Candace French Passes Bar Exam


 Candace Hood

It was a long morning at work for Candace French on October 13, 2017. She arrived that Friday at her job with the Navajo Nation Office of Legislative Counsel and went to her computer. Going to the Arizona Supreme Court's website, she went straight to the page that would list those who passed the state's bar exam, hoping to see her name on the list.

 "I went to the site and kept updating-and updating-and updating," she said. "Finally, once it had posted, it popped up. I opened up the attachment and scrolled down. It felt like forever, trying to find my own name."

 Then, she saw her name among those other law graduates who also passed the exam. It was time to celebrate.

 "I jumped up and started spinning around," French said. "All of my co-workers came out to congratulate me. They're all attorneys; they understood."


It was a long journey for French to get to the point of passing the Arizona bar. Born in Lawton, Okla., French is an enrolled member of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes and is of Navajo, Blackfeet and Comanche descent.


As a child, she was introduced to Wichita culture through participation in the Kitikiti'sh Little Sisters as well as the Wichita and Pawnee Visitation. She would eventually serve as Wichita Tribal Princess in 2000.

Wichita Little Sisters-1-Candace French Melissa Standing


In her interview with Wichita Tribal News, she talked about her Wichita grandmothers such as Evelyn French, great-grandmother Leta Lamar, and uncle and aunt Stuart and Bonnie Owings for teaching her about her Wichita ways.


"Being around them gave me a sense of pride," she said. "Everything that I do in my life represents my family, my tribe and Indian people across the country. That's been a guiding force in my life-knowing who I represent and how it reflects on my people."


Her academic career centers on Arizona State University. At ASU, she earned bachelor degrees in political science and American Indian Studies and a master's degree in criminal justice, in addition to graduating with the juris doctor law degree in May 2017.


Before working as an attorney candidate for Navajo Nation Office of Legislative Counsel, French worked in victims advocacy for the Gila River Indian Community for over two years. The experience is her primary motivation for entering law.


"I saw a lot of ugly things," French said. "I saw Indian women being victimized by domestic violence or sexual violence. I saw a lot of children being abused. I saw elders being abused. I saw homicide on the reservation. Then I saw the other side, which was the court system, and how sometimes it doesn't work for our Indian people and how difficult, sometimes, justice can be for our Indian people."


While studying law, French had to find time between her studies and being a mother for her son, Julian Aloysius Clay Nava, who will be two in December of this year. Much of the challenge was in time management, sometimes studying until 1 a.m. after her son went to sleep.

 Candace Baby

"It was really difficult for me to balance it," she said. "I always remember that I'm a mother first and a law student second. Having my priorities lined up, that's what really helped me. Also, communiciating to my professors and whatever organizations that I was with that my son was my priority."


Candace Son

Her work with the Navajo people includes drafting legislation for Navajo Nation delegates, legal research on Indian issues, and attending and advising with a licensed attorney during standing committee and subcommittee meetings of the tribe's legislative branch of government.


French's areas of law study included federal Indian law, federal advocacy for tribal clients, natural resource law, and trial advocacy designation. Her studies expanded for the bar exam that included 26 topics such as civil and criminal procedure, tort, contracts, secure transactions, family law, estate trusts and wills. At press time, French awaited being officially sworn in by the Arizona Supreme Court to practice law and to take the Navajo Nation bar exam in March 2018.


candace blue


Her long-term plans include staying with the Navajo Nation "until it's time to expand my legal career," French said, with an eventual goal of being general counsel for a tribe and to create an Office of General Counsel for the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes.