McGeorge School of Law

Profile: Amber Maltbie

Amber Maltbie
Amber Maltbie

Class of 2009

Founding Advocate, Clear Advocacy LLC

When former Vice President Al Gore was running for president, Amber Maltbie, '09, attended a campaign rally for him in California. There she saw Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-California, speak.

The speech was so moving, it helped inspire Maltbie, a political law associate at Nossaman LLP in Sacramento, to work in politics and government.

Maltbie practices campaign finance, election and government ethics law. Her clients include candidates running for state office, elected officials and political action committees. Her job allows her to combine her interests in campaign finance and election law with gender equality and women's issues.

Maltbie says she is keenly attuned to issues involving women. She was raised by a sometimes-single mom whose financial situation was tied to her marital status. When she was married, the family had more money but fewer choices about how to spend it. When she was single, Maltbie says, they had less money but more autonomy.

"That personal experience drives my passion for gender equality issues, in particular as a campaign finance attorney," Maltbie says. "The same nexus between money and power exists in the political arena just the same as it does in the home, so from a legal perspective I think it is paramount to help shape laws that either neutralize the playing field so that money matters less, or more realistically, take measures to increase women's access to resources."  

Before becoming a lawyer, Maltbie had a career in politics. She got her start while attending Mills College, interning for the No on Proposition 38 campaign, a statewide ballot measure in 2000 that sought to use state vouchers to offset the cost of private school for children, and then working for Congresswoman Lee in her district office.

After working for Lee, she worked for a Sacramento political consulting firm, Jim Gonzalez & Associates, traveling across the country to help increase historically disenfranchised voters at the ballot box. In this position, Maltbie's job was to help voters overcome obstacles to voting. In South Dakota, she worked on an American Indian reservation, located 20 miles from the polls. In parts of Georgia, too few polling stations deterred would-be voters.

"At some point, it occurred to me these are problems with the legal framework of elections," she says. "I decided I wanted to be more of an advocate, to make legal changes."

While working for the firm, she attended McGeorge School of Law at night. When Lee's chief of staff, Sandré Swanson, was elected to the California State Assembly, he hired Maltbie to be his communications director.

At McGeorge, she interned at the California Fair Political Practices Commission and learned about the complex and ever-changing campaign finance laws, a job she says helped her transition careers. After graduating from McGeorge, Maltbie worked for the political law firm Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni LLP. She joined Nossaman in 2011.

Maltbie will teach election law at McGeorge as an adjunct professor in spring 2014. Maltbie says she hopes to incorporate an international component into her law practice. In 2010, she worked as a consultant for the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, an NGO that does nonpartisan election assistance. The group helped establish Kosovo's first parliamentary elections since declaring independence.

Practicing international law, she says, allows for creativity in addressing gender inequality issues through the law.

"Where you have new and emerging democracies or post-war, post-conflict situations where democracies are getting back up on their feet and running, that's where you see the real opportunity to look at the legal, structural reforms, particularly where gender equality comes in," she says. "There's a whole field of how to incorporate gender considerations into campaign finance and election law, which is novel (because) we don't really look at our laws in the U.S. from a gendered lens."