Spotlight on Emeritus Attorney & Legal Aid of Manasota Volunteer: Monica Cunningham

Monica Cunningham
Legal Aid Volunteer & Emeritus Attorney

Monica Cunningham, a native of northern New York, received her B.A. with Honors in History from Russell Sage College in Troy, New York.  She then attended American University’s Washington College of Law in Washington D.C., receiving her J.D. in 1973.


Upon relocating to El Paso, Texas, Monica worked in Local Government, first as the Legal and Executive Assistant to the County Judge, CEO for County Government in Texas.  Shifting to City government, she started as an Assistant City Attorney for the City of El Paso, eventually advising every City department, its joint governmental entities, and a Charter Commission which completely redrafted the City Charter. She became the City’s chief labor lawyer, attorney for its Civil Service Commission, and its chief labor negotiator, successfully negotiating collective bargaining agreements with Police and Fire Unions.


Expanding into administrative functions, Monica was appointed by the Mayor and City Council to be the City of El Paso’s Chief Administrative Officer, thereby administering the day to day operation of the nation’s 19th largest City.  She held that position for 5 years.


In 2001, Monica retired from City government and joined Kemp Smith LLP, first in the El Paso office, and subsequently in its Austin office. She is licensed in Texas since 1974 and admitted to practice in all State Texas Courts and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.


Monica, a lifelong advocate of women’s rights issues, was one of the founding members and President of the El Paso Women’s Bar Association.  She was also a member of the State Bar of Texas’ Committee on the Effective Participation of Women in the Bar, the committee which wrote the by-laws for and founded the Texas Bar’s Women in the Law Section. Monica was an early recipient of the Woman of the Year in Law from the El Paso Women’s Political Caucus. Monica is the 2015 Recipient of the Travis County (Austin, Texas) Women’s Bar Association Pathfinder Award, which recognizes women who have been Trailblazers in the legal profession.  In 2012, Monica was awarded the “Woman of Influence” recognition by her alma mater, Russell Sage College in Troy, New York for her trailblazing career as a woman.


Monica, a widow, moved to Sarasota in 2015 and resides in the Cobblestone development on Palmer Ranch with her two rescue cats, who have somehow become very spoiled. Monica swims and does water aerobics most mornings.  She also loves to knit and has learned to play Mahjong.  Monica recently became an Emeritus attorney in Florida for purposes of practicing with Legal Aid of Manasota where she volunteers every week.