Tribal Lawyer Certificate


The Tribal Lawyer Certificate program is designed to ensure that law students aspiring to a career representing Indian nations have the skills necessary to appreciate and strengthen the unique nature of Indigenous tribal legal systems.

Effectively representing Indian nations and tribes requires an understanding of the laws, history and policies that affect them. For more than 200 years, the United States has pursued conflicting policies for dealing with the Indigenous peoples located within its borders. As a result, there exists an extremely complicated body of federal, state and tribal law that affects every aspect of Indigenous life.

The complexity of "Indian law," and the lack of specific programs designed to educate graduates as to the unique legal and cultural needs of Indian people, has created a situation in which lawyers representing Indian tribes place too great an emphasis on state law and federal law when dealing with Indian nations. As a result, these lawyers may unconsciously be contributing to the weakening of unique tribal legal and governance traditions by recommending the adoption of tribal laws and policies founded upon the Anglo-American legal and political traditions rather than the unique traditions of their tribal clients.

Students may satisfy the Tribal Lawyer Certificate requirements by taking courses such as Sovereignty and Self-Determination, Federal Indian Law, Native American Natural Resources, and the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic, combined with several law courses in economic development, taxation, federal courts and natural resources.

Certificate Requirements

Students should notify the registrar of their intention to satisfy the certificate requirements before the end of their first full academic year.

In addition to all other J.D. degree requirements, students must complete the requirements below to earn the Tribal Lawyer Certificate.

Required Courses

Complete these two courses:

Core Courses

Complete any three of the following:

  • Administrative Law
  • Business Organizations*
  • Economic Development and Indigenous Nations
  • National American Indian Moot Court Competition
  • Native American Natural Resources
  • Oil and Gas
  • Sovereignty, Self-Determination, and the Indigenous Nations
  • Water Law

Elective Courses

Complete any three of the following:

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Banking Law
  • Comparative Law
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Corporate Finance
  • Employment Law
  • Federal Courts and the Federal System
  • Federal Income Tax
  • Labor Law
  • Legislation and Statutory Interpretation
  • Legislative Simulation and Study
  • Local Government Law
  • Public International Law
  • Remedies
  • Special Topics courses (with the approval of the assistant dean for academic and student affairs)

*Business Associations I or Business Associations II will count toward the requirements for this certificate for students who entered law school before August 2019.

Course descriptions


Shawn Watts
Director, Tribal Law and Government Center
Clinical Associate Professor