Shawn Watts

Director, Tribal Law & Government Center
Director, Mediation Clinic
Clinical Associate Professor
Primary office:
403 Green Hall


Shawn Watts is a member of the KU Law lawyering faculty. He currently serves as the director of the Tribal Law & Government Center, Tribal Judicial Support Clinic and Mediation Clinic.

Prior to KU Law, he taught at Columbia Law School in New York City where he was the Associate Director of the Mediation Program. He taught an Advanced Mediation Clinic and a Native American Peacemaking Clinic. He has been a visiting professor at both Yale Law School and National Taiwan University Law School in Taipei, Taiwan. 

A Citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Watts graduated from Columbia Law School, where he won the Jane Marks Murphy Prize for clinical advocacy, was a Strine Fellow, a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, and managing editor of Columbia Law’s Journal of Law and Social Problems. While in law school, he served as the president of the National Native American Law Students Association. 

Before he began teaching, Watts was an associate in the finance and bankruptcy practice group at the New York office of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, where — in addition to representing both creditors and debtors in multimillion-dollar bankruptcies — he specialized in federal Indian law and tribal finance.

Courses Taught:

  • Lawyering Skills
  • Native American Peacemaking


J.D., Columbia University School of Law, 2012; B.A., St. John's College, 2000


Lawyering Skills, Native American Peacemaking

Career History

University of Kansas School of Law, Clinical Associate Professor, 2018-present; Mediation Clinic at Columbia Law School, Lecturer in Law and Associate Director, 2013-present; Yale Law School, Visiting Clinical Lecturer in Law, 2016-2017; National Taiwan University Law School, Visiting Professor of Law, 2017-2018; United Nations, Recognized Expert in Mediation and Conflict Resolution, 2016-present; Native American Rights Fund, Peacemaking Advisory Board Member, Teaching Faculty, 2014-present; Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, Associate, Tribal and Indian Law, Finance and Bankruptcy, 2011-2013

Selected Publications

  • “The Role of Language Interpretation in Providing a Quality Mediation Process,” Contemporary Asia Arbitration Journal, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 301-316, November 2016.
  • Contributing Editor for the Clinical Law Prof Blog.
  • "The Sustained Attack on Tribal Sovereign Immunity - The Increased Application of the Ex Parte Young Doctrine to Tribal Government Officers," California Indian Law Association Newsletter, Spring 2013.
  • "Are Tribal Corps. Eligible for Bankruptcy Protection?" Law360, March 13, 2013.
  • "Committee's Attack Upon Lender's Make-Whole Premium Denied," Finance and Bankruptcy Blog, June 27, 2013.

Selected Presentations

  • “Transforming Justice Systems for Families: ACE to Recovering Resiliency,” National American Indian Court Judges Association Tribal Justice Conference, October 2017.
  • “Principles of Peacemaking in Child Welfare,” Washington State Children’s Justice Conference, April 2017.
  • “Native Peacemaking and Restorative Justice,” Yale Rebellious Lawyering Conference, February 2017.
  • “Promoting Traditional and Restorative Principles to Strengthen Safety, Justice, and Healing,” National American Indian Court Judges Association Conference, October 2016.
  • “Developing a Mediation Clinic Model for Taiwanese Legal Education,” Taipei International Conference on Arbitration and Mediation, August 2016.
  • “Exploring Sentencing Alternatives: Looking Beyond Incarceration,” American Indian Justice Conference, June 2016.
  • “Rabbit-Proof Fence,” Faculty Film Series, Columbia Law School, April 2016.
  • “Diversity of Dialogue,” University of Connecticut Diversity Week Keynote Address, March 2016.
  • “Historical Trauma and the Indigenous Defendant,” University of New Mexico Peacemaking Roundtable, March, 2016.
  • “Tribal Self-Governance and Self-Determination,” Yale Rebellious Lawyering Conference, Feb. 2016.
  • “Native Peacemaking” Yale Rebellious Lawyering Conference, February 2015.
  • “Peacemaking from the Ground Up,” National Tribal Justice and Court Clerks’ Conference and NAICJA Annual Meeting, October 2014.
  • “Preparing the Next Generation of Peacemakers: Academic and Court Training Options,” National Tribal Justice and Court Clerks’ Conference and NAICJA Annual Meeting, October 2014.