Maurisa Bell Named NNALSA’s 3L of the Year

Maurisa Bell, ’19, grew up a member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe from the Wind River Reservation in Riverton, Wyoming. As a child, she dreamed of becoming a working lawyer in Washington, DC, despite growing up around very few lawyers. Attracted by the ability to assist other tribes in addition to her own as an attorney in the nation’s capital, Bell seized several opportunities as a student at MSU College of Law to reach her childhood “pipe dream.”

After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Montana State University in 2015, Bell came to MSU Law to study within the Indigenous Law and Policy Center. As a 1L, she joined the law college’s Native American Law Students Association (NALSA) chapter, of which she remained a member until graduation. During her three years, not only did the organization expand in size, but she also served as its vice president and treasurer for periods of time, and as an area representative for National NALSA. As a 3L, she accepted National NALSA’s 3L of The Year award as a result of nomination by her peers in MSU Law’s NALSA chapter and determination by the National NALSA committee.

Bell began building her experience with Federal Indian Law through working in DC for the Department of Justice’s Office of Tribal Justice; the National Indian Gaming Commission; and Dentons, US LLP in their Native American Law and Policy practice group.

“Going to DC and being a part of that network has really helped me,” Bell said. “There are Natives with different opportunities in Indian Country. For instance, my family, we didn’t have the same opportunities that some other Natives have, so for the Natives with those opportunities, the path to becoming a lawyer is a little smoother. It was nice to see other Natives who come from a background like mine be successful.”

After graduating with the Class of 2019, she will continue to work with Dentons in DC, fulfilling a lifelong goal at the start of her legal career.

As she leaves law school behind, she reflected on the lessons learned throughout her time as a law student, including time management and the importance of self-care. To incoming students, she relayed this advice: “It’s okay to be selfish. It’s okay to not pretend to like everybody. It’s okay to be frustrated. And relax – if you get a B or a C in a class, it’s not going to make or break you.”