Five Willamette Law students represented the school in great fashion last weekend at the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) Convention. Two students were named Students of the Year and two were sworn in to positions on a national student board.
The annual NAPABA Convention brings together Asian Pacific American attorneys, judges, legal scholars, officials and law students from around the country. More than 2,000 people attended this year’s event in Washington, D.C., including Willamette students Melissa Cohen JD’18, Megan Oshiro JD’18, Noelle Chan JD’20, Alex Dooley JD’20 and Megan Irinaga JD’20. The students heard presentations on legal topics affecting the Asian Pacific American legal community, networked with other attendees and represented Willamette Law at the NAPABA pre-law conference for prospective students.
The student version of NAPABA, the National Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (NAPALSA), named Oshiro and Cohen the Students of the Year for their commitment and service to Asian Pacific American individuals in the legal profession. Oshiro has been involved with the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (APALSA) at Willamette since her 1L year and served as the group’s president in her 2L year. She said she was grateful to be nominated and to have won.
“Willamette’s APALSA chapter is known for its dedication and involvement not only on the national stage, but also in Oregon,” Oshiro said. “Members work hard to represent our communities, while also encouraging new members to take leadership positions and to continue supporting our goals of equity and representation.”
Cohen has also been involved since she was a first-year law student. She said she was thankful for the award but felt the spotlight should be on the other Willamette students receiving honors at the convention.
“I am so, so proud of their accomplishments and can’t wait to see what they do next,” Cohen explained.
Two other Willamette Law students also returned from the convention with new titles. First-year students Noelle Chan and Alex Dooley were elected to the NAPALSA executive board for 2018–19. Chan is the new vice president, and Dooley is treasurer. They’ll fulfill their duties through emails and monthly conference calls, handing their positions over to successors at next year’s convention in Chicago.
Chan grew up in Hawaii and said she always had a strong sense of family. At Willamette, she managed to find a family and community environment in APALSA, a feeling that she wants to bring to other APALSA groups and the NAPALSA community.
“It’s not only the connections I value from being a member of APALSA,” Chan said. “The multiple events I have attended locally have encouraged me to want to participate in a leadership position in which I can further encourage fellow law students to be proud of and be part of such an influential community.”
Dooley said it’s important to note that she is not Asian American but believes in active allyship to support her peers. She said attending the conference gave her a better idea of how to help advance Asian Americans in the legal profession.
With her first semester’s finals coming soon, she said law school can be difficult and draining. But with the support of a group and the ability to meet other students and professionals, she has gained a new perspective.
“Finding a cause or group that energizes you can be a wonderful tool to combat that drain,” Dooley said. “For me, getting involved with NAPALSA reminds me that there is lots of work to do in the fields of workplace equality, and that makes me feel that my time in law school is bigger than just passing my classes.”
Out of the seven students on the board with Chan and Dooley, three are from Oregon, with another student elected from the University of Oregon. Willamette Law has a long history of national representation with NAPABA, Oshiro said.
Cohen served as Pacific Northwest regional director for two consecutive terms, with previous students Tucker Kraght JD’15, Samrach Sar JD’16 and Alexis Shimada JD’17 also holding the position. In 2014, Sar served as NAPALSA treasurer and was named Student of the Year, with fellow student Daniel Noeun JD’16 serving as public relations director. Finally, in 2015, Shimada was elected NAPALSA president, the first from Willamette and the state of Oregon in NAPALSA’s history.
Oshiro said attending conferences like these is good for students.
“By surrounding myself with hundreds of successful Asian Pacific American attorneys each year at the convention, I leave feeling motivated to set my goals high and reassured that I can be successful, too.”
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.