Third-year students Shelby Smith and Erin Roycroft discovered Willamette’s chapter of the American Constitution Society (ACS) early in their time at law school. A fledgling organization with progressive values, ACS and its initiatives especially appealed to Smith and Roycroft following the 2016 election.
“Erin and I jumped in as board members to revive ACS in order to help further progressive law and policy ideas on campus,” Smith said. “But following the 2016 election, we felt that it was even more imperative to have a strong progressive voice at Willamette.”
Their involvement in ACS continued to grow, until the pair became co-presidents of Willamette’s chapter this academic year.
Over the past semester they hosted a panel discussion on the #MeToo movement, co-sponsored several “Race Forward Workshops” as a member organization of the Social Justice and Equity Coalition and hosted a debate with the law school’s Federalist Society regarding the Masterpiece Cakeshop case pending before the United States Supreme Court.
“I think a lot of what drives me to plan events is my desire to create networking and advancement opportunities not just for myself or our board, but ultimately for all of my fellow students,” said Roycroft. “For instance, I’ve planned a panel discussion on federal clerkships and externships ... a pretty rare opportunity for Willamette students to connect with professionals and consider applying for competitive positions.”
Setting a national example
Their work hasn’t gone unnoticed. The national ACS organization recently informed Smith and Roycroft that their applications to become ACS Next Generation Leaders were accepted. As Next Generation Leaders, Smith and Roycroft will join a select group of students who will help advise the organization on its initiatives and strategic direction. According to the announcement, it’s very rare for two students from the same school to be selected in the same year, especially considering there are nearly 200 ACS chapters across the country.
For Smith and Roycroft, this national role is another opportunity to give back to an organization they believe in, while making a difference as students, aspiring lawyers and civically engaged citizens.
“My vision for ACS is to create better public understanding of our constitution and our democratic system of government,” said Roycroft. “I also want to put energy into pragmatic initiatives that can help change peoples’ lives for the better, such as criminal justice and immigration reform and voter preregistration.”
“I hope that I can bring a new strategic outlook to the organization by helping us to focus on real community centered initiatives.” said Smith. “This includes pushing the dialog around issues facing vulnerable populations in our society and help to promote further access to justice.”
Preparing for the future
While Roycroft and Smith are busy with their chapter and national ACS duties, they are also focused on making the most of their experience in law school to prepare for their future careers.
For Smith, that’s pursuing her interest on intersection of law and government. She’s currently completing Willamette’s Law and Government Certificate Program and an externship with a Salem city council member.
Roycroft’s interests are broad, and she hopes to explore a wide variety of legal issues through an upcoming clerkship with the Oregon Court of Appeals. Her interest in trials may also take her into a career in criminal law, where she believes she can try cases and make constitutional arguments.
Above all, they both hope to give back to ACS and to their communities.
“I want to be able to pay forward some of the support that I have received,” said Roycroft. “I am looking forward to becoming more involved with the ACS chapter in Oregon, and as a professional I hope I can support the next generation of law students.”
About Willamette University College of Law
Opened in 1883, Willamette University College of Law is the first law school in the Pacific Northwest. The college has a long tradition at the forefront of legal education and is committed to the advancement of knowledge through excellent teaching, scholarship and mentorship. Leading faculty, thriving externship and clinical law programs, ample practical skills courses and a proactive career placement office prepare Willamette law students for today’s legal job market. According to statistics compiled by the American Bar Association, Willamette ranks first in the Pacific Northwest for job placement for full-time, long-term, JD-preferred/JD-required jobs for the class of 2014 and first in Oregon for the classes of 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Located across the street from the state capitol complex and the Oregon Supreme Court, the college specializes in law and government, law and business, and dispute resolution.