From waiting tables in Montana to the dean of UNM law school


Camille Carey will take up her post in July as the new dean of the UNM Law School. She wants to stimulate applicants to the school by sending teachers and staff on the road to recruit. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Camille Carey does not remember a lawyer in Miles City, MT when she was growing up there.

But that didn’t stop her from earning her law degree, practicing law in New York, teaching at Yale Law School for two years, and then joining law school at the University of New York. -Mexico in 2009.

Now, she is ready to take over as the Dean of UNM Law School on July 1. She was selected for this position recently after a nationwide search.

As Associate Dean and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Carey, 48, is well aware of the challenges she will face in her future role – budget limitations, an ongoing pandemic, aging facilities, and fewer New Mexicans. apply to law school – any law school.

But she is strengthened by her faith in the law school curriculum, its faculty and its alumni base. And she is already preparing to succeed Dean Sergio Pareja this summer.

“One of the benefits of being an internal candidate is that the transition will be smooth,” said Carey. “I have already started meeting the fundraising team.”

“Old-fashioned things”

Miles City is perhaps best known for its annual Bucking Horse Sale, a large rodeo equipment auction held annually in May.

Carey lived on her family’s farm a few miles outside of town.

“We grew corn, hay and sugar beets,” she said.

She worked many hours as a waitress while attending Custer County District High School in Miles City.

“I was at the French Club, the choir, I worked on the school newspaper, I did the academic decathlon, cheesy stuff like that,” Carey said of his high school years.

At the time, she reviewed her career options from the perspective of a young woman living in a small town in Big Sky State and proposed a waitress, a housewife, a schoolteacher, a farmer, breeder, doctor and lawyer. She had served enough tables to cross the waitress off the list and has the kind of wit you can’t keep on the farm. There was no lawyer in her family to push her in that direction, but the legal profession seemed like a good bet, so she went to college.

“I spent two years at the University of Iowa,” Carey said. “I was studying political science, but I really liked English.

An English teacher from Iowa encouraged Carey to move on to Vassar College, the highly regarded private liberal arts school in Poughkeepsie, New York, which is about as far away from horse sales as possible.

“She thought (Vassar) would suit me better,” Carey said of her English teacher, who was educated at Vassar. “Maybe because I was the only one who always answered his questions in class.”

Carey attended Vassar on a scholarship and graduated from the school with a political science degree in 1995. That’s when she moved to Taiwan.

Trial by Fire

“I took Mandarin (Chinese) lessons for a year at Vassar, then wanted to go to a nurturing place on my own,” Carey said.

She taught English in Taiwan, commuting from home to work and wherever she needed to be on a motorcycle. Then, she studied Mandarin Chinese at National Cheng Kung University of Taiwan. She was still in Taiwan when she applied to law school in the United States.

After obtaining her law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2001, she went to work as a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society of New York in New York.

“I spoke Chinese and wanted to work with immigrant communities around the world,” said Carey, explaining her decision to join the Legal Aid Society. “My first day as a practicing lawyer in New York was September 11. I made it to my office in Brooklyn in the middle of the Towers Fall. The city has been in chaos for weeks.

For the next six years, she was in courtrooms across New York City’s five boroughs, working in immigration, family law, housing, and domestic violence cases.

“I spent a lot of time visiting immigrant organizations and meeting clients,” said Carey. “It struck me how similar the experiences of domestic violence were, even though people were from different cultures and countries. “

In 2007, Carey was awarded a two-year scholarship to teach at Yale Law School.

Hands on

Switching from law practiced on the rocky streets of New York to teaching at an Ivy League college like Yale seems like a major career change.

But, since Carey’s Yale scholarship was for clinical teaching, to involve law students in real life cases, she said it wasn’t such a big change. “Clinical education is a great way for students to learn to feel responsible for representing a client,” she said.

At Yale, Carey taught in the Domestic Violence Clinic and also taught a weekly seminar on the legal, social and political issues involved in domestic violence cases.

Her commitment to clinical education in training lawyers is a big reason she accepted an offer to join UNM Law School after her Yale Fellowship ended. Unlike many law schools, UNM requires its students to take a six-hour clinical course. Carey said UNM students are integrated with local offices of the public defender and district attorney, as well as the federal office of the public defender.

“We pride ourselves on being a practice-based school,” said Carey. “We really value teaching. It is a supportive rather than competitive teaching environment. One of the things I am most proud of is our fantastic ability. We also have a support alumni base. Alumni donate, teach as auxiliaries and serve as mentors.

Money, need students

Unsurprisingly, money tops the list of challenges Carey will face as dean of law school.

“We are a state institution, dependent on state funding and donations,” she said. “But we are a poor state and there are limits on the budget. Other schools have more resources, larger scholarship budgets, to attract students.

“Our building could definitely need improvements. This definitely affects our opportunity to compete with institutions that have shiny new facilities. “

If there’s something law schools need more than funding, it’s students, and a slowdown in the number of law school applications has affected most law schools in recent years.

“Interest in law school was really down since the 2008-09 recession,” said Carey. “A law degree was seen as something that created a lot of debt and offered fewer employment opportunities. “

There are 83 students in the third year law class at UNM. Carey said it was considered a smaller class. But there are 110 students in the first grade class.

“Over the past year, interest in law school has increased,” said Carey. “There have been a lot of high-profile legal and political controversies, especially under the Trump administration. This generated more interest in the legal cause, putting legal resources and advocacy behind a certain political, social and moral position.

Most of the law students at UNM are New Mexicans, but Carey said fewer state residents apply to UNM or any other law school today than before. She wants to send law school professors and staff on the road to recruit.

“I want to get them out into high schools and colleges,” Carey said. “Faculty and staff are excited to take road trips. There is a lot of energy behind it.

Truly fulfilling

Carey, the single mother of a 6-year-old son, will be the second woman to hold the post of Dean of UNM Law School. Suellyn Scarnecchia held the position from 2003 to 2008.

Sacrifice is a byproduct of responsibility, and one of the sacrifices Carey will make when she takes the reins of law school is to teach. Back in Miles City, when she decided to become a lawyer, Carey probably never imagined what a vital role teaching would play in her life.

“As a dean, teaching probably won’t be a smart allocation of my time,” Carey said. “But it’s been a wonderful part of my career. It is truly fulfilling. Having the time and space to think about the law, the policies and the theory has made me a better lawyer and a better legal thinker.


Nancy I. Romero