Willamette Law Blawg

Main Content RSS FeedRecent Entries

Advice on Letters of Recommendation »

A frequent topic that students ask about is letters of recommendation. Here is some advice about what we look for in letters of recommendation:

  • Who should write letters of recommendation? Typically, we like at least one letter of recommendation to come from a professor. If this is not possible (especially true for students who have been out of undergrad for a while), a letter of recommendation from a supervisor, mentor, or community member will be great. We care more that the person writing the letter knows you well than that they have a particular title. No letters of rec from family members or friends (this may be obvious to some, but we always receive at least a handful each year from family members or friends). Excellent letters of recommendation often come from professors who have had a student throughout the student’s academic career where the professor can talk about the student’s growth.
  • What should the recommender write about? Your recommender should write about specific traits that you have that make you well-suited for law school. Do you have grit? Perseverance? Are you quick on your feet? Can you see multiple sides of an issue? These are all great qualities to have in law school.
  • How long should the letter of recommendation be? We’re looking for about a page or so. No more than two pages. One paragraph is probably too short.
  • How many letters of rec should I get? Two. Willamette will accept three, but two good ones will suffice.
  • General tips
    • Give your recommender plenty of time to write your letter (four to six weeks is a good rule of thumb).
    • Ask your recommender in person.
    • You may consider giving your recommender your resume or friendly reminders of projects/papers/assignments on which you worked and excelled.
    • Ask that the letter of recommendation will be positive (again, every year we receive a handful of negative letters).

Questions about letters of recommendation or the law school application process in general? Contact us or the school to which you are applying. We are happy to answer any questions you may have.

J.R. Tarabocchia is the Director of Recruitment & Student Activities at Willamette University College of Law

Campus Treasures »

College campuses are commonly known for having hidden treasures around the school. Things you often don’t learn about until you are a student, because they aren’t talked about much. So, we did some digging and found these treasures to share with you.

Here are some of Willamette University’s hidden treasures:

Star trees: Planted in 1942, these five giant Sequoias are the largest on any college or university campus in the U.S. Walk into the middle of them and look up to see a star-shaped sky—and campus lore says that if sweethearts share a kiss there, they might be destined for marriage. When it is warm outside, students bring chairs and study under them.

Oregon is known for its greenery and its environmental conscientiousness. We take that a step further. During the summer months there are fruit and vegetable gardens around campus that anyone is welcome to help themselves to—all free! Our campus is maintained all organically, so these fruits and veggies are especially wonderful.

One of my personal favorites is chocolate chip cookies you find at The Bistro! This is the only student-run coffee shop. I think of Central Perk from Friends every time I walk in. Cookies here are a bargain at $1 and homemade! We might be a little obsessed with them. You can also get a cup of coffee to add to it for another dollar.

Across campus, past The Bistro, is another dining option called Kaneko. On Wednesdays (no, they don’t wear pink) they have fresh sushi! But get it while you can—this is a very popular option, and they sell out most of the time. It is delicious.

School can be pretty stressful, and we have a great way to help you remedy that. Welcome to our private zen garden, tucked away in a quiet space on campus. Students enjoy the peace and quiet of the garden to read a good book, or just to take time to unwind while appreciating the beauty of the area.

Squirrels: who doesn’t love these little furry creatures? They live the good life on our campus and make friends with students.

Dispute Resolution Program at Willamette Law »

Supreme Court Case BooksAs educators of future lawyers, we pay attention to ensuring our students gain practical skills for the workforce. Willamette Law, located south of Portland in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and across the street from the state capitol, is a long-standing leader in the field of dispute resolution and teaches students the core principles of collaboration and problem-solving. These are the skills students will need to become effective negotiators, mediators, and arbitrators — skills that are transferable no matter what area of law you will practice. We invite you to apply to Willamette Law’s student-focused JD program with a certificate option in dispute resolution.

Dispute Resolution Curriculum

The certificate program in dispute resolution requires 15 hours (plus one law elective and externship hours) of specialized study as part of the 90 hours required to earn the JD.

First-year law students are required to take Alternative Dispute Resolution (Law 113) in their second semester to gain a broad understanding of dispute resolution. This course is a survey of the major mechanisms of dispute resolution and focuses on arbitration, mediation, and negotiation through relevant legal framework and practical skills.

Upper division dispute resolution courses include robust course offerings, such as Negotiation (Law 609), Mediation (Law 619), Arbitration (Law 239), and a host of other advanced seminars, topics, clinics, and externships.

In addition to our certificate program, Willamette Law is home to the Center for Dispute Resolution and the Journal of International Law and Dispute Resolution, both of which enhance students’ learning in the field of dispute resolution.

Life After Willamette Law

Alumni who graduated from our dispute resolution program have used their skills in a wide array of fields, including the judiciary, state and federal government, private practice, public interest, and business. Additionally, Willamette Law has the best job placement rate out of the three Oregon law schools and is one of the top 10 law schools for job placement on the west coast.

Application Process

Willamette Law operates on a rolling admissions cycle, meaning that we continue to accept applications until our class is full. Most students, however, apply by April 1st. Willamette Law will accept applications from students taking a June LSAT.

Please let us know if you have any questions about law school, Willamette, or about our dispute resolution program. We look forward to seeing your application.

Willamette Law Comes to PSU »

Portland State LogoWant to know more about law school? Representatives from Willamette University College of Law will be available to talk with you about your future today, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, at Portland State. Current students and the Director of Admissions will be there to answer your questions about law school, what it’s like, Willamette’s unique 3+3 accelerated degree program with PSU, and more.


Willamette Law Student Panel at Portland State
Date: Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Time: 1:00pm to 2:00pm
Location: Portland State University
Smith Memorial Student Union (SMSU)
Room 296
1825 SW Broadway
Portland, OR 97201

RSVP here if you’ll be there!

Salem for Newcomers »

State CapitolTwo of Willamette’s admissions counselors, Katharine and Will, have moved to Salem within the past six months. It’s been fun for us both to explore a new city. Here are some of our favorite things about Salem.

Downtown Salem

Salem is growing, and the city’s vibrant central core is the nexus of that growth. Downtown Salem is the hub of business, nightlife, and culture in the area, and Willamette University’s campus is just next door. Whether it’s coffee, live music, cocktails, delicious food, local shopping, or movies, you can find it downtown. Some of our regular haunts downtown include:

Archive — coffee by day, bespoke cocktails by night, goofy bartender antics no matter what time of day. (15 minute walk from Willamette Law)

The Governor’s Cup — At Will’s favorite local coffee shop, you’ll find year-round cold brew, tattooed baristas, and live music on Fridays. True to the name, it’s not unheard of to find Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown talking policy over a cup of joe at “The Gov Cup.” (12 minute walk from Willamette Law)

Like all of Oregon, Salem is home to many breweries. These are conveniently located all around Salem, a perfect excuse to explore the town! Here is a local newspaper’s review of some Salem highlights.

Ready for some games? Just head down the block, where you’ll find….The Coin Jam — Salem’s 21+ arcade. Dust off your Atari skills and enjoy a round of PONG, unleash your inner pinball wizard, dominate in the weekly MarioKart tournament, and more. (12 minute walk from Willamette Law)

Cinebarre Movieland — Would you like fries with that movie? At Cinebarre, enjoy hot food and drinks delivered right to your seat! (15 minute walk from Willamette Law)

Budget-minded law students who don’t mind waiting for a good deal should check out Northern Lights Theatre Pub, a second-run discount cinema in South Salem. (15 minute drive from Willamette Law)

Looking to expand your horizons and try some international cuisine? Katharine’s favorite is Andaluz Tapas Bar. They have delicious snacks and drinks, and things you might not have tasted before. Try out their happy hour! (8 minute walk from Willamette Law)

The Book Bin — This locally owned bookstore is a two-level treasure trove of tomes in the heart of Salem. Like all the finest booksellers, The Book Bin is guarded by Rose, the most literate cat in town.

Riverfront Park — This gem sits along the Willamette River in downtown Salem. With one pedestrian bridges across the river completed and another nearly finished, Riverfront Park will be the centerpiece of more than 20 miles of connected bike and pedestrian trails, including Minto-Brown Island Park and Wallace Marine Park in West Salem.

These are just a few of our favorite Salem spots. Stay tuned to this blog for more!

From the slopes to the courtroom »

April StoneWisps of icy air swirled away from April Stone’s mouth as she waited in frigid Aspen, Colorado, for her athlete to begin the snowboarding course. The athlete, a participant in the 2015 ESPN X-Games Special Olympics Unified Dual Slalom event, was panicking. Despite months of training and practices, the steep drop-off at the start gate had her crying and terrified she wouldn’t make it. She hadn’t completed a warm-up run yet, so Stone pulled her aside.

“I told her that I wouldn’t ask her to try anything she couldn’t do,” Stone said. “Then I reminded her of the athlete oath. We said it together, and I told her that she made a promise to be brave in giving the oath. I didn’t ask her to win; I asked her to be brave.”

The athlete recovered and managed to complete a warm-up run — one of the best runs Stone had seen the athlete finish. She said it was one of the bravest things she’s ever seen anyone do. Sarah Arts, director of sports and programs for Special Olympics Alaska, said scenes like that are the norm with Stone.

“April has a special way of connecting to Special Olympics athletes. She is patient when coaching them and expects greatness from them,” Arts said. “April treats our athletes as if they were Olympic athletes, not Special Olympics athletes — which is exactly the way they should be and want to be treated.”

On the course to law school

But Stone doesn’t only push athletes to do their best on the slopes. Like a snowboarding course, her journey to Willamette University College of Law, where she is a first-year student, has been a winding and sometimes difficult path.

Alana Williamson, fundraising chair for the Anchorage Community of Special Olympics Alaska, said Stone has overcome a lot in life and dealt with many things most people don’t experience.

“April had her daughter, Shailynn, when she was a teenager. She has done everything in her power, as a single mom, to ensure that Shailynn has the normal, positive and loving upbringing that April didn’t,” Williamson said. “She has always had a full-time job while going to school full-time, still offering the large amount of time required for Special Olympics, and on top of that, made sure that Shailynn can do the things she loves, like cheerleading and gymnastics.”

For 10 years after having Shailynn, Stone worked as a paralegal in personal injury and insurance defense until she decided to go to law school herself. Now at Willamette, she’s working to complete a bachelor’s degree and a law degree in six years instead of the usual seven.

“Special Olympics taught me that when faced with a challenge, rather than choose a different path, I should double my effort,” Stone said. “Failure is a lesson to be learned, not something to be feared.”

A participant in the school’s 3+3 Program, Stone began her studies in her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She spent three years there before moving to Salem to begin law school. She will receive her undergraduate degree in justice in May of 2017 and will have already finished her first year as a law student.

Studying and snowboarding

In Salem, Stone said she’s not currently coaching a local team, though she volunteered time with the Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington County Special Olympics snowboard teams. However, her distance from Alaska and her busy schedule aren’t keeping her from her next challenge: coaching the US National snowboarding team going to the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Schladming, Austria.

Stone and the team, made up of six athletes from around the US, fly to Europe in mid-March for the competition. As head coach, she developed a dry land training program, keeps in touch with the athletes and their local coaches to ensure they are training and coached the team at the Special Olympics USA training camp held in December of 2016 in Killington, Vermont.

When she came home from that, still on winter break from law school, Stone also found time to be there for Williamson, who was recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and had to begin monthly drug infusions and chemotherapy.

“As soon as April found out, she was there for me, always checking in and giving support. When she came home for Christmas break, and I had an infusion, all I had to do is mention it and she was there the entire time and afterwards,” Williamson said. “I don’t think she realizes how much that she has done for me. I am really lucky to have her in my life — she is honestly the best person I know.”

Arts has a similar view of Stone, saying she excels in all aspects of her life.

“April is one of the most driven and dedicated persons I know,” Arts said. “She is kindhearted and is always putting others before herself.”

Despite investing time in friends, with her daughter and in studying, Stone said the time commitment to the Special Olympics isn’t too much for her, especially since each athlete has a local coach. However, with the trip in March, she said she’ll have to remain disciplined to stay on top of homework.

“Two weeks off is a long time to take away from law school,” she said. “If I am nervous about anything, it’s taking that much time away from school.”

Ready to go

Nerves aside, Stone said she is ready for the Winter Games. The US delegation is made up of about 150 athletes. Athletes from more than 80 countries will compete in snowboarding, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, floor hockey, figure skating and speedskating. Stone’s six athletes will compete in alpine events such as the giant slalom and super G, which include racing through gates on a downhill course.

“Every one of them improved their race times on every run during training camp,” Stone said, “so I am excited to see the additional progress they will make before the games.”

This will be Stone’s third major competition, with the 2015 X-Games and 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, behind her. After doing some sightseeing around Austria, her team will compete from March 18-24. With all she’s accomplished personally, she’s most looking forward to seeing her athletes finish.

“Watching an athlete compete at the World Games is watching the culmination of a lifetime of perseverance, determination and courage, condensed into mere seconds,” Stone said. “The sense of pride and accomplishment that exudes from athletes as they conclude a competitive event is an incredible thing to witness.”

Her graduation from law school in 2019 promises to be the same.

Law Prof. Steve Green discusses Johnson Amendment on RadioWest »

Steve GreenWillamette Law’s Prof. Steve Green was on Utah radio station RadioWest February 7 to discuss the Johnson Amendment and President Donald Trump’s promise to do away with it. The amendment is a 1954 tax law that excludes charities, including churches, from backing political candidates. Trump said it’s a limit on churches’ right to free speech.

Green was on the show after Adam Chodorow, a tax law professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. Chodorow said there has always been some religious and nonprofit involvement in political matters. However, even before the 1954 amendment came around, as a definitional matter, the government said that churches and charities could not be involved in politics if they wanted to keep receiving tax breaks and subsidies.

Chodorow said that if the government allows those organizations to get deeply involved in politics, what will happen is that instead of donating to a 501(c)(4) or political party, people will donate to a church, get a deduction, and the church will then go out and advocate politically, creating a back-door deduction for political activities. There is a general rule in the US that political speech isn’t subsidized, Chodorow said. By excluding churches and charities from taxes, they are subsidized.

As it is now, Chodorow said the law is rarely enforced anyways.

“The IRS has basically shut its eyes,” Chodorow said. “It has engaged in very, very few investigations and even fewer enforcement efforts regarding the Johnson Amendment, because they just don’t want to go there.”

Green, who is a historian of church and state, was on the second portion of the show. He said the debate on whether the law should stay or go is about tax law, but also about the role of religion in public life. More than anything else, he said, it’s symbolic.

But since the Reagan-era, religious conservatives have discussed feeling like they are under attack. Green said considering that, there is a sense from many that they should be in the forefront on political issues and that the Johnson Amendment should be eliminated.

“Because many people of faith, I think quite rightly, believe that they have something to add on social issues,” Green said. “They have a prophetic voice that is important in American culture, and so they see this as an attempt to silence that voice.”

Like Chodorow, though, Green said the law is not often enforced but is the shadow of something that could happen. He could think of only one instance in which a church lost its tax-exempt status when it told parishioners not to vote for Bill Clinton.

“What’s ironic is the church was able to go back and re-file for tax exempt status right away for all of its future activities,” Green said, “so it doesn’t have as much teeth to it as most people think.”

As to whether the law should be abolished, Green said while most churches would probably police themselves, religion could lose credibility if it is allowed to be involved in political activity. The argument for separation of church and state is good for both religion and the government, he said.

“It’s a tenuous balance. Even some 230 to 240 years later, some of the framers were pretty smart about this,” Green said. “They knew that it’s better for religion to kind of keep to its fear — not saying that religions shouldn’t speak out on social issues — but understand the limits on how far they can go, because it will undermine their legitimacy.

“And, at the same time, government operates better when we don’t start saying there’s some sort of religious litmus test for any particular piece of legislation or for any public policy.”

Listen to the whole interview here.

Exploring Oregon’s Winter Wonderlands on Snowshoes »

View of Three Sisters in OregonWhat’s the best part of living in Oregon? The opportunities for outdoor activities! Willamette students enjoy easy access to a diverse range of sports and recreation, no matter the time of year. In the warmer months, Oregon offers hiking, climbing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, and so much more. But don’t forget the winter sports! While the Willamette Valley is known for mild winters with temperatures that rarely dip below freezing and rarely produce snow, it’s a different story in the Oregon Cascades. Drive an hour east from Willamette University’s campus, and you’re in the snow.

Snow at duskEveryone knows downhill skiing and snowboarding. Oregon is home to 10 ski resorts, from the famous Mount Bachelor and Timberline Lodge areas to the lesser-known (and nearest to Salem!) Hoodoo Ski Area. Additionally, the State of Oregon has set aside 99 Sno-Parks across the state. These snowy retreats offer trails for all kinds of activities: cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, sledding, and more.

Today, we’ll focus on an often overlooked winter sport: snowshoeing. This underdog of the snow-themed recreation world has some special benefits: you can reach otherwise inaccessible viewpoints with stunning vistas–it’s a killer workout for your thighs and quads.

Willamette University’s Outdoor Program makes it easy and inexpensive to get out and enjoy all that Oregon has to offer. The Outdoor Program leads frequent student excursions, including hikes, snowshoe treks, ski trips, camping, and more. They also offer deep discounts on gear rental. A pair of snowshoes will only set you back $10 for the weekend.  

There are 11 Sno-Parks in the Santiam Pass. Follow Highway 22 east from Salem into the canyon along the North Santiam River, and you’re in the snow!

Good Luck on the LSAT Tomorrow! »

Winona Ryder at the SAG awards meme RE good luck on LSAT.

Law Prof. Dobbins on OPB to talk President Trump’s SCOTUS nominee »

Willamette Law Professor Jeff DobbinsJeff Dobbins, associate professor at Willamette Law, discussed President Trump’s potential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “Think Out Loud” segment Wednesday. Dobbins and Lisa McElroy, associate professor at Drexel University School of Law, spoke about the four people whose names have been floated around as Trump’s short list: William Pryor, 54, Diane Sykes, 59, Neil Gorsuch, 49, and Thomas Hardiman, 51.

All of the judges are considered conservatives and were named to their current positions by President George W. Bush. President Trump said that he will announce his nominee next Tuesday, Jan. 31.

In discussing the short list, Dobbins and McElroy agreed that Pryor’s chances seem to be fading amidst questions of how conservative he is. Dobbins said in a lot of ways, Gorsuch is the most traditional and might fit into the existing mold of the Supreme Court in the most straightforward way.

“One of the things that struck me about some of his opinions that I had a chance to look at is that in a lot of ways, he’s already thinking a little bit like a Supreme Court justice, which is unusual for Court of Appeals judges,” Dobbins said, “because he is often seeming to push the boundaries of existing law rather than simply marching in lockstep.

“He often says ‘Here’s how we should really be thinking about this,’ which is of course the sort of thing that we often saw from Justice Scalia.”

Dobbins said to remember that this nominee will be replacing Justice Antonin Scalia, considered a conservative on the Court, so it won’t necessarily sway the liberal to conservative ratio. He said the Senate’s decision to not hold a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland, former President Obama’s nominee, was unusual. Scalia died nearly a year ago in February.

Of the other possible nominees, McElroy said Sykes may no longer be in contention due to her age. Dobbins said it wasn’t particularly clear to him why Hardiman had come to the top of the list. However, he said Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, is on the same circuit court as Hardiman and may have communicated with her brother that he could be a good choice.

Dobbins said issues of religion, class actions and Second Amendment considerations regarding gun rights are what the newest member of the court will face. McElroy said that while Republicans are thrilled they delayed Garland’s hearing, Democrats will likely try to stall the confirmation for Trump’s nominee until April, when oral arguments will be finished for this term.
“I think we’re going to see a very large turnover in the next four years, and unless the Senate flips, I don’t think that there’s going to be a whole lot that the Democrats can do,” McElroy said.

Dobbins agreed and said a number of things will turn with the outcome of this nomination.

“I think that the likelihood of significant change is probably quite different now than it would have been if Garland had been confirmed or if we had a Clinton presidency rather than a Trump one,” he said.

Listen to the whole segment.