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An Interview With One of 'The Best Lawyers in America' for the Seventh Straight Year: Gabriel Galanda

For Gabriel S. Galanda, an enrolled member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes of California and a partner at Galanda Broadman, PLLC, the awards have continued to pour in. On November 1, Galanda Broadman, PLLC, "An Indian Country Law Firm,” dedicated to advancing tribal legal rights and Indian business interests, received a prestigious Tier 1 ranking in the 2013 edition of U.S. News-Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” in Native American Law. U.S. News & World Report also named Gabriel Galanda to its list of “The Best Lawyers in America” in the practice areas of both Gaming and Native American Law.

In addition, in October 2012, Galanda was given the coveted “Difference Maker Award” by the American Bar Association at the Fall Leadership Meeting and National Solo & Small Firm Conference in Seattle, Washington. With offices in Seattle, Washington and Bend, Oregon, The Galanda Broadman Law Firm received their Tier 1 ranking due to an overall evaluation derived from impressive feedback from their clients and the high regard that lawyers in other firms in the same practice area have for the firm.

Galanda’s selection in 2013 as one of “The Best Lawyers in America”—a title which he has continuously held since 2007, was based on an exhaustive and rigorous peer-review survey comprised of more than 4 million confidential evaluations by the top attorneys in the country. In an interview with Indian Country Today Media Network, Galanda expressed how it felt to receive such honors at a company as well as from a personal level. While parts of his upbringing were difficult, Galanda speaks with great courage about being raised on welfare, the effects of alcoholism on his family and how he converted shame into overwhelming success.

How does it feel to be named among the best as a "Best Firm" By U.S. News & World Report?

This honor gives us great pride. We work our very hardest for our tribal clients and to receive recognition from them and from our peers feels awesome. We are privileged to be entrusted to represent tribal governments and Indian people, frequently during very critical times. It is the opportunities that our tribal clients have given us, and the results we have been able to obtain for them, and the underlying teamwork with our clients and each other that resulted in this honor. We feel as grateful to our tribal clients for those opportunities as we feel honored by this accolade.

How do you think this represents the champion efforts in Indian country?

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This honor demonstrates that Indian country has ascended to every echelon of corporate America in this era of Indian self-determination. We are proud to be a small American Indian-owned law firm, listed amongst hundreds of the largest and most prominent law firms in America, and the world. Indeed, there is no professional mountain that Indian people cannot climb today.

You’ve been selected to "The Best Lawyers in America" from 2007 to 2013. How have you managed to achieve such a great honor?

To be honest, the pride from these sorts of honors does not compare to my proudest achievement thus far in my life: ten years of sobriety, and counting. It is no coincidence that I began to realize professional success like starting my own business, and personal happiness through having my own family, over those last ten years of my life.

What have you overcome? I was raised on welfare by a single mom who suffers from mental illness and addiction. I did not know my dad until I was 8, and I put him to rest due to alcoholism a few years ago, before he could meet his grandchildren. Both of my parents served time; my dad while my mom was pregnant with me, and my mom while I was in law school and starting my legal career. My grandma was sent to boarding school when she was a young child, which caused her and the last two generations of our family to grow up away from our reservation. My grandpa was murdered when I was very young. And far too many of my aunties and uncles' lives have been prematurely taken by drugs and alcohol. But with all of that adversity comes strength and resolve.

What would you say to a native kid who wants to be a successful lawyer like you someday?

You have to somehow find a way to convert any shame you feel from your situation and upbringing—the shame we have all felt and still feel—into power and determination. You then have to find passion in academics and the law—passion that will drive you through high school, seven years of higher education and the bar exam, and ultimately into the profession. You then must channel that passion into legal apprenticeship, learning everything you can about the practice of law. With sustained focus, passion and preparation, you will be ready to provide tribal people the very best advocacy that an Indian lawyer can provide them. Galanda received his B.A. from Western Washington University and his law degree from the University Of Arizona College Of Law. He currently sits on the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA) Board of Directors, chairing the group’s “Include Indian Law on State Bar Exams” initiative, and co-chairs its “Increase Natives and Tribal Court Judges in the Judiciary” initiative. He is a past president of the Northwest Indian Bar Association and past chair of the Washington State Bar Association Indian Law Section.