Alamogordo Raised Erinna Atkins Named President of the New Mexico Bar Association


Alamogordo's Erinna “Erin” Atkins breaks the glass ceiling of New Mexico's legal community. Alamogordo's Erinna “Erin” Atkins, a 2009 graduate of The University of New Mexico School of Law, took office in January as the President of the State Bar of New Mexico. Even now as she leads the State Bar of New Mexico.

Born and raised in Alamogordo, Atkins is the first woman from the Southern part of New Mexico to be elected president of the State Bar Board of Commissioners. Atkins practices law with her father at the Law Office of S. Bert Atkins, where she represents children in abuse and neglect cases and does legal work for custody, divorce and criminal defense cases. She also serves as the special prosecutor for the City of Alamogordo and has previously worked as a contract public defender. She is proud to help elevate the voices of rural areas, especially during a time when New Mexico’s legal community is working to address the challenges people in those areas face in trying to access justice, and hopes other rural attorneys will consider pursuing the State Bar executive track, she said.

“I’ve met some amazing attorneys and I’ve had such a wonderful experience performing State Bar service,” Atkins said. “I’m really proud to serve my community and I hope to inspire other women to consider seeking leadership roles, participating in State Bar service, even becoming attorneys, attending UNM Law or working in a rural community.”

Atkins first got involved with the State Bar of New Mexico nearly a decade ago when a fellow attorney encouraged her to join the Young Lawyers Division. While serving with the Young Lawyers Division, she received the 2018 Outstanding Service Award. Later, Atkins was elected Bar Commissioner for the 12th Judicial District, representing Otero and Lincoln Counties. She was elected to serve as Secretary-Elect by her fellow board members, then President-Elect and eventually President.

This year’s board was sworn in in December at La Fonda in Santa Fe. Atkins officially began her term as President in January and said she is honored to serve with the talented officers, Past-President Benjamin I. Sherman, President-Elect Aja Brooks, and Secretary-Treasurer Allison Block-Chavez, as well as the rest of the “amazingly strong” board.

Current issues facing the New Mexico legal community include the ethical use of artificial intelligence and ensuring people in rural areas can access legal assistance, particularly as many of New Mexico’s counties lack appropriate numbers of attorneys and some people are forced to represent themselves in court.

For Atkins, working with and meeting attorneys of different kinds from all over New Mexico has been the cherry on top of working in her dream career. Her time at UNM made it all possible, she said.

“I will be forever eternally grateful for the opportunity to have studied and received my legal education at UNM Law,” Atkins said. “Law school is hard, but there were so many moments where I recognized what a gift the opportunity to receive a juris doctorate was. It’s a key to a door you can’t open any other way.”

Atkins had long dreamt of attending UNM School of Law. After finishing her undergraduate degree in Psychology at UNM, she worked at Rothstein Donatelli LLP and studied for the LSAT. She applied to several schools, but her admission to UNM’s program was the one that meant the most to her.

“It was a really important thing in my life that I had the chance to learn here in my home state,” she said.

Source: UNM assisted with this story. 

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