NATCA Staff Spotlight: Law Fellow Camille Dannenhoffer-Lafage
We have an amazing National Office staff of which our membership can be very proud. They work hard every day and are committed to providing our members with the very best service and representation in organized labor. Today, we feature NATCA Law Fellow Camille Dannenhoffer-Lafage, one of the newest members of NATCA’s staff. Welcome to the NATCA family Camille!
Where are you from, or what places have you lived?
I was born, raised, and educated in Lyon, France; then moved to the United States when I was 23 to pursue a study-abroad program in law at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Ore. There I met my now husband and together we have also lived in Chicago; Washington; Bend, Ore.; and now Bethesda, Md.
Where did you go to school, or what other education do you have?
I went to Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 for law school, which is considered an undergraduate degree in France. I think I always knew that I wanted to become a lawyer, and work in employment/labor law. I then went on to get a Master in law also at Lyon 3, and did a second Master in law at the University of Oregon through an exchange program. There, I discovered the field of conflict resolution, which at the time was not a field of study available in France, and ended up coming back to Oregon for a master’s degree in conflict resolution. After that, I tried as much as I could to find a fulfilling career which would not require me to have a J.D. as the French and American legal systems are very different, and my French law degree did not allow me to work as a lawyer in the U.S. This proved tougher than I thought, and after five years I decided to go back to law school so I could practice here. I got my J.D. at American University in May 2021 and am now in the process of taking the bar exam this summer.
How did you come to work at NATCA?
I went into law school with a focus on employment and labor law. I became a U.S. citizen during my first year and therefore was able to work during the summer for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, one of the smaller federal agencies, in their Alternative Dispute Resolution unit. There, I gained much needed exposure to federal employment law and U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board jurisprudence. After that my plan was to work for a labor union or labor-side law firm which led me to intern as a law clerk at the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (IUBAC) during my last year of law school at American University. At IUBAC, I worked in the office of the General Counsel and loved every moment of it despite being completely remote. Once I graduated, NATCA was on my radar (pun intended) so I monitored any new postings like a hawk. Once I saw an opening in the General Counsel’s office, I promptly submitted an application and now I am finally here!
Do you have family members who are involved in unions?
My family is very much lower-middle class, but they all live in France where the national and European laws provide solid labor protections for workers. As a result, union membership does not have the same significance there. That being said, I have multiple family members who are affiliated with a union, including my grandfather who was a carpenter and my older brother who is a truck driver and was an elected steward for his workers’ union. I was also a Teamsters-represented employee myself for a few years while I worked at the University of Chicago.
What’s the most rewarding part of being a member of NATCA’s staff? What’s the most challenging?
For me, the most rewarding part of being a staff member at NATCA is knowing that my work and efforts go into furthering the goals of the labor movement while serving our represented members. Going to work with fellow employees who share my values is very important to me, and I am thrilled to have found my place at NATCA. Additionally, as someone who travels frequently between France and the U.S., NATCA members have quite literally “guided me home” multiple times, so it is very fitting! Having just started, my main challenges are learning all the acronyms and not getting lost in the national office building.
Do you have any hobbies or any other activities you enjoy outside of your work for NATCA?
I love being outdoors whenever the weather permits, but I am also always equally content to read a book at home or start a new crafting project. I particularly enjoy camping and fishing, which I will happily resume when I am done studying for the bar exam. Finally, I am always ready to go on the next culinary adventure – particularly if it involves cheese!
Has there been a favorite moment for you while at NATCA?
Recently, I worked on my first legal document, from drafting to filing, which was a special time for me since I have worked so long to become a labor attorney and do just that. I also cannot wait for my dad to see my business card because I know that he is so proud of me and this is something he can show friends and family.