Holly Caraway (’10) serves as chief counsel in the Office of the Senate Minority Leader in the Alabama legislature and is careful not to fall into the partisan divide.
She prefers to build bridges, educate and enlighten anyone who may not view politics or policy the way she does. The only way she knows how to do that is through forming relationships, and she builds those relationships on honesty and respect. For Caraway, cultivating relationships is a requirement of the position. Without them, it’s unlikely any legislation would find its way to the calendar, let alone a committee.
“If you get bogged down in the partisan politics, then the voiceless are never going to have a voice,” she said.
Policy is her passion. She attends meetings with or on behalf of the eight Alabama senate democrats she advises, and she reads legislation and advises them in regards to what is good democratic policy.
She views her position as an opportunity to help improve living and working conditions for the state’s residents. This includes legislation involving education, corrections and Medicaid, just to name a few. Her overarching goal for policy is to make sure it is providing a better quality of life for all Alabama citizens, especially children, seniors and those who don’t have a voice in state government.
Caraway learned how to work well with others while she was pursuing her JD/MBA at Alabama. She not only learned how to work with other individuals but to trust them in a team setting.
“My caucus is my team,” she said. “Or, whoever I am working with on a piece of legislation is my team. Learning to trust your teammates was just a wonderful experience for me.”
Caraway has a built-in network in Montgomery. As the only public law school in the state, Alabama Law has provided many of the colleagues and friends she interacts with on a daily basis, including Alabama State Bar Association leaders, lobbyists, legislators and other state employees.
“The collegial environment that exists at the Law School is unparalleled,” she said. “I read all these stories about law school students being cut throat, gunning against each other, and tearing each other down to get to the top; that was definitely not my experience at law school. Yes, it was competitive but not at the expense of friendship and treating people the way they should be treated.”
She serves as another pair of eyes and ears on the senate floor, where rules are important and can be used to a senator’s advantage. What has added to her longevity as well as her credibility is that Caraway understands the rules and how best to apply them.
She spent time observing how the Alabama senate operated and did not interject herself into a situation until she understood the politics and the procedural way of what was actually happening, said Patrick Harris, Secretary of the Alabama Senate, who is responsible for the procedure, rules and general operation of the Alabama senate.
“She would come in after a session and ask questions about what happened on the floor, why it happened and which rules applied to the situation,” he said.
She uses that knowledge on the floor. “She works across the aisle. The passion she has for people shows through this process and the ability to hear both sides and understand the issues,” said Sen. Quinton Ross, who serves as Alabama Senate Minority Leader. “She has great working relations, which makes for a healthy environment for the exchange of ideas and trying to find solutions to many of our issues.”
It is for that reason Caraway encourages other lawyers to consider public service. Talented lawyers are needed to serve members of the state even if the salaries that come with those positions aren’t as high as those for practicing in other areas of law.
“Your profession is serving a larger cause than yourself or your family,” she said. “You’re actually working for the citizens of the entire state, which is a great responsibility, and that’s why we need every graduate of the law school to consider it as a law path.”