Nichole Alex Joins Procopio’s Native American Internship Program

By: Theodore J. Griswold | Partner |

Procopio is proud to announce that Nichole “Nikke” Alex, a third year law student at the University of New Mexico School of Law and citizen of the Navajo Nation, as a 2015 recipient of the Procopio Native American Law Internship. The internship began on May 18 and extends for 10 weeks.

“The Procopio Native American Law Internship has become a popular and important tradition as a key element of the firm‘s support of the future Native American Bar, and we are so pleased to welcome Nikke into the program,” said Ted Griswold, Procopio partner and Native American Law practice group leader. “The internship program has become increasingly competitive, with dozens of applications received from around the country. Nikke is an excellent participant for this internship and joins Procopio with an impressive background working on tribal water, natural resource, educational and cultural matters.” Nikke will work on legal issues specific to the Native American governments, business and inter-tribal entities.

Nikke is a student liaison for the New Mexico Bar Association Natural Resources, Energy and Environmental Law Section. Prior to attending law school, she was the Executive Director for the Black Mesa Water Coalition, an environmental non-profit that is dedicated to preserving and protecting Mother Earth and the integrity of Indigenous Peoples’ cultures. She previously worked with the Diné Policy Institute applying Navajo Natural laws, and was an intern with the Tribal Science Council at the US Environmental Protection Agency in Washington DC.

Procopio’s Native American practice group extends the firm’s tradition of giving back to the communities it serves through its summer internship program for Native American law students or law students interested in Native American law. Interns gain hands-on experience dealing with everyday legal issues facing Native American communities. Launched in 2011, Procopio has welcomed 9 interns since its inception. Procopio continues to mentor its former Native American interns helping them create their network of tomorrow’s Native American lawyers. Alumni of the program are found in Alaska, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and California.

Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at and 619.515.3277.

On the Obvious Superiority of the Summer Intern Mind

By: Theodore J. Griswold | Partner |

As seasoned attorneys, sometimes we don’t ponder enough.  We are busy.  With experience, we have seen it before, and that experience allows for faster solutions for the client (and begets higher billing rates).  This has worked before, so this is a good solution.  However, is that going to be the best solution for the issue to be resolved?  Maybe, because you came up with it previously, and you must have had good reasoning .   But maybe it was not the best solution.  Perhaps you need to break down the issue and build a new way of looking at the issue.

Which brings me to the obvious superiority of the intern mind.  This is a corollary to a podcast by Freakonomics I recently listened to on my morning run about the value of an inexperienced mind.  The podcast spoke about how the inexperienced mind begins looking at problems in questioning, different ways than the experienced mind.  The thought process is not impeded by previously derived solutions.  Rather, the inexperienced mind is allowed to look more holistically at a problem and ask all of the questions that we might think are too menial to ask.  But they may be important in solving the problem in a new way.  I loved the idea and could not get it out of mind for the rest of the day.

I get knocks on my door occasionally from one of our interns, and I turn to see a sheepish look and it tells me that they feel 1) that they have a stupid question and 2) they are concerned about interrupting me.   Neither should be a concern.  There are no stupid questions, and when you are tackling a tough legal problem that you have not seen before, it is essential that you break it down into stupid questions.  That is how you learn.  And by stopping by and asking a partner or associate these questions, you are helping them rethink their process as well.  This is the mutually beneficial aspect of mentoring.    Relish your insecurity as being unleashed by previously thought out solutions.  Run with it, play with it, and then fashion your response.

The mind is a beautiful thing, and the inexperienced  mind can be an inquisitive, inspiring, creative thing when we allow it to be.  And that’s what we should allow interns to do.  It makes law fun, and interesting and growing.  And that leads to an inspiring practice.  In fact, maybe a few of us old salts ought to practice thinking like an intern.

To learn more about our 2014 Native American Interns, see Christopher Scott and Eric Abeita.

Although the information contained herein is provided by professionals at Procopio, the content and information should not be used as a substitute for professional services. If legal or other professional advice is required, the services of a professional should be sought.

Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at and 619.515.3277.