Focus on the UND Law Family: Santana Royer, '18

Santana Royer

Santana Royer, a Crosby, North Dakota native, is entering her third year of law school this fall. She will serve as the Editor-in-Chief of the North Dakota Law Review and just returned from an internship in Omaha, Nebraska at a national firm for Indian Law, Fredericks, Peebles & Morgan.

What did you do before coming to law school? After graduation, I worked at the Community Violence Intervention Center (CVIC) in Grand Forks in a few different capacities. My first job right out of college was perhaps the most unique to my employment career. I worked as a researcher in the Court Research Program at CVIC, where I attended court daily to collect data on how the Criminal Justice System responded to crimes of domestic and sexual violence. I developed and maintained qualitative and quantitative data tracking tools, and I hired and supervised volunteers and interns to assist me with data collection and entry. I also served on collaborative committees with other actors in the Criminal Justice System such as parole, probation, prosecution, advocacy, corrections, and others, to work together to ensure that victims were safe and offenders were being held accountable. I also had worked at the CVIC shelter for women and children fleeing domestic and sexual violence prior to Law School, and I loved working directly with people, so during my last few months at CVIC, I worked as the law enforcement advocate. I assisted victims with connecting with law enforcement to give police reports and I provided emotional support to individuals who were referred directly from law enforcement. I also went to local police briefings, where I provided updates on what was happening at our agency, and I also worked to ensure that I heard any concerns or questions that law enforcement may have had in this area. The police would also let me know if they were seeing patterns in the community, and they would ask us to do extra training or presentations on specific areas of interest to them. Right before law school, I worked as a legal assistant for a firm in Grand Forks, where I made the final decision to go to law school.

What is your favorite part of law school? I used to be terrified of public speaking. During my first year of law school, I told myself I was going to avoid speaking when possible; I would focus more on writing. After the second semester of Lawyering Skills class, though, I realized how fun public speaking was, and I realized the power of oral advocacy. It broke open public speaking for me, so now I feel that I have a foundation in both. I went to national moot court in Los Angeles for the Native American Law Student Association competition this year and really had a lot of fun with that.

What are your plans for after graduation? – I am hoping to practice Indian Law after graduation in some capacity. Indian Law has become my passion, so I would like to do some type of liaison-type position between government and the tribes or possibly working directly for a tribe would be great as well.

How did you become interested in Indian Law? I was waiting for a certain area of the law to spark my passion in law school. I originally wanted to practice family law when I first started school, and then I changed more toward Indian law my second semester of my first year. In Constitutional Law I, Dean Rand discussed the Marshall Trilogy and Professor Grant Christensen explained the Wheeler case, all of which are foundational cases in Federal Indian Law. I really had never known much about this area, and after that I was hooked.

Tell us about your summer internship. I worked for a national Indian law firm, Fredericks, Peebles and Morgan in Omaha, Nebraska. The firm specializes in Federal Indian Law and Tribal Law, and it represents tribes, tribal organizations, and tribal entities in a multitude of capacities such as water rights, land rights, tribal economic development, legislative advocacy, and many, many other areas. While at Fredericks, Peebles & Morgan, I was able to travel to different tribal courts to observe how vastly different each tribe can be. I got a first hand look at common issues in tribal court, and I was able to do some research to help assist with hearings. I drafted client advisory letters, conducted vast amounts of research in different areas, and I got to help work on a United States Supreme Court case, which was terrifying to say the least, but an absolutely amazing experience.

Do you have a favorite law class so far? My favorite class my first year was Civil Procedure for sure. I liked it because it was very structured and I am a rules person. Now, I am beyond fascinated in each of my Indian law classes. I would probably say that Federal Indian law was my favorite class my second year because it really gives a good overview of the relationship between the federal government and tribes, and how that relationship works in different areas like criminal law, constitutional law, and others.

What activities are you involved in on campus? – I am a member of the North Dakota Law Review and will serve as the Editor-in-Chief this fall. I was the 2L Vice-magister for Phi Delta Phi, Bruce Inn Legal Honor Society, and served as NALSA President this past year, as well. I was also the treasurer for the Public Interest Law Student Association, a member of the Environmental Law Society, and I am an Academic Success teaching assistant.

What is the toughest part of attending law school? For me, it was learning to be truly open-minded. I often thought before law school that I was very good at quickly solving problems, but I have now learned that sometimes you might think you know the solution, but you have to be willing to hear new ideas and strategies in order to truly help your client. Part of that also has been learning to accept that you might be wrong right away, and instead of taking offense to that, you have to keep trying and be willing to try new things.

Do you have a life outside of law school? – My first year of law School I didn't really have a life outside of school. I was so worried about grades, outlines, briefing, and if I was going to pass the bar exam in three years. However, I did come to the realization after my first year that if I am not balanced and healthy in all sectors of my life, I won't be able to truly help my clients. My second year, I worked very hard to keep a good balance between my personal life and my school life. I built time right into my schedule for family and friends and for things I like to do. Now, I spend a lot of time with friends to help unwind from stressful days at school, especially my two best friends of twenty-three years, who live in Grand Forks, as well. I like to watch television probably more than I should, but it really helps sometimes to get lost in something that doesn't involve elements, IRAC, and case briefing. I now understand the true importance of balance.

Tell us a “fun fact” about yourself. I love Pi. I love it so much I actually memorized the first 50 digits of Pi for one extra credit point in eighth grade math and after that it became a nerdy obsession. Now every year on Pi Day (March 14) I head out to the truck stop for a piece of pie to celebrate.

(Editor’s Note: If you want to memorize the first 50 digits, here they are - 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510)