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Student strives to make change in law school and beyond

by Jessica Rotter,

Brooke Trujillo

Brooke Trujillo JD'23 always knew she wanted to help people and after an internship at the California state capitol, law school felt like a natural next step. After seeing the ins and outs of a state legislature, Trujillo knew she wanted to be “boots on the ground” to implement real change in her community. Willamette Law felt like a natural choice for law school after deciding that studying in a state capitol was an important requirement for any law school she attended. But it was the community that really sold Trujillo on the school. 

Trujillo reflects that law school is already a big transition, but beginning her 1L year in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic added a layer of difficulty to the transition that she, and her peers, weren’t prepared to face. “The 1L year was so hard because I only knew my peers as a Zoom square. My 2L year is where I got to build a sense of community with in-class interaction,” she shares. 

As an Academic Excellence Fellow, Trujillo has made it a priority to offer mentorship and guidance to 1L students. After experiencing what it was like to have been isolated from her peers and her community during the first year of law school, she has made it a priority to help build opportunities for community for others. 

Professor Kelly Gamble, Director of Academic Excellence, shares that Trujillo has been “a model fellow and a go-to resource for 1Ls. She is a great listener and adviser, without overwhelming students with information or judgment.” Trujillo has taken on a mentor role for 1Ls and an important role as colleague for her other Fellows by setting an example of an involved student. 

“She capably handles her own work and is plugged into the community in roles big and small, as a leader, and as a teammate,” Gamble says. 

Now that she is in her final year at Willamette Law, Trujillo is continuing finding meaningful ways to be involved. Being elected the first ever Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion for the Student Bar Association (SBA) has been a highlight of her time at the law school. The SBA sought to create a position on its leadership team that could be a voice for historically underrepresented students and when they voted on who should fill the position, they voted overwhelmingly for Trujillo. 

“I was honored to be selected by my peers for such an important role but it also opened my eyes to all the work that needed to be done in the school and also in building a community. I wanted to offer a new perspective and let people know that it was okay to ask questions and to learn,” she says. 

Another highlight of her time in law school was her job last summer at LegalAid Services of Oregon. In her role, Trujillo was provided mentorship opportunities that allowed her to see what being a practicing attorney would be like. “I was going to in-person meetings, attending court, and really just seeing what life would look like after law school. It helped me to see what kind of lawyer I could be,” Trujillo shares. 

When she came to Willamette Law, Trujillo always knew she wanted to be involved in public policy and local government but her experiences during law school helped to reaffirm this career path. She also found a passion for administrative law after taking a course from Professor Robin Maril

“I found the information so fascinating because it’s about the day-to-day impacts of laws such as what departments and decisions that require transparency to the public,” she says. “It’s what I am passionate about and this class opened my eyes to how I could make an impact.”

After law school, Trujillo is hoping to continue to give back to her community and to volunteer her time to help others. Professionally, she looks forward to building a career in state or local government with ambitions of one day becoming an administrative law judge. 

Her biggest piece of advice to prospective law students is to focus on the reasons they want to go to law school. “Law school can be hard but if it’s something you want, go for it and don’t put any doubt in your mind. Reflect on what your goals are and you can make it happen,” she shares. 

As for her law school experience, Trujillo credits her family with being a huge support system for her throughout these three years and helping to motivate her to remember her goals and why she wants to be a lawyer. “Family is huge to me, without them I probably wouldn’t be where I am today,” she says. 

Trujillo will graduate in the Spring of 2023 and plans to practice law in Oregon or Washington. 

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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