Monet McCorvey Gaines: Serving the State

February 1, 2017

Monet McCorvey Gaines (‘01), an Assistant Attorney General, serves within the Opinion’s Section of the Attorney General’s Office where she answers complex questions from elected officials and state agencies about Alabama law.

She has addressed questions about whether a deceased candidate could remain on a general election ballot, whether a county commission has authority to change district boundaries for an election and how many elector signatures are required to qualify a candidate for office. In each case, she researched and analyzed The Code of Alabama and drafted an opinion that was reviewed by a committee of attorneys.

“It’s a privilege to help the state in this manner,” Gaines said. “I’ve always seen it as an opportunity to help elected officials and governing officials understand their authority and their roles better. I can’t think of a better way of giving back.”

Since 2005, she has written more than 370 legal opinions. Some of the most complex questions she has received were about the state’s Omnibus Pay Raise Bill, an act that regulates the compensation received by certain county officials.

“She became the expert on how that law would be interpreted,” said Brenda Smith (’85), who retired as Chief of the Opinions Division in 2016. “Every time a question came in, she would get that opinion because she had already studied it.”

Smith said Gaines wouldn’t hesitate to call probate judges, mayors and county attorneys to request additional information. As a result, she has worked with elected officials across the state.

“She’s straight-forward and outgoing,” said Joi Scott (’01), Assistant General Counsel at Alabama State University, who has known Gaines since they attended law school together. “She assesses the situation and then goes in.”

In 2016, J. Cole Portis (’90), President of the Alabama State Bar, asked her to serve as his Vice President of the Alabama State Bar and also Chair the bar’s Diversity Committee and Disciplinary Commission.  Gaines’s latest project is planning and developing a minority pre-law conference for Alabama college students.

She wants to make sure the bar is welcoming diverse candidates by introducing these students to the practice of law and how it can lead to a rewarding career.

“I would love it if the pre-law conference could become a mini pipeline for the legal profession,” Gaines said.

She discovered law while attending boarding school in Massachusetts. During a winter break, she interned at what was then the law firm of Thomas, Means and Gillis in Montgomery. She was so impressed by what she learned while shadowing attorneys that she returned a few months later for a summer internship.

After graduating from law school and clerking for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Board of Contract Appeal, she returned to Thomas, Means and Gillis as a civil defense attorney.

Gaines, who is the daughter of a physician, was similarly drawn into a profession that helps others. She saw how lives could be changed as a result of the law and how lawyers could obtain justice for those who had been harmed.

Gaines embraces the bar’s mantra: lawyers render service.