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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.

January Free Practice LSAT »

You are invited to take a free practice LSAT at Willamette Law on Saturday, January 21, 2017. Please click here to RSVP.

Willamette Law wants to help students prepare for the LSAT. One of the best ways to prepare is to take a practice LSAT test under time constraints. This helps you estimate the amount of time you can afford to spend on each question in a given section to help you study more efficiently. This event is FREE and will not count toward your test record with the Law School Admission Council. Willamette Law will also not know your score, as you will score your own test.

Date, Time, and Location

Date: Saturday, January 21, 2017
Time: 8:30 a.m. (check-in begins at 8 a.m.); lunch begins after the test at approximately 11:30 a.m.
Location: Willamette Law
245 Winter Street SE, Salem, Oregon

Logistics

  • The front door of the law school will open at 8 a.m.
  • Students must be checked in no later than 8:30 a.m. No late shows. Doors will be closed promptly at 8:30 a.m.
  • We will proctor this exam similar to real testing conditions.
  • There are four multiple-choice sections and the writing sample. Each section will be timed for 35 minutes.
  • There will be a short 10-15 minute break after Section III.
  • Time will be called at the end of each section.
  • Willamette University College of Law will provide lunch after the test. During lunch a current student will offer a workshop on LSAT tips and tricks.
  • Free parking is available on Winter Street or in the parking lots in front of the Atkinson Graduate School of Management, right next to our building.

Questions?

If you have any questions, please contact us at (503) 370-6282 or law-admissions@willamette.edu.

Epstein Lecture: Our Implied Constitution »

Richard Epstein

You are invited to hear renowned legal scholar, Richard Epstein, deliver a lecture titled Our Implied Constitution. The lecture will be from 5 to 7 p.m., tomorrow, Tuesday, January 17, 2017 in room 201 of Willamette Law. This event is free and open to the public. Click here for additional information.

Please let us know whether you plan on attending by registering here.

Willamette: Training Grounds for Pokémon Trainers »

Pokémon GO, an augmented reality game that allows the user to catch Pokémon in real world locations, has taken over parks, downtown neighborhoods, and college campuses. The game uses the GPS signal from the user’s cell phone to track their location. As the walking distance of the user increases, so will the number of Pokemon they see. (Note that walking in place will not work.) Because of the interactive nature of the game and the nostalgic theme, the popularity of this game caught the attention of many students and staff of Willamette University. Therefore, we have created a guide on the benefits of playing this game on Willamette’s campus.

We all want to be the very best that no one ever was. Since the user is mandated to walk, the game does not only help improve their physical health but it shows the user some landmarks that could otherwise be missed. PokéStops are locations in the game that allow the user to check-in and receive items they need to play the game and points to help them level up. Most of the time PokéStops are landmarks throughout the community. On the Willamette campus, there are 37 PokéStops and one Gym (which is a landmark that three different “teams” compete for).

The following are a few examples of some of the great PokéStops on our campus::Psyduck in the Dean's Office

  • Lady Justice: Once affixed to the top of the Marion County Courthouse, the Lady Justice rests in the lobby of the Willamette University College of Law. With its comfy sofas and great view of Winter Street, all Pokémon trainers are welcome to set a lure and relax.
  • Sparks Athletic Center: While Pokémon Trainers are swimming laps, running, or utilizing the many strength training equipment available, those who want to go the extra mile can set a lure at the PokéStop and catch Pokémon while they exercise.
  • Willamette Waterfall: There’s no way someone can find a Gyarados in the shallow rapid waters but there is always an abundant amount of Magikarp near the waterfall and a peaceful atmosphere for Pokémon Trainers to destress.
  • Chinese Fu Dogs: Petting dogs is always a great form to destress. Why not pet a dog that can’t bite? They also look like a better version of an Arcanine.
  • Japanese Garden: When a Pokémon trainer is upset from having a Charizard (CP: 950) run away from them, they can find peace and tranquility behind the Art building and discover a hidden oasis which many may not know exists.
  • 1916 Sun Clock: Great spot for those whose phones have died after a long walk of Pokémon catching. The sun clock offers accurate time so no more excuses for being late to class.

A very common PokéStop (that constantly has lure modules set up) is the World War II Memorial in the Capitol Park. After long hours of studying, who wouldn’t want to take a 5-minute walk to this historic monument to thank our war veterans for their sacrifice and catch some Pokémon on the walk over? The Capitol Park PokéStops have not only increased the number of park goers but have also made previously ignored or forgotten landmarks points of interest to those who may have thought themselves familiar with the park.

From dozens of PokéStops that can be reached in a matter of minutes, to the abundant amount of Pidgeys that fly around campus, there are no better training grounds than Willamette University and its community.

Investing in Your Future: Paying for Your Legal Education »

Money hanging on a clothesline. For many students, being a student presents a hard financial challenge. While society advocates the importance of obtaining a college degree, the financial aspect of getting a degree is seldom talked about and many people are unable to attend university, in great part, due to a lack of information about resources available to them. The following are some aspects to consider if you are thinking of getting a Juris Doctor and some helpful tips to help you settle the financial consideration of law school so you can focus on which school is best for you and what to do with your degree.

The Cost

It is no secret that a graduate degree like a Juris Doctor is not cheap. The average tuition cost for law school runs between $25,000 and $40,000 per year. Depending on if you go to a private or public school, whether you are paying in-state or out-of-state tuition, and many other factors. In addition to this, your cost of living depends on factors such as where your school is located (check out Numbeo to compare the cost of living in different cities), if the school offers graduate students housing options, if you have a family and much more. Also, books can cost between $1,000 to $2,000 per year. So when we talk about cost, law school is probably one of the greatest investments you will make in your lifetime. While the cost is great, the reward is definitely worth it. According to the

While the cost is great, the reward is definitely worth it. According to the American Bar Association’s website approximately 76% of all class of 2015 law graduates were employed in either bar passage required or J.D. advantage jobs shorting after graduation. A career in law provides you with a sea of opportunities.

Scholarships

Many schools offer scholarships for their students, from covering all tuition costs to smaller awards which will help degrees the amount paid out of pocket or through loans. Applicants to Willamette are automatically considered for scholarship awards. Many scholarships offered to students are based on LSAT scores and/or GPA. However, you can, and should, also apply for outside scholarships. Scholarships awarded by the school generally have a minimum GPA requirement that you must maintain for your scholarship to continue to be awarded. Outside, third-party scholarships can help you cover the tuition cost or even help with other expenses such as textbooks.

Financial Aid

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) allows students to apply for federal and state grants, scholarships, and loans to help cover the cost of school. Depending on your financial need and when you submit your application, you may receive financial aid to cover your tuition and cost of living expenses during the school year. Be advised that the sooner you submit you application the more likely you are to receive assistance.  Additionally, the deadlines for federal financial aid, state financial aid, and institutional specific scholarships may all be different. So, it is very important for you to stay conscious of the deadlines. The FAFSA website provides you with deadline information and makes the process of applying for financial aid easier.

Repayment or Forgiveness

If you receive financial aid in the form of loans you must understand and have a plan for repayment. It is helpful to have a plan for repayment before you choose to take out student loans. Additionally, keep in mind that under certain circumstances and programs some or all of your loans may be forgiven. Remember to take your loan repayment plan into consideration in your post-graduation decisions. Check out Access Group’s free Student Loan Calculator to give you a full picture of your financial repayment outlook.

Ask for Help

If you are uncertain about what to do or how to do it do not hesitate to ask for help. Many students are unable to attend university because they failed to submit a form or because they were not aware of the deadline to apply for financial aid. Try to stay conscious of what you will need and if you are uncertain about anything ask for help from an academic advisor or the financial aid office at the university you are applying to.

While the cost of law school is no small deal, it is certainly a worthwhile investment in your future. Our society is centered around the rule of law and a profession in this area will open an infinite number of possibilities for you.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to email our Admissions Office at law-admission@willamette.edu.

By rising 3L, Gaby. 

Getting Great Letters of Recommendation »

Person writingWhether you are a high school student applying to college for the first time or a law student applying for a clerkship, getting letters of recommendation can be a daunting prospect. Thankfully, getting letters of recommendation does not have to be a painful experience for you. Following some general guidelines will certainly help ensure that the process is easier every time you do it, to the point that you can soon become very comfortable with the process. Here are some tips to help you get letters of recommendation at any stage in your educational career.

Why Are They Important?

Many programs and some jobs ask for letters of recommendation from applicants. It is important to understand the purpose they serve in this process so that you might utilize them in the most effective way possible. A letter of recommendation can persuade the reader to pick you above someone equally well qualified. A good letter of recommendation can not only confirm the information provided in the application but also will shed insight into other important skills and qualities you possess which the institution or organization may desire.

Who Should Write Your Letter of Recommendation?

Deciding who to ask for a letter of recommendation is the first step. Think about a person in your life that would be able to speak well about your personal and professional actions.

Asking professors will likely be your best option since they will have seen some of the characteristics sought after in applicants. For a start, you should seek to ask professors you have interacted with outside of class. Think about your favorite classes and professors, the classes where you received your highest grades, whether you have stayed after class to talk to your professor about the lecture or whether you have gone to a professor’s office to ask a question about the material. These are likely the people you will ask to write you a letter of recommendation because they are likely to know you, what your work ethic is like, and other aspects of your academic life. Think of every class as an opportunity to demonstrate your personal and professional qualities. While you are not likely to need to ask all of your professors for a letter of recommendation, it is beneficial for you to maintain a good reputation with your professors and not close off any future possibilities for yourself.

Remember that you will not be able to read what has been written about you so make sure the people you are asking are people you trust will have good things to say about you. You might ask them if they are willing to write a positive letter of recommendation. No one is likely to write you a horrible letter of recommendation but a neutral or vague letter can be as detrimental as a negative depiction of you. Neutrality or vagueness do not add to your application materials.

How to Ask

The way you ask for a letter of recommendation bears a huge role on the result you achieve. My first year in undergraduate, I was applying for a Residents’ Assistant position and I emailed my English professor to request a letter of recommendation. She very honestly responded that she would agree to do it this time but that, as a general rule, you should always ask for letters of recommendation in person if possible. I now understand the importance of asking for a letter of recommendation face-to-face. It reminds the professor who you are, you are able to provide more information about what the letter is for, they are able to ask you any questions they may have instantly, and it is a sight of respect to the professor and a demonstration of the importance that particular application holds to you.

When to Ask

Procrastinating when it comes to letters of recommendation is not an option. If you are going to request a letter of recommendation from someone, make sure you provide them with at least a month to get it back to you. This means you should be conscious of the application deadline and make sure to start as soon as possible. Application deadlines approach fast and if you do not give someone enough time to write you a letter of recommendation you could be stuck not being able to submit your application. Even if you do not realize it, your professors and employer are likely to have large workloads. They may be willing to write you an amazing letter of recommendation but if you do not provide them with enough time they will be forced to decline to write it. Think about how highly you value your own time and make sure you are valuing others’ time to the same extent.

What You Need

After your recommender has agreed to write you a letter, you have to provide the writer with some necessary information for them to write you the best recommendation possible. You should explain what is the position you are applying for, why you are applying, what characteristics they are seeking, and a date by which you need the letters of recommendation. It is helpful to provide them with your resumé and application materials as they are likely to use the letter to reinforce certain characteristics apparent in your application materials and provide other information which they note is important to your success which may not be apparent from your other materials.

Lastly, do not forget to check whether the letters of recommendation must be sent directly by the writer or whether they must be included in your application packet. Additionally, make sure to provide the professor with the information of where to send the letter will be sent to so that they may personalize it as much as possible. Forgetting to do this could be fatally detrimental to the success of your application so make sure you have all the information you need and have plenty of time to double check you have a complete application packet.

Do you have any additional tips or any questions on getting letters of recommendations please feel free to email our Admissions Office at law-admission@willamette.edu.

By rising 3L, Gaby.