Monday, February 24, 2014

Why Its Different Representing Alaska Natives Outside Anchorage

    I spent part of last week in Kotzebue, a small town of mostly Alaska Natives just north of the Arctic Circle.  The weather was clear and beautiful but cold.  The high temperature was 12 below.
    After a morning hearing, I spent the afternoon reconnecting with an old friend and client.  We sat in his living room and over the course of the afternoon shared notes on each of our children, our spouses, his business, my practice and everything else under the sun.  Sometimes the conversation was slow but we let the natural gaps in the conversation sit there.
     While visiting, there was a steady parade of people coming into his home.  Each person would knock briefly at the door and come in without waiting.  This is what one does when it is below zero outside.  Once inside, the person would ask a quick question and be on their way.  Sometimes, the person had no business and one woman came in simply to warm up on her walk through town.
     At the end of the day, my client served me dinner--salmon that he had caught during the previous season at his setnet site.  In towns like Kotzebue, you appreciate dinner invitations because you know that each dinner is a gift out of the subsistence gathered to last the entire winter.
     The visit reminded me of why I enjoy this side to my practice.  When one makes a friend in the smaller towns of Alaska, they are a friend forever and they will look out for you forever. As a lawyer, you owe them the same responsibility in return.