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Willamette Law Announces 2022 Attorney Mentor of the Year

by Jessica Rotter,


The College of Law is proud to announce Paul Sundermier JD ‘82 as the 2022 Mentor of the Year. Sundermier was nominated by his student mentee, Jim MacDonald JD ‘22. 

The Attorney-Mentor program is the oldest practitioner-student program in Oregon, beginning in 1991. The program is frequently cited by students as being an instrumental part of their success both as law students and as attorneys. The Office of Career Planning and Development facilitates the program by carefully selecting the mentor-mentee pairs. The success of the program over the past several decades largely comes down to the thoughtfulness in the pairings and to generous attorneys offering their time in order to be part of the program.  

In deciding to nominate Sundermier, MacDonald shared that he “really wanted to thank Sundermier for everything he did both while in law school and in deciding where to go after graduation.” According to MacDonald, the attorney-mentor relationship was important for him in having guidance through the difficulties of law school from someone who had already gone through it. The pair hit it off immediately, meeting regularly for lunch and even connecting via Zoom during the COVID-19 lockdowns. 

MacDonald shared how much he learned from having a mentor during his time in law school. Ultimately, though, he learned from Sundermier about “the type of lawyer I want to be.” In reflection on what made Sundermier a successful mentor, MacDonald said it was the “willingness to truly be a mentor; it says so much about these mentors that they are willing to get involved when they are already so busy.”

For his part, Sundermier shared that his approach to being a mentor was simple: “be available, reach out, and communicate often.” His goal, he added, was to impart knowledge to those in law school, both in terms of academic and in legal practice. However, the biggest reward in his experience was not necessarily being recognized as Mentor of the Year, but rather “getting to continue working with [MacDonald].” After passing the bar exam, MacDonald will be joining Sundermier at Saalfeld Griggs, PC. Their offices will be just two doors down from one another and both expressed that they look forward to continuing the mentorship and friendship they have developed. 

Both Sundermier and MacDonald encouraged law students and attorneys to sign up for the attorney-mentor program, expressing that they both had an overwhelmingly positive experience. In particular, Sundermier encouraged other members of the legal profession to sign up as mentors. As he put it, “it’s not at all burdensome and, actually, quite fun.” 

If you are interested in enrolling as a mentor or mentee, you can find out more here


About Willamette University College of Law

Willamette University College of Law was the first law school to open in the Pacific Northwest. Building on deep historic roots, we focus with pride on educating the next generation of problem-solving lawyers and leaders. Our location in Salem, Oregon, directly across the street from the Oregon State Capitol and Supreme Court, cannot be matched in the region. Our thought-leading scholars advance and promote our shared responsibility to make a difference in society, placing justice, fairness, and equality at the heart of everything we do.

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