Among some Willamette law students, Salem attorney Nani Apo JD’13 is known as a round-the-clock resource with a great sense of humor and generous spirit.
Lauded as an ambitious and driven mentor, Apo balances dozens of meetings with her mentees, a packed schedule as attorney for the Oregon Department of Justice and participation in multiple community events and organizations.
For her commitment to students, Willamette Law named Apo 2018 Mentor of the Year at an April 5 reception. Law students Megan Oshiro ’15, JD’18, Noelle Chan JD’20, P. Kai McGuire JD’19 and Yufeng Luo ’18 nominated her for the award.
Apo says while she keeps a busy schedule, the DOJ is located just blocks from campus, so lunches and happy hours are easy to arrange. Besides, she says, it’s her pleasure to be a mentor.
“I genuinely enjoy doing it — my mentees are just great people to be around and it doesn’t seem like a task,” she says. “They’re inspiring to me, too.”
Apo strives to listen, connect students with attorneys in their field of interest and offer advice on writing samples or applications. She uses methods learned from her first and one of her most influential mentor, Liani Reeves JD’98.
Reeves introduced Apo to many people within the legal community and supported her at a vulnerable time. When Apo first started law school, she had no idea what she wanted to do for a career.
“Just getting to know an attorney as a person was important,” she says. “Knowing Liani as someone I could relate to and have normal conversations with, but who was also a very successful and qualified attorney, was pretty valuable back then.”
Reeves received the Mentor of the Year award in 2004. A decade later, she received the Hon. Mary Mertens James Award, given only to five-time nominees for Mentor of the Year.
Willamette Law has so far honored Reeves with the award, which was created in 2013. But this year three people were recognized: Jennifer Brown L’08, an attorney at Salem-based LaMont Law who was 2017 Mentor of the Year, Jason Thompson L’01, a partner at Ferder Casebeer French & Thompson, and Judge Doug Tookey, a Willamette adjunct professor who serves on the Oregon Court of Appeals.
Apo happened to be a former law clerk for Tookey, one of the first jobs she held after law school. Like her other mentors, he provided support — and inspiration.
Now Apo is the one passing the torch. In a recommendation letter for the award, McGuire wrote, “Thank you so much for pairing me with such a quality and inspiring individual. I hope one day to return the favor by serving as a mentor in this essential program.”