! During my second year, I worked closely with Professor Melissa Tatum on the National NALSA Writing Competition. Her passion for legal scholarship in the field of Federal Indian Law helped make this year's competition a success. Her mentorship continues to help me develop my leadership skills. 

As a third-year law student, I have the honor of working as a research assistant for Regents Professor of Law Rebecca Tsosie. Her knowledge base is phenomenal! I admire her guidance and instruction. 

And of course, Professor (Robert) Williams and his program have provided endless support. I meet with Professor Williams throughout the semester to discuss my progress and strategize for the upcoming semesters. His passion for student success and his support for my role with National NALSA have been extremely helpful.
My law school experience would not be what it is without the support from my husband, children, and close family and friends. Together we have made it work.

Paulene recently served as a panelist on The Jabot podcast discussing the issues facing native students. Listen to it here.
Around the College

Professor Susie Salmon Elected to Leadership Role

The Legal Writing Institute (LWI) recently elected Professor Susie Salmon to the office of president-elect. She will serve in that role for the 2020-2022 biennium, after which she will serve as president of the organization for the 2022-2024 biennium.
LWI is the oldest and largest organization of legal-writing professors, with well over 1,000 members spanning the globe. To quote from its mission statement, the organization is "dedicated to improving legal communication by supporting the development of teaching and scholarly resources and establishing forums to discuss the study, teaching, and practice of professional legal writing. We believe that effective legal communication is critical to the wellbeing of society, the judicial system, and the legal profession."
As you may know, Susie is not new to leadership in this field; she recently served for several years on the board of directors of the other major legal-writing organization, the Association of Legal Writing Directors.
Professor Tessa Dysart, Assistant Director of Legal Writing says:
"Please join me in congratulating Susie. This election represents the extent to which our legal-writing colleagues around the world recognize Susie as a leader in the field and how well regarded she--and the Arizona Law legal-writing program in general--are in the national and international legal-writing communities. This is great news not just for Susie but for our team and for the law school in general!"

Connect With Arizona Law 

Alumni, send your good news -- career, personal, family, or otherwise -- to us at We'll share what we can in a future edition of Letter of the Law.
And remember, you can also connect with fellow alumni through the Bear Down Network!

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In the News
I met both Paulene Abeyta and DeLorean Forbes when they applied to law school. Both were from New Mexico, where our College and the UA have deep and longstanding connections.  

What struck me about both Paulene and DeLorean was the strong sense each had of their place in the world, and more particularly their confidence and desire to shape that world -- not merely to accept the world as it is, or to learn to navigate its rocky shoals. For both that combination of intelligence, passion, and commitment has played out as they have developed as leaders. 

Paulene's national leadership of NALSA comes at this unique moment of social change, and we will watch, support and report on her work and that of NALSA in the year to come.  

Marc Signature


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