Mari Hulbutta CC ’14, LAW ’20: The Briefcase Warrior


My name is Mari Hulbutta, and I’m a proud
citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and a descendant of the Seminole and Muscogee Creek Nations
of Oklahoma. I’m a third-year law student at Columbia
Law School, focusing on intellectual property law and Native American law. I grew up in a suburb just north of Oklahoma City. I just knew that law was always in the backdrop. I became aware of this idea throughout Indian
country of a “briefcase warrior,” which is a modern day warrior that a lot of Native
people pursue whenever they pursue a career in law. That was an idea that resonated with me. In college I was awarded the Udall Congressional
Internship for Native American Students. I got to interact with Native people who held
positions of power governing the relationship between the federal government and tribes. It really opened my eyes in terms of the breadth
of potential job opportunities a Native person with a J.D. could potentially pursue. While at Columbia Law School, I’ve been
closely engaged with the Native American Law Students Association by serving as the president. And it was through that experience that I
arranged for a group of law students to spend spring break in Oklahoma conducting a legal
services clinic. I thought this would be an awesome opportunity
for law students, you know, going to Columbia who want to serve tribal members and learn
more about Native American law. The caravan that I led was working closely
with the Oklahoma Indian Legal Services to write wills for elders and other members of
the community who might otherwise not have access to legal services. I was fortunate enough to begin working with
Professor [Bernard] Harcourt and an academic fellow who were focussing the Standing Rock
protests. Through that I helped to draft briefs on behalf
of Native Americans and non-Natives who were impacted by the roadblocks that local law
enforcement put up which runs against a number of constitutional rights. In light of COVID-19, Columbia recently switched
to virtual classes. I still have cold calls that I have to prepare
for. I still brief cases. I wouldn’t say that it has hindered my ability
to engage in the classroom. Starting in September I’ll be making a move
to Los Angeles for a job as an associate at Sheppard Mullin in the intellectual property
litigation group. And I’ll also be able to spend a little
bit of time working with the firm’s Native American law practice group, so I will be
able to advocate on behalf of the firm’s tribal clients. Longer term, I do see myself serving as an
in-house lawyer for my own tribe, the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, and maybe someday running
for office, whether it’s in my tribal government or local government.

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