Mary J. Pavel (Skokomish Tribe of Washington) rejoined the firm in 2015 after serving as Staff Director and Chief Counsel for the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. During her tenure, she served two Chairs: Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Senator Jon Tester (D-MT).  As Staff Director and Chief Counsel, Ms. Pavel directed the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs agenda through the Senate. In this capacity, Ms. Pavel played a vital role in the enactment of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), as well as critical legislation that restored tribal land rights, affirmed tribal water rights, and protected tribal health and veterans programs.

Ms. Pavel initially joined the firm in 1992 and became a partner in 1999. She focuses her practice on working with congressional staff and the firm’s legislative clients.  Her work involves all aspects of legislative practice, including developing legislative strategies, meeting with tribal and congressional delegations and developing testimony.  Ms. Pavel has extensive knowledge of the budget and appropriations process and has developed strong relationships with appropriations and other Hill staff. 

Ms. Pavel has worked on some of the largest tribal settlements that Congress has enacted, including the Colville Tribes’ Grand Coulee Dam Settlement Act and the Pueblo of Isleta Settlement and Natural Resources Restoration Act.  She was also the lead lobbyist on the Fort Peck Reservation Rural Water System Act, which authorized the construction and operation of a $193 million domestic water system to provide safe drinking water to the 30,000 residents of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and surrounding communities.   

Ms. Pavel leads the firm’s work on appropriations matters, where she has successfully worked with tribal clients to secure over $100 million in funding for vitally needed projects in their communities including roads, schools, and hospitals.  She has also worked with a number of Tribes to address their land issues in Congress, including having land taken into trust for gaming purposes, restoring land to a Tribe because of its religious and cultural significance, and expanding tribal leasing authority. 

Ms. Pavel has also worked on a number of national initiatives including amendments to the Federal Unemployment Tax Act, which secured Tribes parity to be treated as governments under this Act; reauthorization of the Indian Healthcare Improvement Act; the Tribal Law and Order Act, and the Violence Against Women Act.  In addition, she actively worked to resist Congressional efforts to tax tribal revenues, abrogate tribal sovereign immunity, and impose State taxes for retail sales on tribal lands.


  • Member of the Casque and Gauntlet Senior Honor Society
  • Member, Green Key Society


  • Founding President, Native American Bar Association of Washington, D.C.
  • Founding Member, Northwest Indian Bar Association

Reported Decisions

  • CETAC v. Kempthorne, 492 F.3d 460 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (upholding Interior Department decision to take land into trust and to find it eligible for gaming under the “initial reservation” exception of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, from a challenge brought by a citizens group.) 
  • Taxpayers of Michigan Against Casinos v. State, 685 N.W.2d 221 (Mich. 2004) (rejecting challenges to the validity of tribal-state gaming compacts.) 


A Law Degree in Action, UW LAW, Volume 65, Spring 2012, at 42.

The Calls That Change Your Life, The American Indian Graduate, Volume 14, Number 2, Fall 2015, at 53.

Practice areas


University of Washington School of Law, J.D., 1992

Dartmouth College, B.A. in Sociology, 1988

Bar & Court Admissions

  • Washington, 1992
  • District of Columbia, 1998
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, 1997
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, 2003
  • District of Columbia Superior Court, 1998