Kanji & Katzen, P.L.L.C. is a law firm devoted to advancing the interests of Indian tribes and nations.  We are a “boutique” firm with a nation-wide reputation, providing top-flight litigation services and strategic counsel to tribal clients on a range of issues including tribal governance and jurisdiction, treaty rights, taxation, gaming and other economic development, land and reservation issues, and environmental and cultural preservation.  Chambers USA ranks us as one of only four firms in the United States to achieve its highest (“Band 1”) ranking in Indian law.  We have offices in Seattle, Washington and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Our attorneys – who include tribal members, an active tribal court judge, and numerous former federal judicial clerks, including a former Supreme Court clerk – have devoted their careers to tribal representation and have a record of success before federal, tribal, and state courts, including the United States Supreme Court.  While we take pride in our litigation success, we never lose sight of the fact that often the most valuable role we play for our clients is to help them avoid litigation in the first place.

In today’s legal, political, and economic landscape, the protection and enhancement of tribal sovereignty is a constant and multi-faceted battle.  That battle is the reason Kanji & Katzen exists.  And we bring to it a vigilance, fierce work ethic, and in-depth knowledge of the law and the issues facing Indian country.

Our Origins

Founding members Riyaz A. Kanji and Phillip E. Katzen (now retired from law practice) started working together in the fall of 1992 at Evergreen Legal Services (now Columbia Legal Services) in Seattle, where Phil served as the long-time Directing Attorney of the Native American Project and Riyaz joined as a Skadden Fellow.  There they collaborated on the landmark shellfish treaty rights case, United States v. Washington, 157 F.3d 630 (9th Cir. 1998), a victory for Pacific Northwest tribes that continues to benefit those tribes today.  Riyaz and Phil founded the firm in 2000 with a vision to blend the Indian-centered commitment of the Indian legal services model with the litigation tools and capacity of an elite private law firm.

Today, the firm remains tribal-focused and, at twelve attorneys, remains a small firm by design.  We are able to maintain top-notch standards of excellence by working extremely hard and by being selective in the attorneys we hire, each of whom brings stellar academic and post-academic credentials and is committed to a career fighting for the interests of Indian tribes and nations.  At the same time, our size allows us to serve our clients in a flexible, cost-efficient, and personal fashion rarely found at larger firms.

Our Approach to the Law

Whether litigating the meaning of a 19th century treaty or a 21st century gaming compact, our approach to the practice of law is the same.  Cases are won with relentless hard work, meticulous preparation, and a commitment to the highest standards of legal excellence, ethics, and efficiency.  We aspire always to outwork our adversaries, to know the facts and the law better than they do, and to communicate with clarity and force in order to shape the narrative in our client’s favor at every juncture of a dispute.  In court or other official settings our attorneys comport themselves with the dignity, skill, and professionalism commensurate with the representation of a sovereign.

Further, we never lose sight of the fact that law is also a service industry, and our job is to serve tribes and tribal decision-makers by giving them the tools – information, analysis, strategic options – to make sound decisions.  To do this most effectively, we become students of our client’s history, their governmental structure and values, their commercial operations, and their short and long-term goals.  Indian law is one of the most complex areas of American law because Indian tribes and nations are complex entities; they are modern sophisticated governments with deep roots in history, unique territorial and economic challenges, and multi-layered relationships with local, state, and federal governments.  In every dispute or decision facing an Indian tribe or nation, some principle of tribal sovereignty is at stake, even if it is not always apparent on the surface.  Our approach to the law is, at bottom, driven by that fact.